The front gate of the Lanxiang Vocational School in Ji'nan, capital of East China's Shandong Province. Photo: IC
After retiring from the Chinese army where Li Dong was honed to be strong-minded and brave through arduous training, he has become a successful businessman.
Compared with some of his peers struggling to find a decent job, Li attributed most of his success to the computer courses that the army provided years ago in association with a vocational IT school.
"Teachers from my vocational school gave us troops computer lessons at night. They taught us first-class B courses and "C" language in half a year and we then applied for the country's national computer rank examination," Li told the Global Times.
The skills and certificate helped me quickly adapt to new developments in society and I will benefit for the rest of my life, Li added.
Li retired in 2010 when the army had started joining hands with vocational schools to train soldiers. Since the country began drastic military reforms in 2015, such cooperation has deepened.
Experts hailed it as an important move toward military-civilian integration, a strategy to realize the Party's goal of building a strong military in the new era.
In the beginning of June, 77 Air Force soldiers from the People's Liberation Army graduated from Lanxiang Vocational School in East China's Shandong Province.
The school admits about 20,000 students per year and offers courses in cooking, automobile repair, and construction equipment operations. Its slogan "Meet the king of (excavator maneuver), find Lanxiang in China Shandong" has become a popular internet catchphrase.
Having attended the school for two months, these soldiers mastered the basic skills of operating an excavator and bulldozer. Some of them graduated with a national vocational qualification certificate.
"The course combined theory with practice. I first taught them the basics of mechanical engineering and engine. Then I led them to get familiar with the actual working of an excavator and tested them through simulation exercises," the teacher of the 77 Air Force troops surnamed Wang told the Global Times.
According to Wang, the soldiers are between 20 and 30 years old, and some came to the school with little background in mechanical engineering.
"We provided special training, such as fixing bullet pits, removing road blocks and paving roads, so that they could become professionals in military infrastructure maintenance - like repairing an airport," said Wang.
"Unlike civilian students, we have stricter requirements for soldiers. For example, they are required to excavate a 1.5-meter-wide ditch, which should be accurately done," he added.
Lanxiang shot to international fame in February 2010 after the New York Times linked it to spying and hack attacks on Google and other US corporations. Lanxiang denied the allegations and the story, which many found inconvincible, sparked various memes on Chinese cyberspace.
Besides training in Lanxiang, the Air Force soldiers received training from military instructors, who relied on experience and did not know how to use new weapons, Yang Yucai, a professor at the National Defense University of the People's Liberation Army, told the Global Times.
Such training plays a necessary role for soldiers to keep in touch with new technologies and master actual operational skills, said Yang.
Moreover, those who receive certificates will find it easier to adapt to the society after retirement with more advantages, he added.
Apart from PLA Air Force, back in 2014, 38 soldiers from the former Guangzhou Military Area Command (the command has been re-assigned to the Southern Theater Command) were also sent to the Guangzhou Technician College to study electrical engineering in 2014, according to the college's official website. The soldiers then acquired a nationally recognized electrician certificate.
Yang noted that the army is also tying up with universities to train high-level military talent.
In recent years, military authorities have reshuffled their military education institutions. There are now 43 military education institutions, 35 specialized in specific armed services, and six for armed police forces.
The People's Liberation Army Navy has recently issued its latest recruitment advertisement to attract more talent.
Newspaper headline: Gunning for Training