Government / Statutory Bodies

Connecting with the youth

by Natasha Rogai

Kim Salkeld, head
Efficiency Unit
Photo: Edde Ngan

Online initiatives bring the government closer to the young at heart

In 2007, the Hong Kong government set up an online youth portal to reach out to the younger generation, for whom new technology is an integral part of life. The site has experienced consistent growth and today receives an average of 65,000 visitors and records 400,000 page views every month.

Kim Salkeld, head of the Efficiency Unit, which is responsible for the youth portal, says, it is important to make young people feel that the government is not just for the older population. "We want them to feel that all the things we have to offer are relevant to them, too," says Mr Salkeld.

The portal provides useful information about subjects such as health, education and money management along with fun content including competitions and features related to culture and sports. Mr Salkeld emphasises that the tone and message are designed to be friendly, with no preaching or commands. "It's someone speaking their language about the kind of issues and concerns they have," he remarks.

Pressing points

One of the most crucial issues young people face at the moment is finding a job, with the most popular section of the site being the "Career Kaleidoscope" devoted to employment. Current government job opportunities are listed along with vacancies handled by the Labour Department. However, the broader aim is to address young peoples' concerns about employment and what they need to know to get a job.

Accordingly, the site provides practical tools to assist young jobseekers understand the nature of the jobs they apply for and be confident and prepared for interviews. A wide range of information and tips, from how to prepare application letters and resumes, to avoiding employment traps, are available. Mr Salkeld points out that young people must be sure of their aspirations before applying for jobs.

An additional aim of the Career Kaleidoscope is to find more interesting ways of talking to young people about government jobs. One of the big strategic issues that the Efficiency Unit is examining is the ageing of the Civil Service, more than half of whom will be over the age of 50 within the next few years. "There's a huge process of making government jobs attractive to young people and making sure we get good young people and train them up, as they'll have a lot of responsibilities shortly as the present generation move to retirement," says Mr Salkeld.

Video interviews are another unique feature of the Career Kaleidoscope section, where people from both the public and private sectors talk about their own experiences in job-hunting, training and working. Interviews focus on the kind of things young jobseekers are interested in, such as how to present themselves at interviews. These have been so successful that a number of educational institutions have asked to show them at assemblies and job-related exhibitions. Mr Salkeld says that young people want this kind of interactive content that communicates with them in a way written words cannot. "We have real people who are doing jobs these young people might be thinking of applying for, speaking in their own words about what they've gone through," he explains.

Staying fresh

Given the speed of change in society and the changes among young people, constant innovation is essential to keeping the youth portal interesting. The site is managed by a dedicated team of 10 specialists in communications and IT, who can also call on expertise from other parts of the Efficiency Unit or outside consultants if necessary.

The Career Kaleidoscope recently underwent a major revamp. Mr Salkeld explains: "We need to make the youth portal continue to look different." The other aim is to improve the design and make it more user-friendly, based on feedback from users. "People want things to behave in a straightforward manner, so we're learning from that," he adds.

The site can already be accessed on mobile phones. Tools are available so people can share content with friends via popular community websites such as Facebook and Twitter. The team is now exploring the potential of leveraging social networking technology to get more interaction with users. In the long term, message boards may be introduced, although this presents challenge on a government website where security is paramount. "However, we need to be out where the public is. There are risks in doing these things, but they are risks that can be managed," says Mr Salkeld.

Beyond IT

  • Communication tone and messages designed to reach target audience
  • Practical tools and tips prepare youngsters for careers
  • Cross-platform communications encourage interaction among users

Taken from Career Times 22 January 2010, A11

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