The Young Construction Professional Network in Hong Kong
As of June 2012, the construction workforce had a total of 68% of workers over the age of 40. The general workforce in all industries sees 43% over 50 and 10% over 60. Only 13% are under the age of 30. (1) This imbalance needs to be addressed in order for Hong Kong’s construction future to be secure and viable.
Why Does Hong Kong Need Young Professionals in Construction?
Like any other industry or sector, construction companies are always seeking out new methods of working. The fast moving market is constantly generating trends that will drive the need for new blood. For example, the Hong Kong market is now increasingly aware of the advancing views of sustainable construction. However, since the concept is still relatively new, the existing workforce does not possess the skill set to satisfy these demands. Official set criteria and certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) and BEAM Pro are becoming standard requirements for construction projects. Young construction professionals will inevitably have to acquire at least an understanding of these concepts – most university construction programmes have now incorporated these as core learning modules to prepare for a greener future.
Further proof of the need for a younger generation of construction professionals must take the economy and cost of labour into account. The older generation of workers (who are therefore usually more senior and more experienced) are generally earning a higher salary. For such senior staff, a move to a new position will almost certainly require a significant increase in salary package and also job title. This is all well and good, until it comes to the point when companies simply cannot afford to pay such high salaries or when it is just a junior or mid-level skill set that is needed rather than a room just full of experienced managers . Young professionals may not have the same number of years under their belt, but they will have a willingness to take on more junior and support roles for less money.
Following this theme, a new intake of workers can potentially inject further innovation and introduce new ideas to a company whereas a generation that has an ingrained method of working that has been tried and tested may be more unaware or resistant to change.
How Can Hong Kong Obtain and Retain Young Professionals in Construction?
A lot of companies have adopted University Graduate schemes to take on top quality civil/structural engineers, coordinators, quantity surveyors etc. as soon as they graduate. This is an obvious hunting ground and a good way to keep costs down as graduates are most likely seeking to “get a foot in the door” and gain good experience, rather than earning a 6 figure salary! Having said this, these schemes shouldn’t just be a way of obtaining cheap labour. Opportunities must be real and offer career development and a proper training platform. Through my recruitment experience, I have seen a high volume of graduates who have already gained some form of membership to professional institutions and would therefore like to obtain some practical experience in order to complete the process of becoming chartered. We always value companies that are willing to add value to careers by offering such training and support.
A very obvious, yet neglected pool of resource is overseas. Young foreign expatriates are very keen to secure roles in Hong Kong, mainly due to the large scale and number of construction projects there, as opposed to the UK and Australia for instance. Overseas candidates looking for valuable project experience will be enthusiastic and open to new opportunities as opposed to some local candidates whose main motivation may lean more towards financial gain. Such expats may also provide skill sets that are missing in the local market.
It is good to have an on-going and developing network of professionals within your own field of work. This way you can meet new people and create relationships for your own future requirements. There is a distinct lack of organisations that target the younger construction crowd, so these people may not be gaining the exposure they want on both a social and professional level. One group which is encouraging the involvement of young construction professionals is the Young Members Lighthouse Club (the youth branch of The Lighthouse Club - This is a great way to meet new friends and to stay in touch with the Hong Kong construction market. Please get in touch with me on Donald@maximrecruitment.com if you would like more details about this.
Maxim Recruitment – Hong Kong