Swire Group, whose activities span property, aviation, beverages, marine services, and trading and industrial, is a Hong Kong listed conglomerate. It is the parent of Hong Kong carrier, Cathay Pacific Airways, and Dragonair, and Hong Kong Aircraft Engineering Co (Haeco) is a subsidiary. Swire Pacific and Swire Properties are the main listed arms of the group, which also owns Swire Hotels.
Aircraft company engineers leaders
A fortnightly column introducing key trainee programmes
Orders for aircraft have risen sharply in recent years, particularly from airlines based in Asia, which means that the Hong Kong Aero Engine Services Ltd (HAESL) should have plenty of work in the years ahead. Consequently, the company will be hiring graduate trainees. The company began life 10 years ago as a joint venture between Haeco and Rolls-Royce, and provides aero engine repair and overhaul services. It employs about 830 staff, but increasing demand is spurring recruitment and has shown the importance of the in-house graduate trainee programme.
This has been operating since 2000 to ensure that up-and-coming engineers share the company's vision and philosophy, and have the comprehensive training needed to progress in the industry. The programme accepts local and overseas graduates in aeronautical science, mechanical or industrial engineering. They must have an excellent command of English and the ambition to succeed.
'We are looking for highly motivated, energetic individuals with strong intellect and the ability to think creatively,' said Neil Glenn, director and general manager of HAESL.
He added that the four-year programme had a very high retention rate, partly thanks to a stringent recruitment process. This involves an initial written test, a session with the HR department, and two rounds of panel interviews with the management team during which applicants must make a presentation.
'It is important that candidates act as naturally as they can during the interview process,' Mr Glenn said. 'It gives us a much better feel for their personality type and how well they will respond to the objectives of this programme.'
The corporate philosophy is to develop future leaders internally and invest as necessary to make this happen.
The first two years include structured classroom training, as well as job rotations between departments to provide diverse practical experience. During this period, trainees are also working towards their professional qualifications under a scheme overseen by the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers.
In the third and fourth years, they are assigned to a specific production department. This gives them wider exposure to different technical projects along with a fuller understanding of how the business side of the department works. There is also an opportunity for two three-month secondments, one with Rolls-Royce in the United Kingdom, the other with Cathay Pacific.
Isaac Lee, an engineer at HAESL, found that kind of experience especially beneficial. 'I have a broader appreciation of the whole industry, which is quite difficult to get from other companies,' he said. 'I also had a chance to lead a HK$2 million equipment purchasing project while I was still training. The management supported and trusted me.'
For Chris Ma, who is a second year trainee, one of the most impressive things has been that the programme combines instruction in engineering and management. He has also been able to develop other soft skills.
'I have had to work with 600-700 people in this company,' Mr Ma said. 'Dealing with different people while working on projects is a very good [way] to learn and apply interpersonal and communication skills.' Trainees also attend general management courses overseas, which give them an opportunity to network with peers working in the industry in other parts of the world.
'As they complete this programme, we want them to be as well-rounded as possible,' Mr Glenn said.
It is important for candidates to understand their own strengths, weaknesses and interests, so that they have a clear idea of what role will suit them. Mr Lee said: 'If they like the job, they will deliver good results and performance.' Mr Ma added: 'My advice is that you need to be innovative and confident.'