A fortnightly column introducing key trainee programmes
Swire has been providing management training programmes for about 40 years, but the difference this year is that it will start a more centralised three-year management training programme for between 20 and 30 graduates in Hong Kong, and the same from the mainland. Trainees will go through six stages of rigorous interviews and tests - a chance for them to learn what it takes to be a manager and see if the position suits their personalities.
By immersing management trainees in a variety of business environments throughout the different divisions early in their careers, the firm ensures that trainees can attain management expertise over a broader range of industries.
'We're providing a more central perspective to the career development of young talent that comes into the group. In the past, they went into individual companies, such as Cathay Pacific Airways and Swire Properties, and it was seen as just developing for a particular division,' said Sandy Fok Yue-san, general manager, staff development at John Swire & Sons.
'The new way we are adopting will provide these graduates with a broader career perspective. The training will still be within the individual companies but in the longer term we think that, by putting them under the employment of John Swire & Sons, it will enable us to deploy them more flexibly across the group companies [when the] need arises, or when we see challenging opportunities for these people,' she said.
About 6,000 students apply each year for mainland and Hong Kong management schemes. Ms Fok said Swire was looking for candidates with good language skills, had an ability to adapt to new environments and who had good interpersonal skills.
The selection process involves a series of tests and interviews. First the human resources teams screen the resumes. They are looking for general academic results but also what extra curricular activities the students have done. They also look at the applicants' command of English and Chinese.
Those who make it through the first stage then come in for a written test. This is followed by a short interview to gauge their personality, interpersonal skills and sense of integrity.
During the first week of training, all trainees receive a week-long intensive introduction to accounting and finance. In their first year, they all take the Certified Public Accountants first-level exam. Swire takes graduates from all disciplines and teaches them finance and accounting skills.
The first batch will finish the Swire management training programme in September 2011.
'Typically, a Cathay trainee entering into the fourth year will be taking on an assistant managerial role, running a small port,' Ms Fok said. 'Within Swire Properties, trainees will become property assistant managers with more solid accountability.'
Trainees at Swire will also receive long-term continuous development throughout their careers. This includes taking more managerial courses, including a two-week intense finance course further down the line, which is tailored for Swire and provided by Insead in Paris.
Eugenia Lee Hoi-kei now works as a property officer for Swire Properties, a job, she said, provided her with plenty of research skills and a chance to use her interpersonal skills.
Edmond Yip Ka-shing, assistant to the chief operating officer for Cathay Pacific Airways, loves the possibilities his life as a young executive provides - to travel to countries he had never been, and take on responsibility at an early stage in his career.