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Working towards an education

Published on Thursday, 06 Oct 2011
College president Professor Thomas Wong (centre) with Shirley Chong (right) and students.
Photo: May Tse

Starting up a self- funding tertiary institution in Hong Kong’s crowded university marketplace would not be easy, if it weren’t for the uniqueness of the proposition.

Tung Wah College, which has just opened for its first academic year, has distinguished itself with a first-of-its-kind co-operative programme for Hong Kong. And to manage this scheme through the Co-operative Education Resource Centre (CERC), it is on the lookout for an administrator and a couple of coordinators.

During the programme, students undergo 12 months in the workforce, in a full-time paid position. In so doing, the programme – which college president Professor Thomas Wong introduced after studying its practice at some North American universities – benefits both students and the companies.

Students join the partnering commercial or non-governmental organisations in the second or third year’s second semester, working from January to December.

“Work-based learning will create responsible employees, develop students’ communication and interpersonal skills, and help them master the Chinese and English languages,” says Wong. “The job may not be the same as their chosen field. It will open up their horizons,” he adds.

Students will need to apply for the full-time jobs and undergo a rigorous interview process, in which they will compete with their classmates and negotiate their own salaries.

To introduce them to working life, Year One students must learn to take care of their community, looking after classrooms, the laboratory, and library and making the campus greener. The best performing second year students can become mentors to their first-year contemporaries – a job for which they are paid.

They will also be required to study four courses during the year in classroom or web-based learning. Students are provided with tablet computers when they enrol at the college and there will be help stations manned by highly proficient IT students to help those having problems using their iPads.

The additional academic input makes the programme unique and helps students make sense of their experiences, while benefiting from keeping close ties with their tutors.

The already launched courses include a bachelor degree in business administration and a high-diploma nursing course, with more on the way.

The college’s CERC will bring together and assist students and partner organisations, which makes its proper management crucial.

“It will provide information on jobs and partners and offer training in résumé writing and interviewing. It will also provide support to partners, organise recruitment talks, and provide space for facilitating job interviews,” says Shirley Chong, director of Community Relations and Partnership Development Office.

She says senior staff will preferably have a human resources background, and be able to provide students with career coaching. The head of the centre will be assisted by two co-ordinators who will offer administrative support. Candidates are sought for all of these positions.

Wong says more than 100 firms have been signed up for the scheme, for which they get a student-staff for a year, and the possibility of hiring them after they graduate. Some have offered students management trainee positions, Wong adds.

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