Trainees profit from unrivalled exposure
With more than 40 years' experience in organising exhibitions and tailoring international business matching services, the Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC) is unrivalled in providing executive training.
"As part of their programme, trainees interact with business people from all over the world. They also travel around the region and visit other parts of the world to attend exhibitions and as part of trade delegations," says Sandra Au Yeung, manager of training and development, human resources, at HKTDC.
Launched in 1997, Au Yeung says the executive training programme is designed to provide a pool of marketing executives which strengthens Hong Kong's international business activities.
She says management trainees working for private companies normally learn about internal operations and how business relates to a particular market.
However, executive trainees at the HKTDC gain a much broader picture of global markets and industries. Trainees develop specific knowledge about key Hong Kong manufacturing sectors including toys, electronics, textiles and giftware.
Trainees are also expected to help organise large-scale international events and more than 600 promotional events reaching an estimated 100,000 business people in key markets.
Executive trainees are also expected to assist about 300,000 business people to buy, sell and make new contacts on Hong Kong's business platform. Trainees also interact with colleagues in a global network of 40 offices.
At the centre of the programme is a job rotation schedule. After a two-week orientation, when participants learn about the HKTDC's mission and objectives, trainees are assigned to different departments. Over the three years, trainees spend specific periods in the organisation's exhibition, product promotion, service promotion, international promotion, media and public affairs, research, marketing and customer service, and publications departments.
The comprehensive training programme includes in-house and external training, e-learning and on-the-job training. "Trainees need to be able to work with many different organisations, business, VIPs and industry delegations. They need to be culturally aware and sensitive and able to handle difficult situations," Au Yeung says. She says about 10 graduates will be recruited. About 100 graduates have completed the programme, with almost 95 per cent continuing their careers with the HKTDC. Applications for this year's programme close on February 5.
Those wishing to join the programme are required to hold a degree in any subject and have no more than three years of work experience. The HKTDC prefers self-motivated, confident, outgoing individuals who enjoy working as part of a team. "As interaction with people is a key part of the job, a lively personality is very important," Au Yeung says.
"We want trainees to see the big picture so, like a doctor who prescribes the right pill to help cure an illness, we provide strategic learning and experience opportunities."
Trainees need to be able to work as a team, develop new business frontiers, have a commitment to the organisation and Hong Kong, and create value for customers.
With the support of division managers and supervisors who act as mentors, trainees are also expected to take on leadership roles on real projects.
Each trainee is helped to design a clear career development path based on hard and soft skills. In addition to English and Cantonese, trainees are expected to learn another language. Emphasis is placed on creative and strategic thinking, teamwork and project management, trade promotion expertise and marketing and communication skills.
"We are in no hurry to fast-track them and instead develop in-depth skills that will take them to the next level," she says. Trainees who complete the programme can progress from trainee to assistant manager, manager, head of department and eventually to director level.
Executive trainees help Hong Kong companies identify new mainland markets and create business-to-business opportunities. They are involved in research and identifying opportunities in emerging markets and helping Hong Kong business establish a foothold elsewhere. Executive trainees may be required to travel to different areas to explore business opportunities and organise marketing and business events.
The HKTDC organises network events, seminars and workshops to promote Hong Kong's service industries. "Helping to organise these events provides executive trainees with first-hand insights into Hong Kong's creative, financial and logistical services," Au Yeung says.
Variety is the spice of life for rising stars
Andrew Tsui and Megan Fung are true believers of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council's (HKTDC) executive training programme. Students in the programme are exposed to the international business community, meet people from different parts of the world and help Hong Kong companies secure a footing in new markets.
"The programme is rewarding because there are so many challenges and opportunities. As soon as you learn about one aspect of the business there is something new to learn. For instance, no two exhibitions are alike and you are always meeting new people from different places," says Tsui, a marketing officer for service promotion, who has worked on exhibitions in Germany, South Korea, Italy and the mainland as part of his training.
"The job is not just about following instructions, although there are plenty of people to provide advice. You learn how to become a project manager and [formulate] marketing strategies through hands-on experience, which requires contingency planning and execution," says Tsui, who served as project manager for the Hong Kong Fashion Week and Lighting Show, two of Asia's largest exhibitions.
After graduating from the University of Hong Kong with a degree in mechanical engineering, Tsui joined a bank before deciding to apply for the HKTDC's executive training programme. "In the private sector the focus is always on profit, but working for the HKTDC the focus is on creating value for Hong Kong and Hong Kong companies," says Tsui, who has recently passed his Japanese proficiency examination as part of his foreign language training.
Meeting and working with different people and receiving positive feedback from visitors and Hong Kong companies are a major motivation for Fung, who has also worked on exhibitions and led trade delegations to different countries and the mainland.
"As someone who enjoys active learning and facing new challenges the programme supports my career aspirations," says Fung, a marketing officer for product promotion, who is leaning to speak Russian. She said researching new markets and helping Hong Kong companies make inroads into emerging markets is another area of interest. "I have many opportunities to share ideas and work closely with people I can turn to for advice," says Fung, an English graduate from Chinese University.
Fung and Tsui, both in the final year of their training programme, agree that the executive trainee schedule provides a strong platform for career development with the HKTDC. They advise that anyone applying for the programme should be prepared to face challenges and grasp new opportunities. "Showing you can be yourself, while still listening to others, is as important as having a strong academic background," Fung says.