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TIANJIN/LISBON,(Xinhua) — “Aqui … Onde a terra se acaba E o mar comeca … (Here, where the land ends and the sea begins …),” as acclaimed by Luis de Camoes, one of the greatest Portuguese poets, vividly depicts the superb location of his motherland in the westernmost part of the Eurasian continent.
In the eastern part of the continent is China, thousands of miles away from Portugal. Hundreds of years ago, Chinese blue and white porcelain ware and colorful silk-knitted products came to Portugal across the ocean, and have since been merged with local porcelain making and fabric weaving techniques respectively.
Nowadays, the two countries’ friendship has been enriched by a new joint program, an ongoing signature of international vocational education cooperation.
In the presence of leaders of the two countries, the Luban Workshop, co-founded by Portugal’s Polytechnic Institute of Setubal (IPS) and Tianjin Vocational College of Mechanics and Electricity in north China’s port city of Tianjin, was officially signed and put into operation on Dec. 5, 2018.
The workshop, named after Lu Ban, an ancient Chinese woodcraft master, is a Chinese vocational workshop program training talent overseas, a win-win model for vocational education cooperation.
It is the first of its kind on the European continent, and mainly offers two majors — electrical automation and industrial robotics.
“We have transferred our advanced teaching equipment, professional standards and teaching resources to Portugal, a developed country, testifying that China’s vocational education has been recognized by the world in advanced manufacturing, artificial intelligence and other fields,” said Zhang Weijin, president of Tianjin Vocational College of Mechanics and Electricity.
Under the guidance of China’s Ministry of Education, the Luban Workshop project is initiated and promoted by Tianjin municipality, which provides both degree education and vocational training.
Instead of teaching the overseas students directly, the Chinese teachers have first trained local teachers in line with Chinese standards.
Jose Lucas, a professor of IPS, still remembered his amazement at the advanced technology and training equipment of the Chinese vocational college when he came there for the first time in 2018.
“I never thought that China’s technology has developed to the world’s leading level,” Lucas said.
Courses offered by the Chinese side focus on the operation and installation of equipment, while those by the Portugese side deal with system debugging. Therefore, China has provided over 10 sets of manufacturing and artificial intelligence devices to the workshop, said Jiang Ying, director of the electrical automation teaching and research department of the Tianjin vocational college.
“I have been in Luban Workshop for over three years, where I learned how to work with various robotic devices, human vision devices RFID systems,” said Alexandre Geraldo, a student from IPS. “I also developed a research project on industrial communication there.”
Apart from providing advanced training equipment, Chinese teachers have also encouraged and guided local students to show their skills in a practical way, notably in joining competitions.
The World Vocational and Technical Education Development Conference and the first World Vocational College Skills Competition held in Tianjin in August attracted over 1,000 students and teachers from more than 100 countries and regions. Portugal Luban Workshop team, consisting of both Chinese and Portugese contestants, won a silver prize in automated production line installation and debugging.
“The competition allowed us to enjoy the interesting parts of the education system. The engineering practice and application innovations are interesting and attractive to our students,” said Sergio Sousa, an IPS teacher of the team.
As Portugal’s contestants cannot come to China due to COVID-19, the team members had to prepare the competition online. “As we have overcome many obstacles together, we are now good friends,” said Zhang Bo, a contestant from the Tianjin college.
“Technology has no national borders,” said Yuan Hailiang, a Chinese teacher in charge of the industrial robotics major at the college, who was also working at the Portugal Luban Workshop for years. The Chinese teachers there were also inspired by Portugal’s teaching philosophy, he added.
Over the past four years, 400-500 students have graduated from the Portugal Luban Workshop, many of whom have been employed by world-renowned enterprises.
“In recent days, some of our partners from Finland, Germany and Brazil visited here. They have adequate knowledge of the technologies and innovation abilities we got through this workshop. We really appreciate the partners who raised the cooperation,” said Angela Lemos, the president of IPS.
The Luban Workshop program aims to promote vocational education exchanges and cooperation between China and the rest of the world committed to cultivating urgently needed technical talents.
Since the very first Luban Workshop in the world was established in Thailand in 2016, a total of 21 have been built in 20 countries. More than 3,000 students have received degree education in the Luban Workshops worldwide, over 11,000 people have been trained, and China’s 11 international training standards have been incorporated into these partner countries’ national education systems.
The students who have had access to advanced technology training in Luban Workshops could generally get a better job after graduation, said Yang Yan, director of an institute for lifelong education of Tianjin Academy of Educational Science.
“The Luban workshop experience is something that you carry out with your life, because it prepares you to future situations. I can say that after my bachelors, I felt more confident to start working in a practical environment,” Hugo Frazzo, a graduate of IPS who took two short training trips to Tianjin for Luban Workshop’s training program, told Xinhua.
“I did not only gain knowledge but also make friends for life there. So, I recommend this project to any student and any teacher,” he said. ■