Over the years, the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) has contributed greatly to the progress and sustainability of the engineering profession in Hong Kong, and its future looks even brighter.
The Engineering Society of Hong Kong was founded in 1947 and in time became the HKIE. Lo Wai-Kwok, president, HKIE says, "The HKIE has played a fundamental role in the evolution of Hong Kong's engineering profession. Since the beginning we have contributed to the construction of the best quality buildings, roads and bridges in Hong Kong and we will continue to do so."
In the HKIE there are 18 different engineering disciplines including civil, electrical, mechanical, IT, and a recent addition, fire engineering. All of these are closely related to Hong Kong's economic development and daily life.
The key responsibilities of the HKIE are to monitor and regulate the engineering profession. "We are involved on many levels. For example, in order for graduates to become qualified as engineers they must obtain a degree that is accredited by the HKIE," Ir Dr Lo says. The Institution also runs a graduate engineer training scheme, known as "Scheme A", through which young engineers receive formal engineering training in companies for a 24-month period, working under the guidance and supervision of professional engineers. Afterwards, young engineers need to gain sufficient work experience to satisfy the HKIE's full membership requirement. "And we have also established close relationships with engineering institutions throughout the world so that they recognise our professional qualifications and we theirs," Ir Dr Lo explains.
As the Macau economy has boomed, Hong Kong engineers' tasks and services have become more diverse. "The rapidly expanding city of Macau needs a great number of engineering professionals to satisfy its needs. Many HKIE members have been involved in construction projects there and as the tourism and hospitality industries continue to grow, there are still many more opportunities," Ir Dr Lo says.
Mainland China's phenomenal growth is also creating huge demand for engineering talent, providing a wealth of opportunities for Hong Kong engineers to unleash their potential. "The whole of China is experiencing an economic upswing," Ir Dr Lo notes. "The boom of infrastructural development over the border has brought together engineering professionals and experts from all over the world. Hong Kong engineers have key roles to play in these projects, not just with our engineering expertise but also with our international exposure."
Moreover, the institution has cooperated with the Guangzhou Association of Engineers and the Macau Institution of Engineers to organise a "2007 GHMT Guangzhou-Hong Kong-Macau-Taiwan Engineers (Hong Kong) Forum", which will bring together engineering professionals in the region for discussion and exchange of technical information and ideas. This year, the theme of the forum is "Digital Cities". The HKIE hopes to organise more such regional conferences in the future. "We anticipate that through similar events we can facilitate better cooperation and understanding among engineers in the region, and at the same time satisfy the purpose of continuous professional development for our members," he adds.
Continuous education is vital for an engineer's career development and the HKIE regulates this by requiring its members to attend courses each year to enhance their knowledge and skills. Most activities are organised by the institution's various divisions, each representing a distinct field of engineering, such as the information technology and environmental fields. "Through the publication of our monthly journal, conferences and visits both in and out of Hong Kong, we encourage our members to keep improving themselves," Ir Dr Lo says.
He believes lifelong learning will only become more important. "As globalisation's influence on the world's economy grows, new technologies are appearing at an unprecedented pace and customers' expectations are continually rising," he says. "In order to succeed in our profession we must become more rounded by attaining a comprehensive understanding of fields of engineering outside our own specific division. Although engineers are already highly educated people, we are going to have to become even better learners."
This means more than just updating their practical engineering skills, as greater emphasis is being placed on soft skill development. Ir Dr Lo adds, "Communication ties the industry together. Our job nature requires us to interact with people so it is essential for us to know how to work with our colleagues, deal with customers, cooperate with suppliers and coordinate with the government. Without effective communication skills we would be nothing."