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Learning skills

Published on Friday, 29 Nov 2013
Andrew Sheard, British Council regional HR chief, is on the hunt for education expertise.
Photo: Paul Yeung

The British Council is not just about teaching

Many think that the British Council, best known as an educator and the “cultural ambassador” of the UK, only has vacancies for native English teachers. But local talent is also regularly sought at different levels of operation in Hong Kong, as well as for positions covering East Asia.

“The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations,” says Andrew Sheard, the council’s regional HR director. “With 7,000 staff in over 100 countries worldwide, education is one of the principal areas of our work, alongside English and the arts. We are currently recruiting for a range of education-expertise positions to shape education opportunities in East Asia.”

Present in 14 countries in East Asia, the well-established operation employing more than 240 people in Hong Kong needs staff to take care of before and after sales and customer services, as well as market intelligence research, website development, student assistance, exam arrangements and much more.

While many jobs require local Chinese speakers, excellent written and spoken English skills are a must. “Having the technical language skills alone is not enough. We need [people with] good communication skills and a flair for communicating naturally and creatively, whether that’s face-to-face or in writing. Getting your message across and winning people over is a key skill in many roles today,” Sheard says.

One interesting position that the council is hiring for is that of skills and innovation manager, with the incumbent having to provide a new outlook on skills development in East Asia. The job involves working with industry partners and university leaders on programmes that build new graduates’ soft skills.

Business development is also taken very seriously, and a new position has been created for a senior analyst of market research and intelligence. The data and evidence generated by the analysts will help in making policy decisions and investments, and highlight potential education opportunities.

“We also look for people with effective communication skills, project management experience, and the potential for building new business partnerships, preferably within the education sector,” Sheard says.

The British Council attracts applicants because it is professional, diverse and growing, he adds.

“We offer an international environment which has a strong brand reputation, and most of our operations in East Asia are growing due to the expanding demand for education-linked products from people in East Asia,” he says. “We also have progressive policies on equal opportunities and diversity.”

Also attractive is the council’s open and transparent management style, with strong support for staff development and career advancement.

Part of the learning and development programme is based on getting experience on the job, but classroom learning is also organised. A thorough induction covers the job requirements, as well as the organisation, its mission and values.

“We approach this through our diversity training and performance-management training – both fundamental people processes,” Sheard says. “We need people to be open to feedback, to learn from it, and to take responsibility for their own development along with their line manager.”

There are training programmes for new managers, experienced managers, and senior managers, while different business units lead professional skills and knowledge training. Any staff member can apply for funds for a course or qualification to develop their career.

Corporate social responsibility is also high on the agenda. There is a “green team” and beach-cleaning missions, while teachers contribute voluntary English teaching to refugees and asylum seekers through Christian Action.

Staff enjoy a range of progressive benefits, such as longer-than-officially-required maternity leave, study leave, part-time work opportunities, a career-break scheme and 10 days’ paid paternity leave.

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