Although the local construction industry's heyday seems to be over, career prospects remain bright for professionals who are willing to venture outside Hong Kong. Macau is an obvious destination and, according to Mike A Rawbone, human resources/public relations director of Hsin Chong Construction Group Ltd, a steady stream of new hotel, casino and entertainment venue projects is likely to sustain the construction boom there for another five to ten years.
"Other industry spin-offs will be generated by Macau's drive to reinvent itself as a Las Vegas-style gaming paradise," Mr Rawbone says. "There will be new and improved infrastructure and there is already talk about expanding the scale of Macau Airport to cope with the anticipated surge in tourist arrivals. Hong Kong professionals with experience and skills not available locally will be a welcome addition."
One strong incentive for those considering relocation is the benefit packages. The Hong Kong media has reported that real wages in Macau increased substantially in the first quarter of last year for certain construction industry skills required on site. Experts with international experience and the right qualifications can also expect something of a salary windfall if they decide to move.
"Salary considerations aside, it also does wonders for your resume if you are a member of the construction team for a sophisticated, world-class project," says Mr Rawbone. "Not every engineer has the opportunity to build a casino or hotel. The experience will greatly augment your professional credentials and make you highly employable in the Asian region and around the world."
Building engineers, quantity surveyors, planners, project managers and designers are among the most sought-after professionals in Macau. A background in mechanical and electrical engineering is an advantage, but with so many new facilities being built, professionals will be needed in everything from interior design and electrical installation to plumbing, insulation, fire protection, ventilation, lighting, fire alarms and communication systems.
Hsin Chong has already stationed 450 skilled construction staff in Macau and plans to increase that number substantially by year's end. Besides conducting ongoing recruitment of experienced staff, the company also hires 10 university graduates a year and looks for candidates who are self-starters and can show they are hardworking, intelligent and innovative.
As graduate engineers accumulate experience, they are promoted to more senior engineering positions and may subsequently move into management. "Somewhere along their career path, they can branch out into construction or project management," Mr Rawbone says. "Here they will learn the techniques of organising and directing manpower, materials and equipment, in order to complete projects within budget, on time and to the correct quality standards," he says.
As standard company practice, Hsin Chong also transfers engineers between sites and arranges head office and overseas postings to offer a wide range of professional exposure. In all cases, training and development needs are well taken care of. Special attention is given to "package management" training, which teaches the art of managing different suppliers and work teams simultaneously to achieve specific project goals. "If you work with different vendors and teams, it is crucial for the project leader to provide a sound interface for all the services and component parts to blend seamlessly," Mr Rawbone says. Orientation programmes are also available to raise awareness about cultural differences when moving to a new work environment.
Great care is taken when deciding about candidates for postings outside Hong Kong. The company's priority is to take the time to ensure people are not only suited to the role, but also likely to see out the period of the contract. Those who indicate a positive interest in a move undertake a familiarisation trip to find out more about the work, the nature of the project and the general living conditions.
"When it is time to make the final decision, we urge the candidate to balance career advancement prospects with family commitments in Hong Kong," adds Mr Rawbone. "It would be counter-productive to post someone overseas only to find him tendering his resignation soon afterwards."
Hsin Chong engineers are now more receptive to the idea of working in Macau for longer periods than previously.
"There is a large, established network of Hong Kong-trained staff there to provide newcomers with the help, support and guidance they require," says Mr Rawbone. "But more importantly, they don't want to miss out on the unprecedented career advancement opportunities arising from the casino and construction boom."
- Macau's construction boom is creating many opportunities
for Hong Kong professionals
- Working on high-profile projects provides invaluable experience
and increases a person's marketability worldwide
- Usually 10 graduates are recruited every year for a three-year
- Training provides skills in all the key aspects of project
- Overseas postings and job rotations are encouraged and
carefully planned as a way of giving staff broader exposure