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New developments trigger opportunities

Published on Friday, 04 Dec 2009
Upwardly mobile mainlanders are stoking the demand for upscale housing that Hong Kong developers are keen to satisfy.
Photo: AFP

In cities across the mainland, impressive residential blocks are being built around carefully landscaped oases of green, with swimming pools glimmering at their centres.

These are accompanied by giant shopping malls and glossy modern offices in developments rivalling the largest in Hong Kong. 

After a setback during the financial crisis, the mainland's property development is now back to full steam as developers race to supply offices and homes to support the nation's growth.

As a result, the mainland is offering a growing number and range of job opportunities for people with construction and engineering skills.

"They are taking a lot more people on now," said Chris Armstrong, a senior consultant with property recruitment company Judd Farris in Hong Kong. "There are real opportunities in second- and third-tier cities where developers are looking to lay down very large projects."

He said companies were largely looking to hire people for project manager, cost control, and different engineering positions. While recruiting on the mainland, they may also seek people from Hong Kong to bring in construction knowledge.

"You have a very well-established construction industry here," Armstrong said. "It has been building large, high rises to a very good standard. These are skills you may not always get on [the mainland]."

Shui On Construction and Materials (Socam) said it was developing 13 projects across the mainland, ranging from elegant white-walled villas in Beijing to sleek modern office and apartment buildings in Chengdu. These continuing developments and the company's plans to take on new projects have created the need to recruit more staff.

"With a focus on acquiring and developing medium-sized property projects in prime locations of major cities, Socam is fully geared up to secure quality property projects in mainland cities for further growth," said Alan Tin, general manager of human resources. "To cope with our rapid expansion we are continuing to recruit talent to join our property arm," he said. 

While there are a lot of local professionals on the mainland, Socam is looking for seasoned Hong Kong project management professionals. In particular, it seeks people with experience in the architectural and building services engineering fields - those concerned with the design of the internal space in buildings and features to reduce their environmental impact.

According to Franco Cheung Koon-wah, deputy general manager of Socam's Shenyang project office, working in the mainland property industry offers the chance for people from Hong Kong to join a business likely to grow exponentially in the coming years.

"There are many other second-tier cities which need to be developed," he said. "The demand for residential and commercial spaces continues."

Armstrong said people seeking to take advantage of this growth and find positions on the mainland should be willing to relocate to some of the second-tier cities and not just to Beijing and Shanghai.

He said that it was important for candidates, particularly those applying for higher level positions, to have the knowledge of the mainland which would allow them to meet its specific challenges.

"Senior levels need to deal with planning and liaison with the statutory authorities," he said. "They need [mainland] experience, an understanding of the culture and what is required to get a project moving."

Alec Kong Chi-ming, head of China business at Chinese Estates, said when the company sought to hire people they wanted them to have significant experience working on the mainland to allow them to quickly settle into their new roles.

"We feel people who have worked in the property industry on the mainland over a period of time are pretty good self-starters," he said. 

"They have the industry knowledge and the know-how in terms of working with the local people."

He said that the company had continuing projects on the mainland which meant it needed new employees. 

People taken on by Chinese Estates might go to projects in Shanghai or Beijing but also to other developments in parts of Sichuan province.

Tin said working on mainland property developments could offer people from Hong Kong the personal challenge of adapting their skills to a slightly different culture. Socam's strong team environment offers a structured framework for people to take on these challenges.

"Our existing teams of both Hong Kong and mainland local staff in the various locations would be helping new colleagues to adapt to the new living environment so they can quickly function as part of a team," Tin said.

This means that employees can quickly get down to business, using their skills to contribute to the exciting modern buildings which are springing up across the country, and ensure they are all attractive to look at and live in.

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