Many Hong Kong professionals accept the fact that they must relocate to the mainland for work as much of local manufacturing industry has already done. The job vacancies do exist. It's only that they are not in the bright bustling cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou but in smaller western and central China cities where new factories are being built.
Such a situation exists now particularly in the garment industry, which faces the growing challenge of finding experienced quality controllers who are willing to work in less prosperous cities. Alexa Chow, managing director of Centaline Human Resources Consultants Limited says that there is only one relevant candidate for every eight quality controller vacancies offered. "The ideal candidate must have three to five years' experience with formal academic training, but many who are qualified have already moved out of the industry because of evening studies or a reluctance to work in China. Those who are still in the industry would choose to work for trading companies that only require frequent visits to the production sites," she explains.
At present, many garment, toy, electronic, furniture and food manufacturers are seeking quality assurance officers who are willing to be based in China or other Asian countries, while those employed in trading firms are only required to travel to the manufacturing plants on a regular basis.
Successful candidates for supervisory posts in garment manufacturing, must at least possess a diploma in garment, fabrics or clothing related disciplines, and ideally are degree holders with total quality management training, speak fluent Putonghua and have a good grasp of team building skills. Although there are many experienced quality controllers in Hong Kong, some lack a relevant degree, formal training and professional qualifications.
The demand in the mainland market in the foreseeable future is for middle and senior management executives. Employers will need to offer attractive remuneration packages and provide comfortable living quarters to lure professionals to work there.
"In China, a fresh graduate employed as a junior quality controller earns a monthly salary of RMB2000, while a similar post in Hong Kong would cost an employer at least four times of that," Ms Chow points out. "Therefore, many Hong Kong graduates with relevant training fail to find jobs and have to alter their career paths."
A quality controller's job is to monitor the standards of new products design and development from pilot run to intermediate and finished goods. The job also entails auditing product reliability and monitoring internal and external safety standards, as well as handling customer complaints.
Quality assurance officers set the product quality standards, organise, train and lead teams. They also implement policies and review operation procedures related to quality checking. Generally speaking, quality assurance officers are more senior than quality controllers.
Ms Chow adds that unlike the situation in larger manufacturing plants, the roles of quality control and assurance in smaller garment factories are often merged into one. For other companies, because of the complexity in the decision making process, the role of quality assurance is taken over by a manager or director. Those in the directorate role also set up the quality system and handle quality assurance strategy. To do so, they must possess thorough knowledge of the relevant legal requirements on the products' quality and safety standards.
Since many quality assurance roles are absorbed by senior positions, Ms Chow says the demand for quality assurance executives in the market is lower than that of quality controllers, where the turnover rate is relatively high. "Many who successfully changed jobs after working for one or two years in the field often achieved an increase in income of 10 to 20 per cent," Ms Chow concludes.