Getting ahead through constant growth
For years, Alan Chan Chung-yee juggled work and further education, studying hard to prepare for qualifying examinations run by professional bodies. As it turned out, the string of professional qualifications under his belt helped with his career advancement.
He sought membership in the British-based Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators when the travel company he worked for was seeking listing on the local stock exchange. Then he studied to become an associate of the Hong Kong Institute of Bankers when the company tried to raise capital.
'I wanted to understand the mindset of bankers. You get more recognition from your clients, bosses or other professionals if you have professional qualifications. You can speak with more authority,' said Mr Chan, who is now the managing director of a subsidiary of a listed company, and a member of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants.
But maintaining professional standing requires constant improvement in knowledge and skills. Various professional bodies have been providing a host of training opportunities to help their members meet new challenges in their sectors.
'The society is developing fast, and we need to keep pace with or even surpass the change,' said Raymond Chan Yuk-ming, president of the Hong Kong Institute of Surveyors.
'We organise various activities, from visits, seminars to talks, and recommend relevant courses offered by universities for our members.'
The Hong Kong Institution of Engineers Toastmasters Club is organising a workshop on public speaking and communication skills on May 2 for members faced with an increasingly demanding environment. 'People have become more demanding and use various channels to express views on engineering projects that may impact on road alignment or traffic. We often need to explain to not just our clients but members of the public nowadays,' said Keith Lai Lim-chun, vice-president (public relations) of the toastmasters club.
Apart from running activities such as lectures, seminars, workshops and industrial attachments, the institute is also providing courses on pertinent issues such as air quality control and successful management as part of their members' continuing professional development.
In the legal field, practising solicitors and trainee solicitors are obliged to meet continuing professional development requirements. The Law Society of Hong Kong has implemented a compulsory Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Scheme since 1998. A practitioner must complete 15 CPD points, with a one-hour course equivalent to one CPD point, within a practice year, or pro-rated points in the event of an incomplete practice year.
'In a changing legal environment with the profession subject to many external pressures, CPD provides a convenient framework for the profession to meet the changing demands of clients and society to continuously update knowledge and skills, to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the profession and to enable some practitioners to redefine their careers by learning new professional skills and areas of practice,' said Heidi Chu Kit-ping, director of standards and development at the society.
To accommodate lawyers' busy schedules, the society accepts various modes of learning other than lecture-based courses as part of CPD, such as legal research, writing legal articles and books, online courses and distance learning.
'Continuing professional development has become a part of the culture of legal practice and many law firms regularly organise in-house training for their own staff to update their knowledge and skills and ensure quality service for clients,' Ms Chu added.
In the accounting profession, members of the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants are required to complete 120 hours of development activity within three years. The institute plans to develop a competence-based framework for 'structured CPD' and to offer training aimed at enhancing members' knowledge of the mainland market.
Staff unions can play a key role in fostering professional development as well. Early this month the Hong Kong Social Workers' General Union organised a brainstorming session allowing social workers from across the territory to shed light on each other's work.
The sharing of experiences was very important for the profession, said union president Peter Cheung Kwok-che. 'We need more exchanges among workers, since the nature of cases varies from district to district and it is useful to draw from experiences of different service providers. Fresh graduate workers also need to hear from experienced workers on how to handle certain cases.'
The union runs courses throughout the year covering practical issues such as computer skills or conducting operational research. And they served the profession well, said Mr Cheung. 'These courses are more important than ever since after the government introduced the lump-sum grant policy for social welfare organisations several years ago, organisations have cut down on costs and staff can hardly take time off work to obtain outside training.'