Over the years, Hong Kong's property and real estate market has seen many periods of development and revitalisation. More recently, the sector has also lent its expertise for the construction of new commercial and residential buildings on the mainland and for many of the new hotels and casinos opening in Macau. Project management is an indispensable part of each development, and with construction business generally picking up, the demand for specialist professionals is on the rise.
Patrick Lam, associate professor of the Department of Building and Real Estate at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, points out that there may be fewer projects in Hong Kong than previously, but run-down districts are being redeveloped and vacant factory premises are being converted for commercial use.
"If you look at the Financial Secretary's latest budget, the amount of premiums paid to the government for lease modifications is even higher than the public land sales revenue," Dr Lam says. "It looks as if the trend will continue."
He explains that project management skills can be applied to almost every size and type of business. "The aim of the discipline is to control the time, cost and quality of the work so as to meet the targets set by the project owner," he says. "The managers must also ensure the project is carried out safely and in an environmentally friendly way."
If developing a new property, this could mean bringing in various professionals, including surveyors, architects, engineers and construction managers. It would then be necessary to oversee all the operations, as well as to innovate and provide creative solutions for logistically complex problems.
Dr Lam says a project manager must also be able to adapt and apply his skills to different kinds of work. For instance, in a revitalisation project, it would be necessary to take care of residents' welfare and minimise disturbance, while working to maintain an old building.
He says large companies usually have in-house project management teams. Smaller enterprises can appoint consultancy firms to help them out.
Dr Lam's department offers postgraduate diploma and MSc courses in project management. These equip students with a creative approach to problem solving and with the ability to work throughout China. The progammes are mainly intended for professionals who already have a first degree in a relevant discipline and at least two years' related work experience. The programmes also attract practising construction managers, engineers and other professionals in the property sector.
Both courses are taught by distance learning methods, which are convenient for people who are often away from Hong Kong. However, for each subject there are also three full-day weekend workshops each semester, which include lectures and the opportunity for teaching staff and students to interact.