Cool in a crisis

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 July, 2006, 12:00am

A group of Hong Kong undergraduates discovered the differences between themselves and their counterparts in the Greater China region in a unique way - by designing contingency plans for businesses during a bird flu outbreak.

The students took part in the annual Business Orientation Program organised by the American Chamber of Commerce In Hong Kong (AmCham) from July 10 to 22.

According to AmCham, the programme aims to give senior business and social science students an understanding of important international business and operational issues through a specific theme each year.

With the theme 'Avian Influenza Pandemic: Business Continuity in Times of Crisis', this year's participants worked in groups and came up with contingency plans for designated enterprises, including Maersk, ExxonMobil, Jones Lang LaSalle, Time Warner and Citigroup.

The participants, from Hong Kong, the mainland, Macau and Taiwan, attended workshops on crisis management and talked to senior management staff.

'I learned a lot from Citigroup staff. Now I have a better idea of how the banking industry operates on a day-to-day basis,' said Jenny Lau Chun-ni, a second-year accounting and finance student from the University of Hong Kong.

'The company has a crisis management committee which handles a wide range of emergencies, including the outbreak of bird flu. We made suggestions to improve their plans. It wasn't easy as there are many different departments and they are all related.'

The plans were presented to the companies, as well as representatives from different fields last Friday at City University of Hong Kong.

Working with students from other Chinese communities was valuable experience.

Perry Pang Kam-fai, who was assigned to work with Time Warner, said Hong Kong students were more relaxed compared with their mainland counterparts.

'The mainland students were very anxious from day one,' said the third-year marketing and public relations student from Hong Kong Shue Yan College.

'They also focused a lot on the content. We [Hong Kong students] took our time to learn how the company operates, and we felt that packaging and content are equally important.

'The students from China and Taiwan work very hard, but Hong Kong students work hard and play hard.'

Apart from those involved in the projects, there was a student co-ordinator who also learned a lot.

'I had the chance to visit all the six companies and met different professionals,' said Liliana Lau Wai-sze from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

'My social network has expanded and my English has improved.'

The programme organisers praised the students for their efforts.

'It was a very intensive programme and we're glad that they worked well together despite the differences in culture and background,' said Susan Sy, chairperson of the organising committee.

'They communicated with each other well and made the best use of their time. I'm really impressed.'

Mark Wong, public affairs manager of AmCham, said: 'People from different places have different ideas and views. We're happy that they found something in common. That's one of the main purposes of the programme - to unite young Chinese in the region.'