Traditional industry is undergoing a new round of fierce attack from the growing influence of the Internet at an astonishing rate. In the face of challenges and opportunities brought about by the Internet, how to address vocational education that is closely related to economic development has become a key issue.

Currently, China is in an era of industrial transformation and upgrading. The Internet is redefining manufacturing. R&D, design, production, sales, service, and other value chain links are facing the possibility of reconstruction. New products, new processes and new services will be rebuilt based on Internet technology. Digitization, intelligence, and informatisation will become mainstream technologies adopted by the future manufacturing workshop. The future has come! In the face of a rapidly changing Internet age, traditional industries are constantly being overwhelmed and new industries are constantly emerging. Vocational education must think about how to synchronise with technological progress, the revolution in production, and the change in social public service, how to fulfill its responsibility and mission of cultivating diversified talents, passing down technology and technical skills, as well as promoting employment and entrepreneurship.

Vocational education should feel a sense of crisis. According to earlier media reports, an enterprise located in Kunshan, Jiangsu engaged in OEM production recently used robots to replace 60,000 workers. According to rough statistics, about 600 such companies in Kunshan are expected to use robots to replace manual production. Guangdong has also become another province facing similar pressure. China's traditional manufacturing industry is transitioning from the labor-intensive type to the technology-intensive type. Employing more efficient robots instead of manual labor to boost production has become the trend of the times, which is bound to impose employment pressure on vocational education. Experts predict that it will take about 5 to 10 years for traditional manufacturing enterprises to upgrade to smart manufacturing. Vocational education needs to think about how to deal with these new changes, and take action. They need to change their way of thinking, fight against the urge to resist change, build innovative concepts, synchronise with the economic development in terms of concept planning, implementation, upgrading, and even pioneering design.

Facing shrinking numbers in student enrollment, vocational education also needs to think about how to use the Internet to find a new path to survival and development. Under the background of rapid Internet development , historic changes have taken place in the system cultivation of vocational education, shifting from cultivating full-time students in the past to cultivating both ordinary students and adult students currently. Therefore, vocational education should make use of the opportunities opened up by the Internet, study the new demands of students and adults, as well as the enterprises engaged in new industries and new positions in those enterprises. Vocational education should make good use of the Internet-based concepts, such as the "user conscious" concept, showing concern for the "user experience", and focus on student development and improving student capability in serving enterprises, keeping up with industry transformation in terms of professional construction, curriculum development, and education teaching organization.

However, when slowly developing education meets quickly developing Internet, vocational education also needs to abide by the rule of "doing some things, and leaving some things undone", that is, to ensure any new changes also adhere to the law of education. Vocational colleges can make use of the new ideas, new tools and new methods opened up by the Internet, but these are still unable to replace traditional teaching methods, especially in terms of passing down of technical skills. There are no shortcuts in learning certain handicraft techniques or inheriting key technologies, they need to be learnt in person. To learn these technologies, the students need to learn, think, and experience the skills via multi-faceted training. Throughout the world, Germany, Japan and other manufacturing powers are all strong in vocational education. These countries attach great importance to ingenuity and quality, and they fully encourage a spirit of ingenuity. Vocational education is often regarded as the "secret weapon" for the economic development of Germany, as it adheres to the spirit of craftsmanship. Skills are only part of the talents training goal of vocational education. It must also emphasize the cultivation of students' professional spirit, help learners build up professionalism and give them the skills necessary to become professional, trustworthy, and self-improved. To develop the craftsman's spirit, the students need to abandon the blundering attitude and keep a down-to-earth attitude in their studies.

No matter what stage of social development we are in, vocational education is always a necessity in all walks of life. In the era of "Internet Plus", vocational education should be acutely sensitive to social development, keep up with social trends, and better serve economic development and industrial upgrading. Only in this way can vocational education seize opportunities to cope with incoming challenges.

By Ye Rizhe, People’s Daily