Human Resources

Civil careers take centre stage

by Grace Chan and Martin Williams

Public sector offers job security and solid experience

Creating jobs through infrastructural development is one of the highlights of the Budget 2009/2010, while the 10 major infrastructure projects are about to kick off. More than 1,000 job openings will be available at the coming Infrastructure Career Expo, with the majority requiring professional talent such as engineers, architects, planners and project managers.

Organised by the Development Bureau, the Infrastructure Career Expo will be held from 24 to 26 March at the Exhibition Gallery of Hong Kong Central Library. About 60 per cent of the 1,000 job openings are from the government whereas 180 are civil servant positions, with the rest non-civil servant roles. More than 90 per cent of the total job openings available involve technical qualifications. For this particular reason, on-the-spot interviews will not be arranged.

Secretary for Development Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor notes that the government alone cannot preserve jobs for all construction employees. As such, speeding up private sector work projects remains top of the agenda.

In addition to professional vacancies, the expo also offers job opportunities for fresh university graduates. Among the non-civil servant positions, 135 of them are for graduate engineers or architects under the University Graduates Professional Training Scheme, with a monthly salary of around HK$15,000.

Some 120 technician apprentice vacancies are offered under the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department's Apprentice Training Scheme. Form Three and Form Five graduates having received training at Vocational Training Council are welcome to apply for the position.

The expo will include model exhibitions, infrastructure works video screenings and 12 seminars. Mrs Lam hopes the public will have a deeper understanding of the government's initiatives in promoting infrastructural development.

She adds that 10,000 new jobs are expected to be created through the government's Operation Building Bright programme. Together with the Hong Kong Housing Society and Urban Renewal Authority, the Development Bureau will spend HK$1 billion to subsidise the maintenance of 1,000 buildings over 30 years old. The government will seek the legislative council's funding approval and the programme will be launched in May once the funding application is approved.

With regard to the newly established Development Opportunities Office, Mrs Cheng believes the new body can help offer one-stop services for formulating and executing policies as well as coordinating and utilising private or non-government land use. As such, more private land development will be promoted and more job opportunities created.

Reuben Chu, vice president of the Hong Kong Institute of Engineers, says the total number of tender projects has shrunk by half compared to the same period last year and overseas job opportunities are also declining. Companies that are not participating in the 10 major infrastructure work projects may face huge pressure for staff lay-offs.

Up for grabs

"The public sector is becoming more attractive as a result of positive government action and changing perceptions of the civil service," says Anthony Thompson, managing director-Hong Kong and Southern China, Michael Page International.

"The public sector is a bit of a shining light in the current economic gloom. We are very keen to be involved in that," says Mr Thompson. "The government has generated some very positive activity this year, including exciting new projects like the West Kowloon Cultural District. We are very proud to be driving recruitment for this project."

Mr Thompson says available government jobs span a range of departments and levels, including senior roles in the quasi-governmental Hong Kong Tourism Board. Vacancies include opportunities in finance, human resources, marketing and engineering. The civil service is also looking for architects and tax planners, as well as traffic engineers and landscape architects, from people with a few years' experience up to executive level.

Some 18 months ago people were quite confident about the employment market. However, in the current economic climate, candidates view stability and job security as priorities.

"People no longer regard public-sector jobs as one-dimensional, partly because there are high-profile, talented individuals in the government," he adds. "New developments and projects offer attractive opportunities and candidates realise that their long-term career prospects are good, with the chance to move between departments." People in the public sector also have the opportunity to learn skills that can be transferred to the private sector.

Mr Thompson notes that the government is seeking candidates with good qualifications and experience. As in the private sector, the strongest demand is for middle management. Candidates should be ambitious, possess five to 10 years' experience, and have the maturity to relate to people on senior levels.

"The public sector offers a range of interesting job opportunities. It is a positive and stable environment to gain work experience," Mr Thompson concludes.


Taken from Career Times 20 March 2009, p. A4
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