Five years ago, the engineering industry in Hong Kong underwent a slowdown and many capable experts in the field headed for Europe and United Arab Emirates to profit from the burgeoning engineering industries there. In 2008 however, Hong Kong's engineering industry has transformed and now offers a plethora of opportunities for a profitable and rewarding career right on the doorstep.
At the forefront of the engineering field in Hong Kong is Gammon Construction Limited, the premier contractor in Hong Kong and one of the leading contractors in Asia. Ian Edwards, director of Gammon says the industry is entering a boom and opportunities for engineers now abound. To cater to the increased number of high-profile and complex projects Gammon undertakes, the company has devised a sophisticated recruitment and training strategy to attract and retain the best.
Having recognised the need to invest in people Gammon has taken the lead in the market to give its staff unique training opportunities by inaugurating the Gammon Academy in 2003.
Mr Edwards reveals, "The in-house training on offer to new employees at Gammon is all-encompassing and second-to- none." Fresh graduates undergo site, preconstruction, commercial, procurement, design and site investigation training. In addition, reviews and mock interviews are conducted every six months and sponsorship to external CPD courses is offered. A sophisticated mentorship programme is also in place so each new recruit has an experienced ear if ever unsure.
Of particular importance to engineers aspiring to become project managers is the Professional Assessment of Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE) qualification. The overall aim of Gammon's graduate training programme is to provide the best foundation for engineers to succeed in this regard, providing a springboard for future career development in the industry. "Graduates normally apply to us as engineers and we support them through the HKIE which them allows them to move on to become project managers, then construction managers and finally contracts managers," explains Mr Edwards.
Non-graduate engineers receive similar levels of professional training and are encouraged to join the Gammon team at the technician apprentice level and benefit from the comprehensive support scheme available. Production manager status is eventually conferred on quality employees who embody the Gammon values of excellence and integrity.
These values are evident in the impressive list of Gammon projects which include Three Pacific Place, Bellagio Phase 2, Ikea Shanghai, Castle Peak Road, Deep Bay Link North and Shenzhen Western Corridor, MTRC Penny's Bay Line and Route 8 Nam Wan tunnel. "The scope and diversity of our projects make Gammon the employer of choice for any engineer wishing to gain a foothold in the industry," says Mr Edwards. Overseas exposure also adds value to any engineer's portfolio and Gammon oversees many foreign projects including those in Singapore.
A huge boon for Hong Kong's future success in the engineering field are the 10 infrastructure projects recently revealed. "These are mega projects including the rail network, the Hong Kong-Shenzhen-Macau bridge, a co-operative project with Shenzhen airport, the development of the former airport at Kai Tak and the West Kowloon Cultural District," explains Mr Edwards. Discussions as to how best to execute these projects have been ongoing for some time. However, the go ahead from the top has only been received recently. For graduates considering a career in engineering these projects will provide excellent professional learning opportunities and industry exposure.
Regarding the mindset and skill set Gammon values, Mr Edwards underlines that effective engineers today require skills which stretch far beyond a solid technical base. "Integrity is key when dealing with an array of different people from diverse cultures. From the managerial level to the most junior member of staff, we ensure the safety of our people and their environment." Interestingly, Gammon's safety record is one reason so many talented recruits are attracted to the company. "When employees can see we genuinely prioritise their safety, they are happy to go the extra mile in return," adds Mr Edwards.
Soft skills have also become tremendously important to the success of engineers as they climb the professional ladder. "Interaction is essential," says Mr Edwards adding that 360 diplomacy with subordinates, superiors and clients is now fundamental to performing a job professionally. "Jardines, one of our parent companies, is extremely resourceful in this regard providing the latest soft skills training to our team members at all stages in their professional development," notes Mr Edwards. During these training programmes, Gammon employees join groups of staff from various companies in Hong Kong, so in essence receive valuable exposure to best practices across a multitude of industries.
On a personal level Mr Edwards finds the most satisfactory aspect of his profession goes beyond leaving something tangible and useful behind. "When we visit universities on recruitment drives, I always ask potential engineers what they really want out of their careers. I gain most satisfaction from playing an integral part in the development of those around me, and Gammon is incredibly supportive of that developmental process," he concludes.