The flow of new construction work in Hong Kong may have slowed since the industry's heyday, but career prospects still remain bright for professionals in the sector who are willing to venture to Macau.
According to Keith Buckley, executive project director of Hsin Chong Construction Group Ltd, a steady stream of new multibillion-dollar hotel, casino and entertainment projects is likely to sustain the boom there for another five years or more.
"The projects in Macau are very large, technically challenging and built on a fast-track basis," Mr Buckley says. "In addition, Hsin Chong's projects are being implemented on a construction management basis rather than as traditional contracts. This means staff learn new skills and Hong Kong professionals with experience not available in Macau will be welcome."
The current boom has created consistent demand for staff at all levels with knowledge of construction, quality, and environmental projects. Experts with both the right qualifications and international experience can expect to be offered attractive remuneration packages.
"The advantages of working in Macau relate to the range of projects being undertaken and the scale and speed of execution," says Mr Buckley. "At present, there are few opportunities in Hong Kong which offer so much varied work." He adds that each job offers new challenges and that, once an engineer or construction manager has gained experience working on a major casino or hotel development, this will make them highly employable elsewhere in Asia or around the world.
With so many new facilities being built, professionals are needed in everything from mechanical and electrical engineering to interior design, plumbing, insulation, fire protection, ventilation, lighting and communication systems.
Hsin Chong currently has around 700 staff in Macau and most are there on a relatively long-term basis. They are full-time employees rather than on fixed-term contracts. While the majority are in roles directly linked to construction, there are also specialists in human resources, logistics and general administration. Looking ahead, individual employees might have future assignments in Hong Kong, the mainland or Singapore, but the opportunities available will always be subject to the volume and type of work secured by the company.
"We provide in-house and external training and encourage staff to undertake further education for which costs can be reimbursed," Mr Buckley says. "Also, we are continually reviewing our packages in order to encourage staff to come to or stay in Macau." He notes that the working environment is similar to Hong Kong but that, even so, some tangible benefits are offered to attract good employees.
"Staff from Hong Kong who live and work in Macau receive a package that includes a market-related accommodation allowance, a monthly travel allowance, and a bonus that varies according to seniority."
He points out that candidates contemplating a move are encouraged to weigh up the prospects for career advancement with possible family commitments in Hong Kong, so that they have no second thoughts after making a move.
Hsin Chong has found that engineers, in particular, are now more receptive to the idea of working in Macau for longer periods than previously.
"They realise how much experience they can gain and know that somewhere along their career path, they can branch out into construction or project management," Mr Buckley says.