Ex-banker finds true job satisfaction

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 January, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 January, 2009, 12:00am

Having landed a coveted first job in the banking sector, Jason Lau Wing-hei seemed set fair for a career in finance, except that one thought kept nagging away. He didn't much care for the work and, whatever transfers, promotions or promised riches lay ahead, he knew that was unlikely to change.

'I found far more satisfaction in helping an old lady read her credit card statement than in selling someone a mortgage or loan,' said Mr Lau, who is in his final year of a part-time Master of Social Work programme at the University of Hong Kong. 'It made me see my real interest was in helping people from all walks of life, so I decided to study social problems in a more systematic way.'

At present, he is completing a course-related placement with a family service unit. The cases can involve spousal violence, child protection and dealing with the repercussions of extramarital affairs, all of which require an astute combination of sensitivity and practical sense.

An earlier block placement was as a medical social worker helping with bereavement and palliative care services at a hospital. It brought Mr Lau into regular contact with occupational therapists and physiotherapists and made him appreciate the scope of day-to-day challenges.

'Fieldwork is very important because it gives students an opportunity to apply what they have learned in the course and put theory into practice,' he said. 'We are supervised by very experienced social workers and discuss the framework and therapies to use. There are recordings of every session and we write detailed reports for our supervisors.'

He added that the university co-ordinated closely with various agencies to give students their preferred placements, while the focus on problem-based learning left graduates equipped to take on diverse roles.

Camille Chang Kit-yee exemplifies that. She is superintendent at a preschool centre in Tsuen Wan, overseeing a team of 14 that helps about 40 children with autism and developmental delays. The job entails administration of the centre, doing group work and casework with parents, and collaborating with occupational therapists, nurses, speech therapists and childcare specialists.

'I really love to work with people, but at the same time it is a challenge to do that and be handling things at management level as well,' Ms Chang said.

'The course's problem-based learning methods have helped me to deal with professionals who have different points of view, to pass on knowledge and to be more motivated.'

She completed the part-time degree while working as a programme officer for special needs children and, from the outset, felt that the material covered had direct relevance in the workplace.

'The core courses were really good for me,' she said. 'I just wish it had been possible to take more electives.'