The job market for students graduating this summer looks bright, with many entry-level vacancies expected in everything from sales and marketing to engineering, IT and accounting. Average starting salaries jumped from HK$10,000 in 2004 to HK$11,000 in 2005 and, amid a strong economy, are likely to increase again this year.
Dorinda Fung, director of student affairs for the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's Student Affairs Office points out that graduates returning from overseas will be competing for the best jobs, so final-year students at local universities should be ready for the challenge.
Over the years, PolyU's annual Career Fortnight has allowed students to get first-hand information from prospective employers and to keep abreast of job market trends. This year's event was held in March and attracted around 30 organisations from both public and private sectors, whose representatives answered enquiries and offered practical advice. There were also recruitment talks and visits to major production plants in China.
"We help graduates find jobs all year round," explains Ms Fung. "However, the event serves to increase awareness among undergraduates about the current recruitment situation, so they prepare themselves as well as possible for a job in their chosen field. It also helps employers to heighten their visibility and allows us to act as a bridge for them."
One highlight of the event was the chance to take part in mock interviews conducted by former graduates now working in different industries. They gave students feedback about their interview performance and passed on useful tips. Several training workshops also taught prospective interviewees how to prepare themselves effectively.
"It was really a warm-up exercise so that students know how to perform to their best in a job interview," says counselling specialist Jack Kwan of the Student Affairs Office.
Nowadays, many second-year undergraduates do internships to gain practical work experience. Under its Preferred Graduate Development Programme (PGDP), the office has therefore signed memoranda of understanding with companies committed to being part of this programme and providing on-the-job training. Appointed supervisors will write performance appraisals, and these will no doubt serve as useful references when interns are later looking for full-time jobs. About 50 per cent of students complete their internships with local firms, while the balance have the chance to go overseas or to the mainland.
Ms Fung hopes more companies will start to take on interns, since all undergraduates entering university in the 2005/2006 academic year must have relevant work experience before they graduate. "Next year will be very busy for us because both year-two and final-year students will be looking for jobs," she says.
Preliminary findings of the Graduates Employment Survey 2005 showed that nearly 98 per cent of the university's graduates were either employed or engaged in continuing full-time study. More than 58 per cent of those in the PGDP secured their first job offer by June. This programme was launched in 1997and over 800 companies now support the scheme.