Property / Construction

Shelter from the storm

Margaret Chan
director (corporate services)
Hong Kong Housing Society
Photo: Nolly Leung

Major non-governmental organisation committed to developing new talent in the housing and construction industry

Since its inception in 1948, the Hong Kong Housing Society (HKHS) has been committed to providing Hong Kong people with affordable housing. The city's second-largest public housing provider also focuses on developing young talent and promoting professional networking.

With more than 60 years of industry knowledge, the non-profit organisation set up the Hong Kong Housing Society Academy in 2005, arranging internships and placement programmes, as well as academic and industry exchanges. "Since then, more than 1,300 students have received on-the-job training, scholarships and bursaries through the academy," says Margaret Chan, director (corporate services), HKHS.

The organisation cooperates with 24 local tertiary institutions and three mainland universities to enable academic exchanges. Students work as summer interns, trainee officers or part-time helpers at these institutions.

"We take in 50 to 60 interns every summer. Aside from providing practical work experience, we organise training workshops to hone students' customer service, communication and interpersonal skills," says Mrs Chan.

Professional development

In spite of the current economic downturn, the HKHS has no intention to downsize its internship and placement programmes this year, Mrs Chan confirms.

Once students have completed their internships, they attend an experiential training class where their performance and experience are reviewed.

"While the interns get a taste of real working life, we place even more emphasis on their personal development, cultivating a positive attitude towards their future careers," Mrs Chan says. A summer interns' alumni club also promotes sustained inter-institution exchange.

High-performing interns have the opportunity to become part-time workers for the HKHS, helping to organise events at housing estates run by the society.

Meanwhile, the HKHS runs a continuous placement programme for students taking the higher diploma course in real estate and facilities management at the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE). "Since activities are ongoing throughout the year, we have a consistent demand for part-time workers," Mrs Chan notes. The society employs 100 to 200 part-time student workers every year.

"Aside from offering jobs opportunities, we also aim to equip young talent with the necessary knowledge and skills to excel in their careers and benefit the industry as a whole," Mrs Chan notes.

The HKHS has an annual scholarship and bursary budget amounting to HK$500,000 to subsidise top academic achiever. Those studying housing-related disciplines are first in line, but all students are free to apply.

Along with its investment in young talent, the organisation also believes in "experience sharing" to promote professional development. One such tool is the HKHS Quality Field Practices (QFP) video series, a set of 35 videos produced at HK$10 million to promote good practices among site staff and contractors and to help ensure quality construction.

The videos have been distributed to members of related industry associations and local tertiary institutions as teaching tools. They have also been circulated on the mainland through collaboration with the China Architecture & Building Press in Beijing to promote quality practices and professionalism within the mainland building industry.

Industry benchmarks

The HKHS also works with mainland universities to facilitate academic exchange through joint courses, workshops, seminars and study tours, Ms Chan points out. "Since Hong Kong has a longer history in property management, sharing our experience can help improve industry practices across the border and we can offer solutions to some industry issues," she says.

In addition, the organisation sponsors annual industry-related seminars, lectures and conferences. One example is a world-class lecture series to be held at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre in March. The event is expected to attract several hundreds of local industry practitioners and academics.

In line with the company's mission to facilitate quality service and professionalism within the industry, HKHS senior managers regularly share their experience and knowledge at seminars and conferences. "Some of our staff members lecture part-time at local tertiary institutions and they go to great lengths to nurture future industry leaders," Mrs Chan points out.

The society is also actively involved in enhancing public awareness of housing issues for the elderly via its senior citizens residence scheme. "Hong Kong has a growing ageing population and the time has come for us to learn from Europe and Japan's experiences in dealing with senior citizen residential issues," Mrs Chan says. Since most buildings have room for improvement when it comes to property management and maintenance, there are ample work opportunities for graduates and young talent to develop, she adds.


Taken from Career Times 13 February 2009, p. B3
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