Cover Story
Learning the Ropes of Business






Manpower is one of the greatest challenges facing Hong Kong right now. Across a range of sectors, and from junior staff to senior executives, businesses are struggling to fill positions. 

One way that companies can give a boost to their recruitment strategy is to participate in the Chamber’s Business-School Partnership Programme. Since 2001, our members have opened their doors to local schools to introduce their businesses to the next generation of workers. 

We are not suggesting that members try to poach students directly from the classroom. But increasing the awareness of your company, brand and industry among young people is one way to widen the pool of potential recruits. Meanwhile, being attuned to the shifting expectations of the younger generation can give businesses an edge when it comes to attracting the best new talent. 

Lillian Cheng, Director of HR and Admin at Toppan Forms, which manufactures bank and loyalty cards, said that the company joined the BSP Programme because it shares HKGCC’s goal of helping students to understand the commercial world. But she added that it also sows the seeds of interest among potential recruits who may later join the company’s apprenticeships, graduate schemes and internships.

“The BSP Programme, certainly, is one of the channels which allows us to attract new blood and talent to start their career with us.”

The hospitality industry – which has a high turnover rate generally – has been particularly affected as fewer young people choose to enter the sector. Wayne Mak, Managing Director of Rhombus Group, said that participating in the Chamber’s programme is one way to cast a wider net when it comes to recruitment for the hotel company. 

“For sure, the BSP programme is another source for exploring talent,” he said.

Encouraging young people to join the power industry and enhancing their knowledge about the engineering profession are key aims of CLP, and the Chamber’s programme helps them in this regard. 

“Programmes such as BSP provide a direct engagement opportunity between schools and businesses, and this enables mutual understanding of each other,” said Elaine Chong, General Counsel – Hong Kong of CLP Power. “We hope the young generation can be better equipped with life planning at an earlier stage through the programme, while CLP can attract young talent.”

Invaluable insight for businesses
Gaining an insight into the mindset of young people can also be extremely useful for companies when it comes to recruitment. Toppan Forms has noted that young people’s expectations for their lives and careers are evolving.

“What matter most to students and young people in recent years is not promotion, but people and purpose,” said Cheng from Toppan Forms. “Rather than just climbing the corporate ladder, they prefer a more open and familiar relationship with managers who listen, offer feedback and give encouragement regularly. 

“The priority seems to be changing that the expectation of career progression will not necessarily reap financial rewards, but more importantly allow greater flexibility, an improved work-life balance, career variety and mobility.”

Mak from Rhombus also noted that students’ values have changed, influenced by social media, family and friends. There is also a growing emphasis on work-life balance. He added that there can be a noticeable gap between the real-world experience of work and students’ dreams and ideals. The BSP Programme helps by giving students a realistic impression of what to expect.

One particular trend noticed by CLP is that more female students are showing an interest in joining the company, and the power industry in general.

“We were impressed that they were enthusiastic in asking questions about our graduate trainee programme and related academic requirements,” said Chong. “CLP is excited to welcome these young females to the engineering world.”
Students get to work
The BSP Programme connects each school with a company, and over the course of the academic year the students have the opportunity to listen to career talks and enjoy site visits, workshops and other activities. For most of the students, the programme provides their first taste of the world of work, and introduces them to jobs, career paths and even industries that they may not have encountered before. 

Depending on which company their school is partnered with, they may find themselves donning hairnets or hard hats to explore factories and industrial sites, or getting creative by designing products.

It also gives them the opportunity to speak to employees and managers. Learning about day-to-day life can be both inspiring and grounding for the young students.

Betty Ling, a teacher at Raimondi College, said the programme not only provides the students with business world exposure, it also enhances their communication skills, particularly by giving them the opportunity to meet high-level executives.

“Some students had the chance to have direct dialogue with CEOs, which gives them real-life examples of the planning of successful businessmen and businesswomen,” she said.

