Hong Kong is the world's fourth largest exporter of fine jewellery, after Italy, the US and India, according to the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. Annual export volumes increased by 14 per cent, 17 per cent and 10 per cent in 2006, 2007 and 2008 respectively.
Despite this, there has been no traditional platform for systematic industry training, says Banky Lau, managing director, Seng Fook Jewellery (Holdings) Co Ltd. "Over the past 30 years of my involvement in the industry, I've not been able to take advantage of well-organised training and development initiatives."
This changed recently when the Hong Kong Jewelry Manufacturers Association joined forces with the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Professional Education and Executive Development (PolyU SPEED) to launch the Executive Diploma in Management (Jewelry).
Mr Lau, who wasted no time in enrolling for the programme, has found that it provided him with a clearer understanding of the value of his specialist knowledge, which in turn boosted his confidence about his future career development.
The programme fills a valuable niche. While Hong Kong's jewellery export trade has thrived, the local market has also benefited from the implementation of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) between Hong Kong and mainland China. A huge increase in consumption from mainland tourists visiting Hong Kong following the implementation of the Individual Travel Scheme has further strengthened the industry.
The programme aims to help students to acquire the appropriate management knowledge to appreciate the contextual setting of business organisations in the jewellery industry, and the core competencies and skills to discharge responsibilities of managerial functions with specific relevance to Hong Kong's and international jewellery business setting.
The curriculum gives emphasis to practical application as well as the contribution of the strategic role that marketing and design management play in enhancing organisational effectiveness. "Most of my classmates are company managers with substantial industry experience. This allows us to learn from each other," says Mr Lau.
He found the jewellery branding and marketing sections the most useful of all the course modules, since it provided him with important insights into the market values of gemstones. "Before I joined the programme, I only had a vague idea about jewellery branding. The knowledge I have gained has really boosted my expertise and provided me with a new awareness," he says.
The 18-month programme comprises three compulsory and five elective courses. Compulsory subjects are organisation theory and behaviour, marketing management, and business policy and strategy, while the elective subjects include jewellery business and markets, jewellery branding, jewellery design trend analysis, jewellery trade knowledge and quality management in jewellery production.
"The programme lecturers from PolyU SPEED and the industry helped me to broaden my perspectives, especially on combining theoretical knowledge with practical experience," Mr Lau concludes.