MT Opportunities

Careers built on solid ground

by Grace Chan

Engineering and design firm to groom more than 100 budding graduate engineers

Young graduate engineers looking for sustainable career development typically expect a great deal more than a big fat pay packet from prospective employers.

Cassady Winston, HR director, Asia, AECOM, knows it well. "Young candidates are always looking for opportunities to participate in large-scale and iconic projects. As a major global engineering and design firm with more than 400 offices and 48,000 employees worldwide, we make it a priority to offer them such opportunities. In particular, we offer our graduate engineers comprehensive training towards visible and exciting career prospects," says Mr Winston.

Established two decades ago, AECOM has been quick to build a strong reputation as a preferred professional technical and management support services provider in the field of transportation, facilities, environmental engineering, energy and water, to a diverse range of clients in the public and private sectors around the world. In a bid to align its expansion plans with opportunities sustained by continuous global momentum, the company is looking to recruit more than 100 aspiring graduates for its graduate engineer programme in 2011.

"A number of our previous graduate engineers were initially attracted to our diverse project portfolio, which includes the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and the Shatin/Central Link," Mr Winston remarks, pointing out that the company's recruitment is primarily aimed at sustaining a talent pipeline of high potential engineers in the transportation, geotechnical, building engineering, and water and urban development disciplines. "We are a people business," he adds. "We are able to attract top talent, place them in the right positions and support their development, so that we can consistently achieve our strategic goals."

In addition to local talent, overseas Chinese nationals were also attracted to the culturally rich Hong Kong platform, notes Stephanie Cheung, AECOM's talent acquisition specialist.

"Our employees have every opportunity to learn from the cultural attributes of their global counterparts," Ms Cheung adds. "This level of interaction will eventually give them an extra edge in their long-term professional development."

She emphasises that young talent eyeing an AECOM career must come prepared, since the entire recruitment drive is not about filling up numbers. Selected candidates are interviewed by a panel and are required to take a written test. During this rigorous process they are expected to explain their strengths and how these will contribute to the future success of the company. "They must also be able to demonstrate a genuine passion in engineering and a desire to thrive in the industry," Ms Cheung advises.

All-round training

In view of the significance of a solid foundation, graduate engineers are tasked with real job responsibilities within and outside Hong Kong to learn the ropes. They gain hands-on experience by working closely with clients, business partners, as well as senior colleagues from various functions and offices.

In addition, an array of in-house training programmes are in place including "lunch and learn" sessions which encourage the transfer of technical skills between senior staff and graduate engineers, notes Ms Cheung.

Aside from this, AECOM's graduate engineer programme incorporates the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers (HKIE) Scheme A training towards the ultimate chartership. Study and examination leave is granted to individuals preparing for the HKIE Scheme A Examination.

Thanks to an expanding global presence, AECOM employees at all levels receive ample scope to develop their expertise across the company's local and international business platforms. The company also promote life-long learning by offering its staff a continuous professional development (CPD) allowance. This is in line with AECOM's corporate policy to enhance employees' technical competence, expand their professional horizons and hone their communication skills.

Via a range of employee engagement activities such as wine tasting, art classes, soccer competitions and charity events like Walk for Millions, the company encourages its staff to pursue a balanced lifestyle. "This also helps build relations between staff across departments and boosts their engagement level," Ms Cheung says.

Safra Abdeen
graduate engineer (water and urban development) 2009


Civil and structural engineering
Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Inclusive culture

Sri Lanka national Safra Abdeen enrolled in an AECOM summer internship programme during her second year of study.

"Despite being a student, I was given responsibilities and considered as a member of the team," says Ms Abdeen, who subsequently signed up for the graduate engineer programme last year. "Since I already aspired to develop my career with AECOM, I performed to the best of my ability during the internship. For example, I tried to be more outspoken and took every opportunity to contribute."

She reveals that the structure of the graduate engineer programme exposes her to a range of mega projects while helping her to work towards achieving the HKIE Scheme A training requirements.

"I don't speak any Cantonese but language was never a barrier here and this confirms the success of the company's diversity and inclusion policy," she remarks.

Katherine So
graduate engineer (building engineering) 2009


Civil and structural engineering
the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

Myriad opportunity

Since joining the graduate engineer programme last year, Katherine So has already been included in the AECOM team responsible for the structural design of the Shenyang New World International Convention Centre and the Shanghai Lujiazui Integrated Commercial Complex.

"This essentially tells me that AECOM is an ideal career development platform and I've made the right career choice," Ms So says.

Aside from exposure to the latest structural engineering technologies, Ms So is also given the opportunity to attend business meetings with her supervisor to learn to see things from a strategic perspective.

She advises prospective graduate engineers to show an understanding of AECOM's core values as well as its business background. "During the interview process, you must also demonstrate team spirit and good communication skills because team work is a key to any engineering projects," she remarks.

Peter Wong
graduate engineer (transportation) 2009


Civil engineering
Imperial College London

Global exposure

Peter Wong was among those attracted to AECOM’s international business portfolio and successfully enrolled in the company's graduate engineer programme, initially with the company's UK office.

His request to relocate back home to Hong Kong was entertained last year. "Hong Kong is a dynamic city and my UK experience constitutes part of the HKIE's Scheme A training requirements," he says, explaining his move.

The programme hones his interpersonal and project management skills while giving him the chance to build up his competence as a professional. "I'm now involved in a US bridge project, which requires constant communication with my colleagues in the states. This is a real challenge and one that is most valuable," he reflects, pointing out also that all AECOM projects are international and involve a cross section of expertise. "I've learnt to attend to all the details," he adds.

Heidi Leung
graduate engineer (geotechnical) 2008


Civil engineering
the Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Wider horizon

Over the last two years, Heidi Leung had already been to Jakarta, helping the local team there to prepare tender documents for a Dubai project. She has joined AECOM in Xiamen to assist with an Egypt project. Currently, she is involved in the work for a Civil Engineering and Development Department landslip preventive measures programme. "I can see myself hurtling down a fast track towards personal and professional growth," she says. "The learning curve has been steep."

While learning to adapt to the different cultures and working habits, Ms Leung concedes that these overseas stints also allowed her to develop effective communication skills. "Don't be afraid to ask questions," she emphasises. "Time management and project management skills will help you excel at the job but interpersonal skills are the real key to team success."

Taken from Career Times 1 October 2010, A11

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