A qualified electronics and electrical engineer can consider a number of career possibilities such as going into technology research, design and development, quality assurance or manufacturing. Another equally challenging option is to become a technical specialist in an independent testing laboratory and help to devise safer environments for living and working.
"Our mission is to create a safer world," says Edmond Chan, managing director of UL International. "By making best use of our knowledge, we can support the development and manufacturing of products which are physically and environmentally safe, and apply our efforts to preventing or reducing bodily injury, loss of life and damage to property."
As a US-based company, UL has been certifying products and developing safety standards for over 110 years. On average, they evaluate more than 18,000 different items each year, and their certification mark now appears on more than 19 billion products around the world.
In total, the company has around 6,000 employees in its 60 offices and laboratories located in 25 countries. The Hong Kong operation was established in 1988 and now has a 200-strong workforce and about 70 per cent of them are technical professionals.
Engineers can either work in a laboratory to carry out testing or take on a broader role. The latter includes reviewing product samples, defining test plans, coordinating testing with laboratory, reviewing test data, concluding evaluations, and preparing test reports. It may also be necessary to explain test results to customers and offer them training in UL standards. About 20 to 30 per cent of current clients have their own testing facilities, meaning that, in these cases, UL staff may be assigned to witness testing conducted at clients' premises.
We can support the development and manufacturing of products which are physically and environmentally safe
Therefore, Mr Chan points out, engineers must have not just technical competence, but also good communication and customer service skills. They should also have the versatility to work with a wide variety of products and be interested in the very latest technical developments and market changes. Engineers who meet these basic criteria have the chance to gain experience of numerous different industries, types of product and technical standards.
Learning everything requires dedication as well continuous training, Mr Chan notes.
In this respect, human resources manager Veronica Mak explains that the company's engineering recruits join a three-month fast-track training programme, which covers all the key technical knowledge, professional standards, operational procedures and reporting requirements.
Once classroom training is completed, recruits receive individual assignments in which they can apply their skills and acquire on-the-job experience. They also have a personal mentor to provide practical support and advice on such things as soft skills, making it easier to integrate into the corporate culture and find their feet quickly.
"To help career advancement, we also provide ongoing training in supervisory, management and project management skills," says Ms Mak. "Subsequently, we also arrange instruction in how to be a mentor and coach new staff, as well as in delivering training for customers."
Mr Chan says that, since UL now has operations in Guangzhou, Shanghai and Suzhou, engineers have the opportunity to train and work in the mainland. Besides that, their job involves regular overseas travel, since many customers have manufacturing plants located around the region, and participation in training conducted in other offices.
With increasing public awareness of the need for quality and safety, the testing and conformity assessment industry seems sure to develop fast. Already, UL has been able to achieve double-digit annual growth in Southern China, thanks largely to the emergence of production centres for small appliances, lighting, information technology equipment and cable and wiring products.
Ms Mak says there is a consistent need for engineers with at least three years' experience in testing. Knowledge of specialist technical areas is always an advantage. In addition to a competitive remuneration package and opportunities for career development, the company emphasises its strong brand and good reputation when attracting new recruits.
"Also, we have an open and supportive work environment, since we believe that happy employees will create happy customers," Mr Chan says.