Valuable lessons for executives
There are more than 3,000 education agencies offering professional and continuing education programmes in Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai alone, a figure which excludes similar courses offered by universities.
"Ten years ago, people in China had no idea what professional and executive development training was," says Dr Liu Ning, associate director of the University of Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKU Space), and head of its newly formed Institute for China Business. "But people are increasingly seeing it as a necessity. They have seen the results of what education can do and understand that without further training, they are unlikely to move up [in their careers]. Opportunities in the professional and continuous education market are huge."
It's so large that HKU Space in February set up the Institute for China Business, a centre dedicated to providing professional education programmes for mainland executives in Hong Kong and across the border.
Though competition in the mainland market is rife, Liu believes an established institution, such as HKU Space, has a distinct advantage over local universities.
"Mainland institutions are good at looking at the macro view, but not the micro. They are good at strategy, but not so good at implementing it. Conversely, universities in Hong Kong are very good at the tactics required to implement a plan. That is where Hong Kong has its strength," he explains.
This autumn, in Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen, the institute will launch a series of general management programmes covering areas such as human resources, marketing, finance, integrated strategic management and global investment and operations, to meet the needs of rising mainland middle managers. Shorter courses on corporate social responsibility, business ethics, crisis management and investor relations will also be introduced.
One of the school's key assets is the calibre of its teaching staff who are international in scope, hailing from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other countries, but who also have the relevant mainland exposure to address the challenges of the world's fastest-growing economy. The school will also recruit mainland professors who are working in Europe and the United States. Executives from the commercial sector will comprise two thirds of the teaching staff. "It isn't easy finding people with a strong commercial backgrounds and the intellectual exposure to be able to deliver programmes in English and Putonghua," Liu says. Prospective candidates need to have a master's degree, more than 10 years of work experience in their field, and be in a middle to senior management level.
The bottlenecks facing more mainland companies have heightened the need for continuing education in recent years, Liu says. "In China, a lot of companies have come out of nowhere and were able to survive at the start because there was not much competition, but they now need something more in order to move up," he explains.
Project management, finance, marketing, wealth management, real estate management and human resources management are just some of the areas in which mainland executives need to hone their skills in.
And it is the practical input that will stand a school such as HKU Space in good stead. For example, even though there are already ample human resources programmes on the mainland, most are taught by academics with no practical experience. This gives schools such as HKU Space, which employs teachers and industry practitioners, an edge, Liu says. The intense competition, which defined the continuing education market in the past decade, is cooling down, with the sector entering an era of consolidation. "Only those institutions providing quality programmes will survive," Liu says.
- The Institute for China Business was set up in February to meet demand from mainland executives
- Marketing activities to target Shenzhen, Beijing and Shanghai
- Hiring part-time teachers with strong commercial skills
- Ample opportunities on the mainland for general management programmes
- Market expected to undergo a period of consolidation