URUMQI, June 28 (Xinhua) -- Muhtar Jume's greatest long-term wish is that his children finish college and earn good employment prospects.
He knows first-hand about the struggles of securing a livelihood in the family home of northwest China's Xinjiang without a good education, a situation that has been highlighted by Chinese leaders recently.
As a junior middle school graduate and non-mandarin speaker, Muhtar Jume has struggled his way up to the position of workshop monitor at a porcelain company in Kashgar. He earns 3,500 yuan (569 U.S. dollars) each month.
Employers in the region also attest to the need to boost education. "We only need to recruit 150 workers in a similar factory in inland provinces, but in Xinjiang, we doubled the number as local laborers' technology level lags far behind, and language and customs barriers affect efficiency," said Zhao Zhouqiang, vice president of the Kashgar Yuandong Group Co. Ltd, the parent of Muhtar Jume's porcelain company.
Among the 250 Uygur staff, only three have college degrees. Half of them have middle school degrees and about 40 percent have only primary education or are illiterate, said Zhao, adding that training is a big challenge for them.
It takes at least three months to train a young villager into a qualified worker, said Lin Lexuan, chairman of Nanda New Agriculture Co. Ltd, the largest farm produce company in southern Xinjiang.
Uygurs in the area, which borders Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan, suffer from poverty, high unemployment, harsh natural conditions and a dense population, conditions which offer room for overseas separatist forces to penetrate, said Yang Fuqiang, an assistant researcher with the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences.
The need to improve employment was pointed out by Chinese President Xi Jinping as a top priority for authorities in Xinjiang at the second central work conference on Xinjiang in late May.
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang also noted that employment is the biggest concern for Xinjiang people.
The meeting was held following a series of terrorist attacks in the region, including one on May 22 at a market in Urumqi, the region's capital, that left 39 dead and another 94 injured.
A crackdown on the terrorists needs both the hard approach that includes police involvement but also the soft approach, including employment and education, said Pan Zhiping, professor with the Central Asia Research Institute with Xinjiang University.
"Getting the surplus labor employed and earning money to spend is key to social stability and economic development in Xinjiang," said Yang Fuqiang.
Developing labor-intensive industry is the best way to create jobs, said Zhao Zhouqiang, adding that former employees are welcome to come back.
Efforts are being made to improve employment prospects in Xinjiang.
Shandong Ruyi Group, one of China's largest textile manufactures, signed an agreement on June 1 with the Kashgar government, pledging to invest six billion yuan and employ 26,000 people within two years to build a top-level textile and clothing base there.
To meet the rising demand for professionals, technicians and qualified industrial workers, the Chinese government will also invest two billion yuan to build Kashgar University, the first comprehensive university in southern Xinjiang.
Construction of the university kicked off on June 22. When completed in 2020, 15,000 students are expected to be enrolled.