What Peking University graduates’ career paths can teach us about the Chinese workforce

In recent years, China’s national initiative to develop “world-class universities and first-class disciplines” has attracted significant attention. In October 2017, the “Double-First Class” initiative was written into the report of 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. As the country’s most important source of high-quality training and talent development, China’s higher education system drives the nation’s economic and social progress. But there have been very few studies in China that specifically track and analyze college students’ skill development from the standpoint of labor market demand.

At the recent international symposium on institutional research held by Peking University, LinkedIn released data on Chinese college graduates’ current employment status and other labor market dynamics, offering insights into China’s higher education system from the vantage point of talent demand. LinkedIn gathered education and career data (including degree levels, field of study, skills, and current industry) from Chinese graduates ranging from the time period of 2013 - 2017, focusing on more than 50,000 graduates from Peking University (PKU), and attained the following data insights:

●     Digital skills are increasingly popular, and there is high demand for tech talent. Of the top 10 companies that most PKU graduates join, half are high-tech companies. PKU graduates’ top five tech skills are data analysis, C++, Python, C, and Java. This finding not only confirms the notion that the Chinese labor market has strong demand for high-tech talent  and relevant digital skills, but also shows that PKU, as a representative of “Double-First Class” universities, has, in terms of its curriculum, kept pace with the continuing growth trajectory of  tech degrees and digital skills.

●     Higher degrees give people flexibility in career choices. In addition to identifying in-demand professional skills, LinkedIn data also examined the role of degrees and credentials, finding that PKU graduates are more likely than other institutions to seek out further studies after attaining their bachelor’s degree. Distribution statistics of PKU graduates across degree levels show that 39% of PKU graduates hold Bachelor’s degrees; 47% hold Master’s degrees; and 15% have PhD’s. Compared with other “Double-First Class” universities in China, PKU has 11% more graduates with Master’s and PhD’s.

●     The finance industry continues to attract talent. The top 5 most popular industries among Chinese college graduates broadly are software & IT, manufacturing, finance, corporate services, and hardware and networking. In this regard, PKU’s data are in line both with those of other “Double-First Class” universities in China, and with the public’s common perception in recent years. In the five-year period from 2013 to 2017, the fastest growing mainstream skills were accounting, financial analysis, public relations, communication, and marketing. The most quickly growing “niche” skills were business analysis, digital marketing, corporate finance, logistic management, and financial accounting.

●     Emerging industries are growing rapidly. LinkedIn data also shed light on the fastest-growing and most in-demand degrees among Chinese college students. In the mass market, entrepreneurship, financial mathematics, banking and financial support, computer software engineering, and language translation are growing rapidly; and in the niche market, international and comparative education, linguistic, comparative and language, business communication, educational leadership and administration, and applied economics have seen significant growth. These data suggest that the country’s emerging industries are primarily concentrated in two areas: finance and language. LinkedIn also compared Chinese college graduates who were hired in 2017 with those who were not, and found that the top five skills that improve the likelihood of hiring are Hadoop, PHP, MySQL, machine learning, and algorithm.  It is notable that all of these five unique skills are in digital fields.

The research results above will help “Double-First Class” universities play a more active and leading role in shaping policy and practice in colleges and universities across China, helping to develop curricula that focus on the country’s  highest-demand and fastest-growing skills. This analysis will also contribute to the global talent insights mapped by LinkedIn’s Economic Graph. LinkedIn’s Economic Graph offers insight into global talent trends and skill demands through dynamic, real-time data. LinkedIn’s Economic Graph works directly with policymakers, employers, education institutions, and other organizations to provide actionable data with the goal of creating economic opportunity for every member of the global workforce.

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