Macau's construction boom to last until 2010

by Ella Lee

Philco Wong, executive director, Gammon Construction
Photo: BJ

Opportunities on offer for senior engineers

The construction boom in Macau, which has seen the development of new hotels, casinos, convention centres and other recreational facilities in the last few years, shows few signs of slowing down. In fact, Philco Wong, executive director of Gammon Construction, notes that the current robust pace is now likely to continue until at least 2010.

One reason for this, according to Mr Wong, is that the Macau government may postpone some infrastructure work until the peak in the private sector is over. Otherwise, the city's internal resources, including the supply of labour and logistics support, might have trouble coping. This will also give the government time to review its policy for labour resources and will go some way to preventing the construction sector from completely overheating.

Many Hong Kong engineers are already taking advantage of the opportunities on offer. They either commute on a weekly basis or have opted to relocate and make the most of Macau's high standard of living and lower accommodation costs. Not surprisingly, Macau citizens who previously moved to Hong Kong in search of better job opportunities are now flocking back home.

You must be committed to your work and prepared to go where the best opportunities are

Senior roles

A sizeable number of the vacancies for non-resident professionals are senior positions on prestigious projects. "Engineers and managers with around 20 years' experience in diverse international projects are most in demand," says Mr Wong. "The more standard work, such as building roads and residential blocks, mainly relies on local engineers."

He adds that the prospects are undoubtedly good for any qualified professional looking for career advancement. Salary levels are now similar to or higher than in Hong Kong, but the major attraction is often the chance to work on the type of top-notch developments which provide enormous job satisfaction. "The current range of projects in Macau involve world-class design and management and will provide invaluable experience for any engineer," Mr Wong says.

The biggest challenge is often the sheer scale of some of the current developments, as well as the very tight timeframes allowed to complete them. "It requires technical expertise and exceptional management skills to get everything done smoothly and successfully," he adds.

International profile

While overseas construction professionals are an important part of the workforce, Macau's own engineers have been learning quickly. Many have completed their studies in Hong Kong and then returned to take up their first professional appointments. Noting this, Mr Wong says that a common feature in any engineering career is the need to move around. He therefore advises Hong Kong-based professionals never to focus on a single market, but to be prepared to travel and create an international profile for themselves.

"Travel is essential for your career," he says, recalling his own time spent working in Canada. "The profession and the company you work for will often determine the location of your next job. You must be committed to your work and prepared to go where the best opportunities are."

From a general perspective, Mr Wong thinks that jobs for engineers within the construction sector are becoming more specialised. Different teams are now responsible for planning, supervision, quality control, health and safety, cost management and the overall production.

"Nowadays, we are expected to specialise more, which can have an impact on total costs," Mr Wong explains. Since more people may be involved in a project, engineers must take part in more meetings and email exchanges, making good language and communication skills a prerequisite for the role.

Salient points

  • Some infrastructure projects have been held back to prevent overheating
  • Senior Hong Kong engineers are in demand for prestige projects
  • Remuneration packages can be very attractive
  • Hong Kong engineers should develop an international profile
  • Language and communication skills are increasingly important

Taken from Career Times 22 September 2006
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