Earn while you learn
Ironically the city still lacks manpower at a time when many young people are out of work. Experts in the field want the government to finetune the education system and take a serious look at what the city really needs, if it wants to achieve its goal of becoming an international educational hub.
“What Hong Kong needs is to help those who don’t get a degree. The minority who entered the labor market after secondary school fared even worse. Those who get subdegree qualifications without any professional or technical training may not do very well,” said Stephan Chiu, co-director of the Hong Kong Institute of AsiaPacific Studies at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
Vocational education has helped some find their career path, like 19-year-old Ho Chunghong who is taking a Foundation Diploma. Ho is working on the Earn and Learn Pilot Scheme for the Retail Industry provided by the Vocational Training Council.
“A university diploma is not the key to everything. The most important thing is to know what suits you and acquire the skills in that area,” said Ho.
He is getting practical lessons in Chinese, English and Mathematics and retail-related courses as part of the vocational training program. In the meantime, he is on an internship at a watch shop, earning HK$5,000 a month. He gets a stipend of HK$2,000, which is subsidized by the government. His employer covers most of his tuition, so the cost to him for his post-secondary studies amount to only about HK$400 a month.
“I have an advantage of realtime work experience, which is important for a salesperson. I have acquired specific knowledge about retailing in class, for example, how to maintain different products and introduce them to different customers. The most important part is that I like talking to people,” said Ho, confidently. “By the time I’m 30, with my skills and experience, I believe I can earn myself a good management-level position in retailing.”