Mainland experience opens route to career advancement

by Christina Tai

Wong Kwok-lai, president, The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers
Photo: Courtesy of HKIE

Problem solving is second nature for professional engineers

If you need help dealing with any kind of practical problem, the best idea is probably to seek out an engineer. The profession as a whole has experts in a wide range of disciplines, all of them equipped with the skills to apply cutting-edge technologies in their respective fields and find solutions which make the world a better place.

Broadly speaking, this could be by working on infrastructure developments, devising ways to improve the environment, inventing new high-tech products, or maintaining the amenities for your home.

Since engineers work on so many large-scale projects, teamwork is vital. It often involves collaborating with colleagues or partners from other parts of the world and, therefore, requires not just technical knowledge, but also a high level of interpersonal and management skills.

"There is increasing demand for experienced project managers," says Wong Kwok-lai, president of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers (HKIE). "When a developer is planning a major project, those are regarded as the key positions to fill."

There is increasing demand for experienced project managers

The HKIE is the local body which oversees the qualification of professional engineers. The government and employers recognise its authority in stipulating training requirements and setting standards for the profession in respect of legal, safety and environmental regulations.

One of the institution's major responsibilities is running its Scheme A training programme. This is for graduates working with HKIE-affiliated employers and combines academic learning with on-the-job experience, and leads to full professional qualifications.

"An important milestone for us was joining the Washington Accord in June 1995," says Mr Wong. Its significance was that HKIE-accredited engineering qualifications were recognised by other signatories of the accord, which include Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, the UK and the US. In June 2001, the Sydney Accord was signed and recognises higher diplomas and associate degrees accredited by the HKIE in a similar way.

To ensure that members keep their knowledge and skills fully up to date, the HKIE also has a broad-based programme for continuing professional development (CPD). It is designed to cover matters of direct technical relevance and other things considered essential for career advancement. These include communication and leadership skills, environmental matters, financial management, and legal and marketing knowledge. CPD training takes place by means of courses, seminars, workshops, site visits and e-learning modules.

Since fluency in Putonghua is becoming essential for engineers working on the mainland, language lessons are now one of the most popular CPD activities. Also, a web page listing the hyperlinks of some mainland engineering organisations has been set up as an easy source of reference for any Hong Kong-trained professionals contemplating a move.

"The career opportunities in the mainland are huge," says Mr Wong. "If young engineers can establish a good reputation by working for mainland companies for a few years, they will soon find themselves sought after by the largest corporations in Hong Kong and elsewhere."


Taken from Career Times 18 August 2006
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