After participating, students are better able to develop a clear pathway for the future, said Au Man Hung, teacher at ECF Saint Too Canaan College. They also gain key insights into the attributes needed in particular industries.

“Through different activities, students learn from insiders in the business,” she said, “such as their reasons for entering the industry, and the knowledge and attitude required.” 

The Saint Too Canaan students were partnered with Rhombus Group. During hotel visits, the students were surprised to learn about the complexity of the organizational structure behind the calm operation of the front desk.

They particularly enjoyed meeting Hotel Manager Benjamin Fung, who shared how he had experienced several setbacks before entering the hotel industry. 

Wong, one of the students on the programme, said that after listening to the twists and turns of the manager’s career path she understood that “people come first” in the hotel sector. “The way you treat people is essential,” she added.

Mak from Rhombus said that the programme shows students how the industry operates. “It also allows the young people to understand their own character and personality, and find out whether the hotel industry is suitable for them or not.”

Some students report that the experience has directly influenced their career plans. “I love to help people,” said Chan, another Saint Too Canaan student. “I want to major in hotel management and enter the hotel industry after graduation.”

At Nilorn East Asia Limited, a Swedish branding and design firm, students from Heep Yunn School visited the warehouse and production line as well as the company’s offices. 

Such site visits can address misconceptions about certain types of work, as the students noted in their report: “We had always imagined a warehouse to be messy and dirty. However, it turned out to be an extremely tidy and organized place, with the boxes numbered systematically and placed on shelves neatly.”

Lee, one of the students, said she hopes to become a designer so particularly appreciated the behind-the-scenes access. “It helped me understand the importance of market needs in the design process, so that both the menswear and womenswear have their own styles and characteristics.”

Carmen So, teacher at Heep Yunn School, said that the BSP scheme helps students uncover where their strengths lie and refine their future plans.

“Through joining the activities organized by the companies, students can discover their interests and talents, and make the right choice when applying for universities or even jobs in the future.”

At Nilorn, the students did some work packing products in the factory. This was an eye-opener for the students, who reported that although they enjoyed the experience, they also found it very tiring. Providing students with such insights into in the realities of work can be just as helpful as firing them up with ambition.

They were also tasked with designing a set of products, including care labels, packaging and buttons, as So explained. 

“Students had the chance to put theory into practice by using their creativity in an authentic setting,” she said. “They enjoyed the process and have learnt a lot from the constructive feedback from the company.”
Often the young participants are surprised about what they see. During a factory visit to Toppan Forms, for example, the students were particularly interested in the strict security measures implemented in the manufacturing plant. 

“They were interested in the machinery and equipment, and the automated technology concept behind it,” said Stemon Ching, Senior HR Assistant at Toppan Forms. “The students said it was a unique experience which gave them a different view and understanding of the manufacturing industry.”

Sometimes, the key takeaway from the programme is not personal career development or specific industry insights. One student, Yung, was fascinated to learn about the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programme at Nilorn. 

“I had learnt about CSR from textbooks, but it was not until I listened to the staff that I really understood what it means,” she said. Noting that CSR is a key part of Nilorn’s operating philosophy, she said she ultimately hopes to work at a company which values CSR when she graduates. 

High-profile events

A number of students had the opportunity to participate in high-profile events including the Business Luncheons with Chief Executive Carrie Lam and Financial Secretary Paul Chan, and at the HeForShe event for gender equality on International Women’s Day.

Closing Ceremony and Career Sharing

At the Closing Ceremony for the 2017-2018 Business School Partnership Programme, Chamber CEO Shirley Yuen presented certificates to the students who had delivered the most outstanding activity reports. A group of students helped the Chamber’s staff to organize the ceremony, and also acted as MCs. The event also included a Career Sharing session, with representatives from the Young Executives Club talking to the students about their jobs and industries.

We are now recruiting member companies to join the 2018-19 Business-School Partnership Programme. If you are interested in participating, or learning more about the programme, please refer to our website