Career Advice Job Market Trend Report

Boom fuels staff shortage

When several large-scale infrastructure projects enter their construction phase from late 2012 onwards, the sharply increased demand for engineering and construction professionals is expected to put a strain on supply.

These projects include the Hong Kong boundary crossing facilities (part of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau bridge project), the Liantang-Heung Yuen Wai boundary control point connecting Hong Kong and Shenzhen, the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok link, and the in-situ re-provision of the Sha Tin water treatment works, says Charlton Wong, executive vice-president for Hong Kong at AECOM.

"The demand from construction contractors is likely to soar for a range of site staff, from construction workers to programme and project managers and site engineers. The intensifying competition for talent may lead to an upward salary adjustment. However the adjustment is not expected to be very significant as the local manpower supply continues to be sufficient," Wong says.

Personnel with planning, design and operation experience for airport structures and systems will also be needed for the third-runway expansion of the Hong Kong International Airport.

Over the past year, AECOM's headcount in Hong Kong has increased to 3,400 from around 2,900, Wong says. "We increased recruitment to cope with the surge in manpower demand for projects commissioned by various government departments, the MTR Corporation and other clients. The growth in manpower demand is likely to continue, particularly for resident site staff."

Because of the increased demand for site supervisory staff, AECOM is the first design and engineering consultant firm to begin hiring fresh graduates from the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE). "The industry should provide more training opportunities for young individuals who aspire to develop a career in the sector," Wong notes.

AECOM offers intensive training programmes for these recruits, ranging from work supervisors to technical and survey officers. The programmes integrate classroom and on-the-job training sessions.

Wong says AECOM's basic requirements for resident site professionals are in line with the standard qualification and experience thresholds applicable to government projects. To be eligible, they should have professional qualifications from the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, the Hong Kong Institute of Architects, the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors, or equivalent, plus relevant post-qualification work experience.

AECOM provides a comprehensive range of professional development programmes for its employees. It also has a leadership-development programme for young professionals with high potential. "Succession planning is vital to our long-term sustainable development and growth, and bringing up our young elites is an important part of it. We are launching a one-to-one mentoring programme in which an identified future leader is assigned a senior executive as a mentor," Wong says.

Apart from professional qualifications, AECOM seeks individuals who are team players with good interpersonal and communication skills. "This is essential because most of our projects require multi-disciplinary teams working together in a collaborative manner," Wong says. "That said, to me, the most important personal attributes are dedication and commitment."