SEVERAL Hong Kong managers from prominent private and public companies are getting professional guidance to help them become more effective. The Management Development Centre of the Vocational Training Council has taken on 51 candidates for its Management Development Qualifications programme. The course allows the candidates to measure themselves against international management standards. After the candidates complete the programme, they qualify for the Oxford Awards in Management, granted to managers who demonstrate competency in their jobs. The programme emphasises competency, not academic achievements. The course has been offered to supervisors, middle managers and senior managers and it has been tailor-made for Cantonese speakers. Paul Donohoe, principal adviser of the Management Development Centre, said the tuition was largely in Cantonese and that much of the development material was also in Cantonese. Lucius Lai, management adviser at the centre, said candidates were being offered advice and personal guidance on the job. The awards do not require candidates to sit for written examinations, there are no formal entry requirements and there is no fixed period of study. Managers in the programme only have to show they can excel in their roles. Mr Donohoe said: 'Candidates have to provide evidence to prove they are doing an efficient job as managers.' A candidate would be evaluated from time to time based on the evidence submitted and the centre's advisers would determine whether the candidate's performance measured up to international management standards, he said. Managerial candidates from companies such as China Cement, OTB, TAL Apparel, major garment retailers and the Office of the Telecommunications Authority have enrolled. 'We have been successful in attracting greater numbers from the inception. In December, we had 17 candidates on the programme and, in January, we had 38. Now, we have 51,' Mr Donohoe said. He said the candidates were those with considerable responsibilities. 'They would be noticed if they were not at work for an hour,' he said. The management awards are granted by the University of Oxford Delegacy of Local Examinations, a section of Oxford University. Candidates are given professional support in various ways, including counselling and learning materials. Advisers visit candidates at their places of work to offer guidance and make evaluations. 'We have seven advisers on the programme. Each one oversees his own group of candidates,' Mr Donohoe said. Mr Lai said: 'Each development adviser is very much a mentor for a candidate.' Meetings help advisers to check on the progress of candidates. 'We meet all the candidates once a month. We have a group meeting and each one will report on what he or she has been doing in the past month. At this meeting, we will review what they have done and see how they can do a certain job better,' Mr Lai said. He said Oxford management standards could help candidates measure their competency at work. 'The standards are guidelines for candidates. For example, in their work situations they may be doing a good job as managers but then there could be some aspects they overlook. In this situation, the Oxford guidelines can act as a route map to help them become more effective managers,' Mr Lai said. Supervisors, middle managers and senior managers who enroll have to complete Units of Competence, which outline things that effective managers do and also things that make them effective. The Management Development Qualifications programme is for anyone with more than five years' working experience. Candidates have to be nominated by their companies.