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Empowering trainees

Published on Friday, 17 Oct 2014
CLP graduate trainee Kathy Yau(left) and human resources director Connie Lam say the programme provides a wide range of work experience.
Photo: Lau Wai

CLP Power has a proud history of graduate trainee programmes that dates back to the 1960s. "Many of our executive board members were promoted from graduate trainee," says Connie Lam, CLP Power's human resources director. "Our managing director and chief operating officer both joined CLP as graduate trainees."

The position of CLP graduate trainee is a highly competitive post, with only around 20 openings each year. "Last year, we had hundreds of graduates from Hong Kong, the mainland and overseas universities applying," Lam says.

Applicants need to be degree holders in electrical, electronic or mechanical engineering, or other relevant disciplines. Graduates from Hong Kong, the mainland and overseas are eligible to apply, and should act quickly as the assessment process begins soon. "The first round of recruitment starts in November," Lam says.

As well as university graduates, "outstanding interns will be invited to apply for the company's Engineering Studies Award and go through the same assessment process as our graduate trainee selection," Lam says. "The award is a scholarship that pays for the final year of study for the student and a conditional offer as CLP graduate trainee. We have four places reserved for these high-flyers."

Applicants go through three stages of appraisal: aptitude and written tests, group assessment, and a final interview. "Shortlisted candidates will be invited to our assessment centre after completing the aptitude tests and written test.

"They will be given a situation in engineering, which they have to tackle as a team. Experienced staff members will look at each candidate closely to assess their analytical ability, communication skills, team spirit and leadership, all of which are important traits for CLP's future leaders," Lam says.

In the final interview, a panel of senior staff will test candidates' technical knowledge and determine if their personality and values fit in with the company.

"It is important that candidates are able to demonstrate they have a passion for engineering. Engineering is a demanding career and people will not last if they just see it as a job to make ends meet. They need to be passionate about what they do," Lam says.

Chosen candidates begin a two-year stint as a graduate trainee by taking three months of classroom training to learn about the safety and the basics of working in the power industry. They rotate around departments to learn on the job.

"We provide our graduate trainees with a lot of care," Lam says. "A senior member of staff will guide them through the two years to monitor their progress and help them with career planning. When a trainee is assigned to a particular department, a tutor will look at their progress closely and advise them."

Trainees will be promoted to assistant engineer upon completion of the programme and can move on to engineer two, engineer one, manager, and ultimately senior management of the company. "CLP offers many chances for colleagues to keep improving. We care about providing adequate training for staff at different stages of their careers."

Newcomers need to be able to work in teams. "An engineer should have strong communication skills and team spirit. In this technology world, knowledge updates quickly, so engineers should welcome new knowledge with an open mind and open arms," Lam says.

Graduate trainee Kathy Yau has always been interested in science. Her summer internship at CLP reassured her that engineering was her dream career.

"I was in the third year of a double degree in electrical engineering and management at Polytechnic University when my classmates recommended me to intern at CLP. After the internship, I participated in the assessment process for the CLP Engineering Studies Award and was fortunate to be selected as one of the award recipients. I felt so happy to be able to secure a job before I graduated."

Yau says she was exceptionally nervous when participating in the group assessment. "[We had] to solve an engineering problem as a team. I felt a lot of pressure having to perform under the watchful eyes of senior CLP staff. The challenge for the team was to come up with a solution to implement a new smart-grid system. After we started, I forgot my worries and had a lot of fun working with my team members."

Now entering her second year as a graduate trainee, Yau says she learns something new every day. "I get to look at the different aspects of being an engineer through job rotation to different departments. There is no set routine for my job - it is really exciting," she says.

Yau is impressed by the support CLP has given her. "Every trainee has an engineering supervisor to oversee their development during the two years. My mentor advised me on things that I should work on and provided me with valuable insight on the industry," she explains.

Yau says trainees should embrace the opportunity to learn by rotating through departments, rather than thinking of it as a chore. "It is normal to have a steep learning curve. Don't be shy; actively seek out your colleagues to ask questions. If you have passion for engineering, you will be able to endure the hardship."

Yau not only got satisfaction from the job, but also some special experiences. First of all, she learned that being physically fit is an important quality for an engineer.

"I had to walk up a hill to look at a power tower. I was exhausted after the 45-minute climb. My colleagues told me they normally take only 15 minutes. I really needed to work on my fitness levels," she says.

She also learnt about customer service when receiving a complaint about a power cable fault outside a village house during Lunar New Year. She went to the site with her colleagues and found it was, in fact, a telephone line. They patiently explained the problem to the old lady who made the inquiry, who was grateful for CLP's assistance.

Yau's goal is to become a chartered engineer after completing the graduate trainee programme. "I really enjoy being an engineer because I enjoy being part of a team working towards the same goal."

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