Property / Construction

Catching the construction boom

by Ada Ng

Gene Cheung
project manager
Paul Y. Engineering Group Limited
Photo: Wallace Chan

New career challenges await civil engineering graduates

With the Hong Kong government's commitment to speed up the implementation of the 10 infrastructure projects, civil engineering professionals in Hong Kong can expect a wealth of new opportunities ahead of them.

Gene Cheung, a project manager of Paul Y. Engineering Group Limited, foresees a demand for both structural and civil engineers.

"Much like other countries, the Hong Kong government is looking to stimulate the economy and create jobs through infrastructure investment," says Mr Cheung. Besides the immediate effects of the government's stimulus programme, Mr Cheung foresees that the cyclical nature of the local infrastructure sector means a resurgence is due after a slowing trend in recent years.

Civil engineers working on infrastructure projects in Hong Kong have seen dramatic highs and lows in the past decade. Mr Cheung says the downtime usually occur after the completion of mega projects, which has been the situation here in the last few years.

Exporting expertise

"We are about to enter an upward trend again," Mr Cheung stresses.

Established in 1946 and now headquartered in Hong Kong, Paul Y. Engineering is the name behind many of Hong Kong's landmarks, the MTR lines, the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, the Ting Kau Bridge, and the Central Midlevel Hillside Escalator system.

Aside from local opportunities, Mr Cheung says Hong Kong's close economic integration with mainland China has opened up an abundance of job opportunities for civil and structural engineers.

"Just as Hong Kong needed engineering expertise from other developed countries in the early stages of the city's infrastructure development, mainland China is now demanding the same from Hong Kong," Mr Cheung notes.

Mr Cheung says engineering professionals in Hong Kong are ideally placed to support the infrastructure build-up in mainland China. In the construction sector, professional engineering services currently being exported to China include project management, building services work and engineering consulting.

"Civil engineers in Hong Kong are particularly experienced in project management, and our systematic approach is vital to large-scale infrastructure projects that demand intensive labour resources and holistic logistic flow with tight timelines," he explains.

The company is actively growing its infrastructure portfolio in mainland China. One recent project is the construction of the Yangkou Port in Nantong, Jiangsu. Once completed, the port will serve as a central hub for the shipping of bulk cargo goods and petro-chemical materials from the industrial park through the connection of the 13-kilometre Yellow Sea Crossing, a rail link and a pipeline bridge that are also being built under management by Paul Y. Engineering.

Tin Kau Bridge, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world, was constructed by Paul Y. Engineering a decade ago in Hong Kong, and some members of the project team of Tin Kau Bridge are now stationed in Yangkou to manage the project.

Outside of China, the company is also stretching its capabilities in the Middle East. Mr Cheung says it is an emerging trend for Hong Kong's engineers to export their skills and expertise to the Middle East, where infrastructure and property development is seeing substantial growth.

Passion and ambition

Mr Cheung says the company recruits fresh graduates every year as part of the long-term development of its building and civil engineering arms.

"We need new blood, especially those who are passionate about being civil engineers, and are dedicated to growing with the company," he says.

Successful candidates should have the passion and ambition to develop themselves. "Working in the construction industry can be physically and intellectually demanding," says Mr Cheung. "Sometimes you may need to work long hours outdoors or on construction sites."

An outgoing personality with good interpersonal and problem solving skills is also essential, as the job involves dealing with people of all levels.

"Civil engineering is known to be a tough career, but what I enjoy most is seeing the end product of my hard work," he says. "The Lamma Island Power Station was one of my most memorable achievements in my tenure. It's amazing to see how a sea evolved into reclaimed land and then into a power station," Mr Cheung recalls.


Taken from Career Times 20 March 2009, p. A8
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