Property / Construction

Building the future

by Sophie Leung

Tony Shum (left), group chief executive officer, Asia
AECOM Technology Corporation
Eliza Ng, human resources director
Maunsell AECOM Group
Photo: Edde Ngan

Local platform offers aspiring engineers a global perspective

As China continues to open its doors to the world, Hong Kong's engineers are facing fierce competition from the growing number of their mainland counterparts as well as the influx of experienced professionals from the West.

"Hong Kong engineers have strong project management abilities of a world-class level," notes Tony Shum, group chief executive officer, Asia, AECOM Technology Corporation, a global provider of professional technical and management support services to a broad range of markets, including transportation, facilities, environmental and energy. Currently, the multinational employs 43,000 employees and serves clients in more than 100 countries.

Mr Shum dismisses the worries of local engineering professionals and highlights the competitive advantage that they are enjoying. "Hong Kong is world-renowned for its high-rise buildings and urban infrastructure including its metro transit systems. Local engineers have accumulated valuable experience on these multi-disciplinary engineering aspects over recent decades. Many developing countries such as those in the Middle East and India are looking to attract such talent to lead their urban development," he says.

Statistics may reveal Mr Shum's confidence in the city's advantages in the global construction industry. AECOM's regional engineering group, Maunsell AECOM, has about 3,300 staff in Asia. Among them, more than 2,000 are stationed in Hong Kong, with the rest in mainland China, India and Southeast Asia. Maunsell AECOM provides civil, structural, electrical and mechanical, geotechnical, environmental engineering and management, and project management services to both the public and private sectors. As early as the early 1970s, the company has been involved in new town development projects, including Shatin, Tai Po, Fanling, Sheung Shui and Tseung Kwan O, helping to provide homes for more than two million people.

Although the group's business lines are diversified, its operation philosophy is straightforward. "Clients and employees remain two of our core values. We always hold ourselves to the highest industry standards and provide quality services to our clients," says Mr Shum.

Employer of choice

In spite of the recent economic downturn, Maunsell AECOM is optimistic about the market. The company is looking to hire about 100 graduate engineers this year through a series of recruitment programmes. "We have won several government contracts for major infrastructure projects that may last at least five years, so our need for new talent exists regardless of short-term economic fluctuations," says Eliza Ng, human resources director, Maunsell AECOM.

The group is involved in the southeast Kowloon development, Central-Wan Chai bypass, Tuen Mun Road widening, various water supply, drainage, sewerage and landslide prevention programmes, slope maintenance, as well as major railway infrastructures such as the South Island Line, Shatin Central Link and Express Rail Link.

"AECOM itself is an international professional network and our different business lines and geographic groups give our engineers the access to a world of experiences and the most advanced technology available today," reveals Mr Shum. "Our balanced matrix organisation design that leverages the strength of diverse business lines and geographies positions us in the marketplace."

Recently, an elite team of the group's Hong Kong building engineers was sent to Singapore to participate in the design of the Sentosa Integrated Resort development. "Such arrangements not only help our engineers develop their professional skills, but also broaden their overseas exposure," he remarks.

Flexibility wins

Aligned with its future development needs, AECOM is looking for energetic and passionate young engineers. AECOM has in place a long-running mentorship scheme. Newly joined engineers are given ample opportunities to learn the ropes at different fields, helping them to confirm their aspirations and areas of interest. "We look to these young professionals to help drive our business and keep us moving," Ms Ng says. "In addition to individuals equipped with professional competence, we look for aspirants who possess a high level of flexibility and assertiveness so that they can handle different projects simultaneously, while communicating effectively with various parties, including government officials and construction workers." Aside from these qualities, AECOM hopes to attract like-minded professionals who appreciate and respect the group's core values, namely integrity, excellence, innovation, agility, safety and profitable growth.

Embracing a mission to enhance and sustain the built, natural and social environments, the AECOM advocates sustainable development also for its employees. To this end, the group has introduced an "employee engagement" culture by setting up employee engagement committees in different regional offices, providing a communication platform between employees and management. Representatives from different business lines and departments meet regularly to discuss staff-related issues, such as company activities and volunteering work. "We encourage all-round development for our employees and care for their well-being, as they are an intrinsic part of the company," concludes Ms Ng.


Taken from Career Times 20 March 2009, p. A7
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