The regular updating of China's business laws and policies has caused the CMA Training Centre, the education arm of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong, to design a wide range of courses to help its 3,700 corporate members to understand the latest developments in the mainland market.
The centre, which is keen to establish a brand image for all-round expertise in China business practices and as a reliable mentor for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is organising training programmes on popular topics like labour law, the taxation system and tariff declarations. Francis Lau, secretary-general of the CMA, says that the Chinese authorities are regularly reviewing and fine-tuning these areas, which means that Hong Kong manufacturers have to update themselves and their employees continuously.
Training programmes about new regulations affecting the outward processing trade are also in strong demand. For example, there is a law which requires a manufacturer wanting to sell or transfer parts and materials to another factory to make a customs declaration. Such a transfer often occurs when production is completed at one location and certain materials remain unused. Both buyer and seller need to know how the regulations apply in order to make the correct declarations.
With the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), many companies also require instruction and clarification on how the agreed measures can be implemented. Manufacturing concerns, for instance, are interested in learning how to declare the origin of their goods in order to comply with the new regulations and enjoy the benefit of zero-rated tariffs. Under the agreement, the mainland will not apply standard tariffs on goods of Hong Kong origin, provided the "cost content" in Hong Kong is not less than 30 per cent of the total production cost. Watches and jewellery, in particular, can benefit under the scheme, explains Mr Lau, as the cost of designing such items is counted as part of the production cost.
"We make our training different through the use of creativity, flexibility and quality," he notes. "Practicality is a hallmark of the programmes, since most courses are short and train the technical skills of day-to-day operations. We make extensive use of case studies, sharing experience, simulating real-life scenarios, and modelling best practices. This minimises the gap between theory and practice, thus maximising the benefits for participants and their employers."
There are also courses on quality assurance, with modules in supply chain management, designed for more senior managers and executives working in the toy, garment and electrical appliance industries. In addition, there are increasingly popular programmes in enhancing management and leadership skills, negotiation, and handling frontline staff.
Since a good command of Putonghua and an understanding of China's business culture are important for any professional working on the mainland, the centre also offers specially tailored language and business etiquette courses. These were developed in cooperation with local tertiary institutions and are intended primarily for people working in manufacturing operations across the border. Individual companies can ask for lecturers to travel to the mainland to train staff there.
Mr Lau advises Hong Kong professionals who want to remain competitive in the China market to keep learning and consider taking an MBA. However, he also points out that many mainlanders are more than capable of working at middle management level and that competition will be tough. "They pick things up very fast and now have good exposure to overseas markets," he says. "Hong Kong executives are only wanted for the very top positions. Other professionals wanting to work in China may only find openings in provincial enterprises, where there are more opportunities and less competition, but they may have to take a pay cut," he warns.