On Friday morning, in the nasty drizzling rain, I was quickly heading off to my 3rd year (senior students) class. It was nearing 10 a.m. and I was thinking, “Will anyone even be in class? Today is our job fair!”
As it turned out, all the classrooms were vacant and empty of desks and chairs that had been dragged out to the basketball courts where our school’s annual job fair was taking place. No one bothered to tell me that my classes had been canceled. After years of teaching in China, I really should know better than to expect someone to tell me. The foreign teacher really needs to be more proactive and ask.
Since I was already up and dressed, and quite curious about the fair, I headed over to the basketball courts where over 200 booths, set under tents, were crowded together along with hundreds of our students cruising by each one.
Small Colleges Working Hard to Give Students Employment Opportunities
When I was teaching here 12 years ago, we never had such an event on our campus. Students were to go out into the world and search for their own jobs. Departments didn’t help with resumes or instructions on how to go about finding a job. The Internet was not used very often to job search, mostly because many Chinese didn’t have computers or know how to use them. Students truly struggled.
But many 3-year colleges such as ours are now into full swing of making sure their students have every opportunity possible to get employed. When it comes to these small schools, which are not prestigious universities, high student enrollment depends a lot on how much help departments are willing to give these young people to find jobs. Students will choose colleges many times on the fact that they will be employed after they finish. Just like in the States, colleges need to make money so the more students enrolled, the more money they make. Giving students assistance and immediate opportunities to be hired is becoming a number one priority for training schools and teacher’s colleges such as this one. Thus the big job fair on Friday.
“Looking for a Great Job? Visit Our booth!”
I was quite impressed by our job fair set-up.
When I popped over to take a look at the event, I found it crowded with students. Many were congregating around the display of companies, factories, schools and businesses looking for prospective employees. Chengdu, Yibin, Luzhou, Chongqing, Neijiang – Sichuan cities big and small were represented on the list of 212 visiting employers promising starting salaries of 2,000 to 4,000 yuan a month ($330 – $660). Very enticing for young people whose parents often make less than $100 a month as farmers or work as migrants in big-city factories, 12 hour a day shifts, for a more substantial $400 a month.
Scanning the aisles, I saw lines of eager young people with their resumes in hand, signing up for on-the-spot interviews or hearing from job scouts about what’s expected of them.
The Private English Language Training Schools Snatching Up Handfuls of Hopefuls
My own students, the English teaching majors, were crowded around private training school and public school booths looking for new teachers to fill vacancies.
The private training schools are always looking for teachers and are the most willing to hire newbies. That’s because they pay hardly anything at all the first year. I found that out after one of my students went through the interview and was chosen. He signed the contract already, being offered a measly 1,000 yuan ($166) a month. He’ll be overworked with a lot of office duties, many teaching hours (including the weekends), no perks and be under pressure to recruit students for the classes. If he fails to get the students required, he will be reprimanded or terminated.
In my mind, it would be better to hold out for a public school teaching position which will offer stability, a tad better salary, payment into health care within the system and look good on a resume after putting in 3 or 5 years. Training schools are known to hire just about anybody, even if their English is so-so, because they want the bodies. Public schools have stricter requirements for their teachers, but those jobs are also more competitve to get.
Many of our young people are just too eager to get any job they can, thus they quickly settle for such private schools without really looking at more options.
Quite a few in my senior classes have accepted these jobs already and many are regretting it. To break the contract, however, they must pay $166 to get out of it. Since they don’t have that kind of money, they are passing up better offers that their classmates are now looking at, and all the while regretting their hasty decision.
Xichang County Looking for Teachers: No Takers
Scanning the rows of teaching jobs offered, I was rooting for the Xichang County public school position: starting salary for 3,500 yuan a month ($583), new school facility, free campus housing provided for all teachers and free meals at the student cafeteria. Great deal!
But most of my students passed that booth by. Xichang County is one of the poorer counties in the province, in the Yi ethnic minority people’s homeland. To help these struggling areas, the government has been building schools where students can live and study but the distance to populated towns is great. Out in the boonies, these schools don’t have access to great Internet, are located in remote places far from convenient transportation or shopping and the students are not the best or brightest China has to offer. They are minority tribal peoples, come from poverty-striken backgrounds, parents with little education themselves, and a lot of hard work is needed to bring the children up to the expected standards of most Chinese schools.
Also, the contract was for 3 years, making our young, future teachers balk at the idea of giving up 3 years of their lives for a challenging teaching situation in countryside areas.
I heard that several went for the interviews, which were quite extensive: tests in grammar, writing and conversation/pronunciation. Seems the Chinese government is looking for the best teachers they can get for the disenfranchised but I didn’t hear of any takers, at least not from among my students, anyway.
Thanksgiving Day Weekend Upon Us
Today is Saturday, bringing with it shopping all over the States and China as well. For some reason, the Chinese have adopted our Black Friday as a means to gear up for our Christmas celebrations, which in turn means the coming of their Chinese Spring Festival, this year falling on February 19.
Tomorrow after church, I will be heading down Christmas Alley. This is a small, ancient alleyway sandwiched in between the downtown district’s shopping malls. It explodes with Christmas decorations at this time of year. I am buying more lights for the balcony display, which is sparkling away at present but just not enough to satisfy my enthusiastic Christmas spirit.
This is also the weekend to put up Christmas decorations in my home. Shelves have been cleared, windows washed, table tops and counters dusted, all in preparation for hauling down the 5 Christmas boxes of things which will soon be displayed throughout my tiny apartment. I missed doing in 2013 since I wasn’t living here so time to make up for 2 years’ worth of waiting.
Here’s wishing you a belated Happy Thanksgiving and Ping An for the upcoming Advent season.