Young urged to consider benefits of apprenticeships

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 06 October, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 October, 2011, 12:00am


Repairing and maintaining buses may not be the ideal career for young Hongkongers fixated on a white-collar ideal, but - with KMB looking for 85 apprentices - they are being urged to take the long view.

The KMB apprenticeship training programme takes three to four years at the bus company's Technical Training School, and includes some courses at the Institute of Vocational Education.

Gary Tang Leung-shun, Supervisor of Youth Employment at the Federation of Youth Groups, said: 'Young people may not be interested in apprenticeships because of the lengthy time in training and the demanding work conditions.'

Clerical jobs were more popular with youngsters because of the easier working conditions, he said.

'But if young people can view apprenticeships with more of a long-sighted vision, they can see that their skills will enable them to set up their own businesses in the future,' said Tang. 'This would make apprenticeships more popular.'

Apprentices are initially paid HK$5,300 a month, increasing in increments to HK$7,000 by the final year of training.

The openings come just as the MTR Corp is projected to create 17,000 jobs as it builds five new lines. The bus company is not competing for the same talent as construction companies, a KMB spokesman said.

'We look for youngsters interested in the industry,' he said, noting that most apprentices end up staying on as staff.

KMB will be filling vacancies created by retirees - hence the annual changes in apprenticeship openings. Last year KMB hired 108 apprentices.

The average age of bus maintenance apprentices entering the KMB training programme is 16 to 18. The training gives them a certificate recognised across the industry that qualifies them to take on bus maintenance jobs.

Yung Chak-shu, 23, graduated from apprentice training in 2010 and now works in the Lai Chi Kok depot. 'I always liked to fix things - toys, electronics, my bike,' he said.

KMB apprentice training takes place five days a week, with two evenings dedicated to classes. Yung recalled one of the most rewarding experiences during training was overcoming a challenge in installing an environmentally-friendly battery - a first for his depot.

Some KMB buses are from Europe, and Yung said he hoped to improve his English so he could better understand the manuals.

He has also expressed interest in studying for a degree in automobile engineering.

The KMB spokesman said financial grants were available for employees to pursue higher education.