Exporting homegrown skills
Projects in Dubai and India are receiving the benefit of training and knowledge honed in the SAR, writes Kevin McBarron
Local construction professionals are getting more of a chance to work globally as a major company seeks to use the cutting edge skills their Hong Kong training gives them to expand its overseas operations.
China State Construction International, part of China Overseas Holdings, looks back in pride on a project portfolio that includes work on Hong Kong International Airport, and its success is continuing with the recent completion of development infrastructure at Penny's Bay, West Kowloon and the new naval base at Stonecutters Island.
It is on such projects that local construction professionals have strengthened their knowledge and built their reputations.
Now China State Construction has India and Dubai in its sights with the aim of increasing its overseas projects to 20 per cent of total turnover within three years.
'We at China State Construction International have a global view. I would earnestly encourage all Hong Kong engineers to adopt this global view as we have done,' said Jackson Cheong Chit-sun, the company's executive director and vice-president.
'Hong Kong is a declining market, although there are still many opportunities here.'
The company is working on a number of infrastructure projects for the Indian government and a major design and build project in the private sector. In Dubai, the company is extensively involved in several building projects.
'In expansion we want to minimise potential communication errors by targeting markets where the level of English is good,' he said.
To facilitate the smooth running of its overseas operations, the company recruits a mix of Hong Kong engineers and local talent in each country.
'At present, we recruit about one third of our construction engineers from Hong Kong and the mainland, and the balance in the other countries,' said Mr Cheong.
He said a priority was to ensure good communication throughout integrated projects and this was where English-language skills were necessary.
'The attractions of recruiting local [Hong Kong] engineers are the breadth of experience they have,' he said.
'Their experience ranges from large-scale infrastructure developments to building high-rise complexes.
'They have a technical edge owing to the excellent Hong Kong training and many of them have had previous international exposure.'
To retain the best staff and ensure they are comfortable living away from home, the company offers a survival kit to help its employees settle in.
On-site human resource officers try to ease the transition as much as possible, even to the extent of hiring Chinese chefs for catering and providing entertainment from home. But the company's focus is primarily on enhancing communication to eliminate unnecessary misunderstanding.
'Hong Kong engineers are more inclined to understand the company's corporate culture, and that minimises the risk of miscommunication,' Mr Cheong said.
Corporate objectives urging staff to 'serve the community' and promote the mainland, in addition to attractive remuneration packages, have proven so successful that many engineers choose to extend contracts abroad.
Employing more than 2,000 people in Hong Kong and more than 300 abroad, the company seeks out new graduates from Hong Kong and mainland universities and instils its new recruits with the company ethos and mission objectives.
For the first time, the company is recruiting engineers in India, and it is hoped that this will further enhance communication at all levels.
Back in Hong Kong, the company is involved in projects, including Sha Tin Heights, West Rail, Central Reclamation and will be bidding for work at the new government headquarters at Tamar.
These projects, coupled with the focus on India and Dubai, provide opportunities for their engineers at home and abroad.
China State Construction International is engaged in construction and civil engineering projects, as well as peripheral operations such as foundation work, site investigation, mechanical and electrical engineering.