The government's commitment to investing in infrastructure as part of its ongoing efforts to promote Hong Kong's booming economy is boosting the city's construction and property industry.
The increasing momentum is creating more opportunities for career growth in the field, says Paul Ho, managing director, Manlink Personnel Consultants.
"Hong Kong's construction and property industry grew rapidly between 1991 and 1997," says Mr Ho. "Over the years the city earned a reputation for the rapid construction of quality high-rise residential and office buildings."
The situation changed in the late-1990s when the construction rate started slowing down, Mr Ho says. However, he believes that the construction industry is now on the verge of regaining its momentum due to the government's commitment to investing in infrastructure projects and public works.
The recent Chief Executive's policy address and the Financial Secretary's annual budget indicated that the government aims to promote economic development through infrastructure projects. Discounting the upfront endowment of HK$21.6 billion to the West Kowloon Cultural District Authority, the government estimates that expenditure on infrastructure projects in the 08/09 financial year will amount to HK$21.8 billion. It is expected that about 250,000 additional jobs will be created.
Even more employment opportunities will be created in the industry in the next few years as some projects reach their construction peaks, Mr Ho says. "The recruitment and retention of experienced staff will be a major challenge for employers in the construction and property sector. We expect that there will be a huge demand for project management professionals responsible for planning and managing construction projects from start to finish."
Employers tend to favour candidates with solid industry experience, Mr Ho stresses. "In the construction and property industry, employers attach great importance to experience. We don't recommend our clients consider hiring people from related fields or with transferable skills, even if we are struggling to find professionals in the field," he says.
While employers look at experience and qualifications, they also consider candidates who are able to rise to challenges and have the necessary energy and passion to succeed in the industry. "We can already see that recruitment is going to become a major challenge in the near future," Mr Ho notes.
Mr Ho suggests that companies planning to hire devise a clear recruitment plan in order to find suitable candidates. Making the right match takes time and effort, he says, pointing out that Manlink's strategy is to help employers find the right person to fill each vacancy at the right time in a cost-effective manner.
It can have a detrimental effect on jobseekers' careers and motivation if they accept a position that isn't right for them. Similarly, hiring an inappropriate candidate can negatively affect an employer's business.
"With more than 17 years' experience in helping construction and property clients to hire quality people, we know that every company has its own organisational culture. For this reason we forge partnerships with our clients and work closely with them to identify their exact needs before formulating effective hiring strategies," says Mr Ho.
He advises employers in the sector to consider key factors when attracting quality people.
"It's important for employers to provide clear job descriptions, incentives and training, and to explain professional development prospects. Organisations should also show a caring attitude towards staff in order to attract quality people."
As it can be a tough task to find the right candidates with the relevant experience, employers should strive to foster staff loyalty, Mr Ho points out. "Fast growth in the Hong Kong market is going to create a big demand for top people and we predict that more job opportunities are going to become available in the construction and property sector. It will therefore be essential for employers to retain their valued staff. In order to keep their employees and build stronger bonds within organisations, companies should understand their staff needs and potential, Mr Ho remarks.
Competition for high-calibre people in the construction and property sector is about to become tougher, but effective recruitment plans and appropriate retention policies will help companies in the industry stay on course, he concludes.