Career Advice Job Market Report

Career Forum Apr 2016: Enthusiastic young engineers can get a boost with a number of industry-related events

In amongst all the engineering-related happenings lined up for the Career Forum, around 200 engineering students from the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong (THEi) will be in attendance, all keen to discover the latest job opportunities in their field and mingle with potential employers.

THEi recently launched a Career Service Guide for its engineering students and a CV Portal for its entire student body, both of which will be highlighted at the forum. The SCMP’s recruitment services business helped THEi build and publish both services.

All engineering students present at the forum will be able to attend a special morning networking session to meet and chat with potential employers. Those in attendance include representatives from the Analogue Group of Companies (ATAL Engineering), China State Construction International, BYME Engineering (HK) and Gammon Construction.

Throughout the rest of the day, all forum participants with an engineering slant will be able to attend other industry-themed career talks, including a seminar with the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers.

The engineering industry will experience rapid growth, drastic change and increasing demand for sophisticated services over the next few decades, says Professor Chua Hong, dean of the faculty of science and technology at THEi.

He explains that in response, THEi is designing and offering engineering programmes that cover new technologies, developments and environmental concerns in the industry. 

“The whole engineering world – particularly the construction industry – is changing, driven by a spate of mega-infrastructure projects in Greater China,” Chua says. “We also see existing infrastructure and property developments undergo renewal, reconstruction and renovation on a massive scale. The prospects are very promising.

“It also means that we need to keep a close watch on the industry, because whatever we teach at THEi must go hand in hand with industry developments.”

While every education institution strives to fill the need for more trained engineers, Chua says THEi is able to focus on training graduates who are ready to work because of its clearly defined objective: to provide vocation-oriented, profession-driven training.

This is achieved by the heavy involvement of industrialists in the design and delivery of programmes. High-ranking engineers and prominent industry figures are not only invited to teach, but are involved in the advisory board to ensure that engineers are trained in what the industry needs.

As such, traditional classroom teaching is compressed in order to allow students more time to undertake on-the-job learning in real-life settings. Students are required to spend at least 12 weeks on work placement, which can be split between different organisations and even over two summers. This means that they get to experience different aspects of the industry.

A wide variety of internship opportunities are on offer, covering government departments, consulting firms, contracting firms and developers. By working with different parties, students are able to gain a deeper understanding of how the industry operates.

“When a company has a team of 10 engineers, they only need one or two engineers who excel in theoretical knowledge,” Chua says. “The rest of the team, however, has to consist of practical problem solvers who are willing and able to roll up their sleeves. You don’t want a wastewater engineer who can write beautiful reports but cannot fix a tap when it bursts.”

Professor David Lim, president of THEi, says the institute prides itself on its industry connections and ties with professional bodies, and its ability to quickly translate market needs into work-integrated degree programmes, coursework, research projects and work-placement programmes.

The self-funded institute boosts partnership with over 80 local and international organisations from various industries. This provides a variety of options for THEi students, who are required to complete 480 hours of work placement during their four years of study.

“For example, we have a close relationship with the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors,” Lim says. “Upon identifying a new need for the surveying profession, we are able to design a new degree programme, lay out the coursework and relevant work attachments, obtain programme accreditation, and begin admitting students in less than two years.”

Having worked with universities throughout Asia-Pacific, and undertaken consultancy work with global organisations like the World Bank, the Asia Development Bank and the United Nations, Lim believes skills are just as important – if not more so – than knowledge in the greater scheme of socio-economic development.

“If judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid,” Lim says. “It is such a waste of talent. Our passion is to build up the confidence of our students by helping them take a step back, look at the bigger picture and find an avenue for their talents.”