Career Advice Job Market Report

The UK Joint University Hong Kong Career Fair is helping overseas students land jobs at home

A unique graduate career fair that targets Hongkongers who are studying at British universities opens today in Kowloon Tong. 

The UK Joint University Hong Kong Career Fair aims to provide a stepping stone to employment in Hong Kong for students attending universities in the UK by giving them an early opportunity to network with leading employers and get information about graduate job opportunities.

The second annual fair, which takes place at the InnoCentre start-up hub, is expected to attract more than 900 students and graduates from universities across the UK. It features more than 20 leading employers from the public and private sectors, including CLP Power, Bank of East Asia, EY Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Jockey Club, as well as three expert talks and five workshops. 

The UK is the leading destination for Hongkongers studying abroad. The trend began in the 1980s and the number of students taking this route has risen in recent years. In 2010, there were just over 8,000 Hong Kong students enrolled in undergraduate programmes in the UK, but by 2014, the number had risen to 13,400.

Kevin Lo, president of the UK Joint University Hong Kong Career Society, which is organising the event, says more than 90 per cent of students at last year’s fair had one or more years of study ahead. In Hong Kong for the summer holidays, many of them were able to secure internships in the city as a result of networking with the companies at the fair. 

“Our purpose in holding the fair is to help Hong Kong students returning from the UK get more information about opportunities for the upcoming year or to help them find out about job opportunities when they graduate,” Lo says. “This is the first fair of its kind focusing on all UK universities and studying in all disciplines.”

Officially sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the fair has three supporting organisations: the Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce (HKGCC), the British Council and the Hong Kong Economic and Trade Office in London. 

HKGCC CEO Shirley Yuen says: “The career fair allows companies in Hong Kong to reach out and engage Hong Kong-born talent [who are] studying overseas and inform them of the huge career opportunities that are available here. At the end of the day, we hope the fair will encourage overseas students to return to Hong Kong to develop their careers here and enrich the local talent pool.”

Yuen says the fair allows participants to establish rapport while the students are still at university. This can help them take advantage of the remaining time they spend abroad, as they will have a better idea of what employers expect from recruits when they return to Hong Kong. 

“Companies can reach out to overseas students who may become their future employees,” Yuen says. “Even if students do not immediately take up an offer, they may well follow up with the company in the future.”

Many of the students at British universities also attended a secondary school in the UK. As a result, they have little knowledge of the career opportunities that await them when they return to Hong Kong – until they attend the fair. “It’s a win-win situation for all parties,” Yuen says. “Hong Kong and the economy as a whole will also benefit, because the fair spreads awareness of our city and career opportunities, and ultimately will enrich our talent pool, which drives our competitiveness.”

Leading audit, tax and advisory firm KPMG China, which typically recruits about 1,500 new employees each year and participates in many career fairs, is attending the event for the second time. “It is a good opportunity to meet with the overseas students from different universities during their summer break when they return to Hong Kong,” says Winifred Yeung, KPMG’s human resources officer for graduate recruitment. “We are looking for top students who are passionate, committed and eager to succeed in all practice areas — audit, tax and advisory.”

Yeung says the company is keen to recruit graduates of British universities as part of its commitment to promoting diversity in the workplace. “We embrace diversity and appreciate the unique qualities of each person,” she says. “Therefore, we hope to recruit students from different backgrounds and disciplines for our graduate programme.”

“For the last 10 years, between 5,000 [and] 7,000 Hong Kong students per year have concluded studies in the UK and returned to Hong Kong,” says Steve Corry, the regional business development manager in services for international education marketing at the British Council. 

There are three reasons why Hong Kong students find studying in the UK attractive, Corry says. Firstly, they are familiar with the country. Many of them have parents who studied there. Secondly, British universities are known for their academic excellence. Four of the top six institutions in the QS World University Rankings are in the UK. Thirdly, there is a “shortfall in publicly funded provision in Hong Kong”, he says.

Monica Wong took A-Levels in the UK and decided to attend university there. She is majoring in land economy at the University of Cambridge and will graduate in 2017. Wong is doing a summer internship at the market and connectivity development department at the Airport Authority Hong Kong for eight weeks, assisting with the tendering process of outsourced services at Hong Kong International Airport. 
“I hope to work abroad for a few years after graduation to experience different working environments and office cultures to figure out which working environment is the most suitable for me,” Monica says.

Dudson Yip is majoring in economics at the University of Warwick and is also due to graduate in 2017. He is currently working at HSBC as a student trainee for six weeks. His duties include carrying out independent research and a team project in collaboration with another division. He will graduate in July 2017. “I am very grateful to my supervisor and mentors,” Yip says. “They guide me and teach me practical skills in the banking industry.” 

This article appeared in the Classified Post print edition as Networking their way home.