Special skills in demand
As consumer and electrical products become more complex, and time-to-market schedules for new products are condensed, opportunities for Hong Kong engineers with product knowledge and industry-specific skills are flourishing.
Howard Chan, Michael Page director of engineering and supply chain in Hong Kong, says increasing competition to produce new products with a shorter lifecycle, and society's need for sustainable, socially responsible products, are fuelling a demand for skills-specific engineers. "Developers lead times have become shorter, in some cases introducing products every three months instead of 12 months, so engineers need to be flexible and pretty much at the top of their game throughout the year," says Chan.
He notes that while Hong Kong engineers are popular with employers, they generally look for candidates with experience and product knowledge. "Employers look for engineers who can step in and get the job done," says Chan. "They don't have the time or the resources in the present market environment to offer too much in the way of training," he says, adding there are engineers who have lost their jobs as a result of restructuring or products becoming obsolete.
In most cases, according to Chan, demand is from the mainland. However, as manufacturing and labour costs there increase, production is moving to other countries in Asia. Also in demand are engineers with environmental, health and safety experience and capabilities.
"As companies become more aware of compliance and regulatory issues, they need engineers to help them provide employee-friendly facilities and meet water treatment and carbon emission targets," says Chan.
To make themselves attractive to employers, aspiring consumer product engineers should follow market developments and consumer behaviour trends, Chan says.
At the moment, he adds, new technology, solar products, multi-function products and items that incorporate environmental features are setting trends. "Employers are looking for talent that can add new dimensions to out-of-the-box electronics," says Chan. "Manufacturers are also constantly looking for ways to make batteries last longer and charge quicker," he adds.
To gain experience, young engineers should look for jobs with small companies where they can develop skills and knowledge. "Engineers grow into top jobs over time, they rarely just walk into them," says Chan.
According to the Polytechnic University (PolyU) Faculty of Engineering, to accommodate the rapid growth of modern engineering demands, a new breed of engineers is needed. PolyU acknowledges that employers are looking for graduate engineers who can offer a more holistic approach to their work. This requires greater emphasis on cross-disciplinary competencies, creativity and critical thinking.