Manufacturing executives must update skills

by Ella Lee

May Lai, consultant, Productivity Training Institute, Hong Kong Productivity Council

New programmes provide formal professional training

Job advertisements for positions in the merchandising and purchasing regularly outnumber those for other sectors, reflecting Hong Kong's close trading links with the Asia Pacific region and its continuing importance as regional centre for sourcing.

Many of these positions call for practical hands-on experience. They also require candidates to have specialist knowledge of different areas of merchandising and supply chain management. However, you will seldom see any academic or professional qualification stated as a prerequisite for more senior roles, since it is widely assumed that knowledge of the business can only be picked up on the job.

In view of this, the Hong Kong Productivity Council has joined forces with the Institute of Purchasing and Supply of Hong Kong to organise a professional diploma in merchandising and supply management to meet market demands. The aim of the programme is to provide updated information and enhance management skills.

"To meet the challenge in a competitive environment and rapid technological development brings about, professionals in merchandising and supply management must equip themselves with the skills for career advancement," says programme organiser May Lai, who is also consultant for the Council's Productivity Training Institute. She adds that the course covers key principles of merchandising, as well as marketing, strategic planning, finance and IT.

Ms Lai notes that merchandising courses offered locally are for candidates holding merchandising positions. The new programme is designed primarily for supervisory executives who focus on commercial commodities. "Our course is unique," she says. "It will take very systematic approach and will elaborate each topic in detail, so that graduates can manage their teams more effectively."

As a special feature, the strategic planning module will include "green" buying and social responsibility, in line with increasing global interest in such concerns. "In manufacturing consumer products, executives must be aware of related environmental issues," Ms Lai explains. "For example, they must be familiar with waste control, and in terms of social responsibility, comply with related legislation."

The course requires students to complete assignments and joint projects. This will provide a good opportunity for candidates from different industries to compare ideas and share experiences. Course content and teaching methods may be reviewed in future, depending on the feedback from students and responses from the market about their professional needs and how they view the curriculum and the way the material is presented.

Ms Lai expects that graduates of the course, may go on to take other programmes offered by local and overseas universities. She also predicts that bachelor's or even master's degrees in merchandising and supply management will be introduced in Hong Kong to meet increasing demand for such qualifications. She points out that the role of executives who oversee manufacturing and supply chain activities is getting ever more complex. They must be familiar with manufacturing process, logistics, sourcing, quality management and after sales customer services.

Ms Lai emphasises, though, that if Hong Kong is to maintain a position of strength in merchandising, marketing and trade services, local executives must recognise the need to keep upgrading their level of professionalism.


  • Specialised course will give middle and senior executives a competitive edge
  • "Green" buying and social responsibility are among the topics covered
  • Assignments and joint projects will allow students to share experiences
  • Feedback from students may lead to reviewed course content
  • New degree courses in merchandising and supply management are possible

Minimum Entry Requirements

  • A post-secondary diploma/certificate in any discipline but preferably in business-related areas
  • Alternatively, five HKCEE passes and over five years' relevant working experience at supervisory or senior level
    Mature applicants will be considered on a case-by-case basis
Duration of the programme:
27 July 2006 - 8 March 2007
Thursdays 7-10pm
Fee: HK$12,500 per participant for the whole course

Taken from Career Times 16 June 2006
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