With the liberalisation of the gaming industry in Macau in 2001, a substantial number of new jobs were created. Further mega-casinos are planned to open in the next few years, and estimates indicate this will lead to somewhere between 2,000 and 5,000 new positions in each casino-hotel complex. As things stand, there are unlikely to be sufficient qualified candidates to go round.
Nearly 90 per cent of openings will be for frontline dealers, attendants and service personnel. Applicants for these roles will be expected to have a Form Five or Form Seven education. The remaining vacancies will be for supervisors and managers working in operations, marketing, IT and human resources. Recognising this demand, universities in Macau are introducing brand-new degree courses to give future graduates the appropriate academic background.
To give executives already in the industry a competitive edge, the Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Hotel and Tourism Management is collaborating with Macau University of Science and Technology's School of Continuing Studies to organise a series of shorter courses. These are intended to give participants the most up-to-date information and prepare them for the challenges and opportunities ahead. The second course was held in April.
"Although Hong Kong doesn't have any casinos, we want to support the tourism industry with our expertise," notes Cathy Hsu, associate head at PolyU's school. "We are a leader in the Asia-Pacific region, so we have the experience and contacts to help neighbours like Macau with relevant academic training."
Professor Hsu says the short courses have attracted executives from Macau, as well as from Guam, Malaysia and Vietnam, which also have casinos. "The gaming market in Asia is not yet saturated, so there is still room for development," she notes. "While Malaysia's Genting Casino has the longest history and is the largest in Asia, the business is mushrooming in Macau, which is emerging as a strong competitor."
She adds that US investment in the Macau gaming industry has had a very positive effect on the labour market. "In the past, Hong Kong people might not have considered working there, but now remuneration is much higher than before and the prospects look bright. Our recent student career fairs showed that undergraduates are more open to working there and can see that there are good job opportunities in hotels, convention centres, casino operations, and food and beverage."
However, Professor Hsu suggests that the Macau authorities will have to revise their current quota system for work visas. If they don't do that soon, casinos will face an acute shortage of qualified staff and the quality of service will be undermined.