Bright horizon for Hong Kong's construction sector
by Wendy Shair
Chan Hoi Dick, assistant inspector of works, Mass Transit Railway (MTR), kicked off his career as an apprentice plumber at the age of 19, but first became interested in construction at the tender age of 15. After completing his three-year apprenticeship, he went on to obtain the necessary industry qualifications, including foundation and higher diplomas and advanced certificates. These resulted in a "substantial salary increase" after a few years of hard work, he recalls.
"The company was happy with my performance and I was thrilled to get such a big increase," he says. "By the age of 25, I was working for the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation. By then I had doubled my starting salary."
The construction sector requires hard work, but the results make it worth it, Mr Chan says. "I used to work during the day and study at night. This way, I moved ahead in my profession. I believe there are good prospects for the right people in this industry."
In addition to a stable, life-long career and income, Mr Chan has enjoyed great job satisfaction over the years. "This is because I've been working in an area that I'm interested in," he points out, noting that he needs to closely supervise work teams to ensure that standard procedures are followed at all times.
"My daily duties include ensuring safety at construction sites, making sure I'm aware of potential hazards or accidents and maintaining high standards. I'm also required to provide regular reports on the progress of projects to my supervisors."
One outstanding part of his job through the years has been the opportunity to be part of major railway projects. He has also found it highly satisfying to work on schemes right from the beginning until their completion.
"I aim to continue enhancing my career. In order to do this, it's vital to carry on learning. I believe I'm fortunate that I chose the right career path to start off with," he says, advising that prospective candidates interested in this field must be keen to improve their knowledge and willing to work hard to succeed.
In a bid to attract young talent to the construction industry, the MTR will be hosting a Job Fair for the Construction Industry in Hung Hom on October 15 and 16. Participants will get the chance to learn more about the industry and its standards, says Peter Pang, programming manager, MTR.
The second such fair this year, the event is set to attract 18 contractors, offering more than 1,500 job opportunities. "One of our aims is to draw young talent to the industry. We want to promote sustainable development within the industry," Mr Pang stresses.
"Participating companies are targeting people in many areas, including construction workers, apprentices and supervisors. We want to bring across the message that this sector offers good career prospects. Several newly launched infrastructure projects and forthcoming railway plans have increased the scope for newcomers to the sector. We also want to draw back people that have left the industry."
With the increasing demand for labour, the MTR, working with government authorities and key industry players, wants to make sure that the right people are recruited. Draw cards that make the profession increasingly attractive to the younger generation include better remuneration packages and improved working conditions and benefits, Mr Pang notes.
"I hope to see more than 2,000 job seekers attend the upcoming fair, which provides the perfect recruitment platform for our contractors. Although the turnover in the industry is stable, we do have the problem of an ageing workforce, with more than 40 per cent of Hong Kong construction workers over 50 years old. It would therefore be good to recruit young blood."
The MTR is currently engaged in four new rail projects, with a fifth pending, and will need at least 17,000 new employees for major upcoming works in the coming five years, Mr Pang anticipates. "We'll gradually increase our staff complement, corresponding with our needs."
Apart from attractive salary packages, the sector also offers good career progression for promising professionals, he says. "Hong Kong's construction industry today comprises a wide range of jobs, including plumbing and electrics, civil engineering and other supervisory roles."
"Hygiene and safety standards are on the rise, helping to entice local talent to fuel industry growth. However, those looking for opportunities must be prepared to pull their weight," he concludes.
Taken from Career Times 14 October 2011
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