Young professionals get helping hand

Dan Boylan

The South China Morning Post and Hongkong Telecom's joint effort to advance scholarship and career training among local young professionals continued this week as 38 winners of the sixth Careers Post/Hong Kong Telecom Scholarships collected $800,000 for study in area institutions.

Since 1992, grants of $3.5 million have helped nearly 250 young employed professionals acquire new skills and knowledge needed to realise their career goals. This year's 38 winners were chosen from among 400 applicants.

South China Morning Post deputy chief executive Owen Jonathan welcomed guests to the event at Telecom Tower in Quarry Bay and applauded the winners for jumping at the chance to better themselves.

'We wish you success and prosperity in the years ahead and trust that the chance of study offered to you today will help you achieve your career ambitions and, in doing so, provide this great city with the kind of people it needs to move ahead with confidence and pride as a leader in the region.' After his speech, Mr Jonathan said Hong Kong's strength had always been its people. The SAR's increased educational opportunities and the willingness of the present generation to jump at scholarships, like the Post/HK Telecom scheme, would only improve Hong Kong's most valuable asset.

Telecom's director of corporate affairs, Louis Loong, praised the winners for their inner drive.

'It is heartening to see these young men and women motivated to take on such extra studies covering such a wide range of topics,' he said.

'It is this kind of determination which will ensure that Hong Kong's communal skill set broadens and evolves as we step into the new millennium.' Mr Loong said he had studied part- time to achieve his Masters in Business Administration. 'I know how hard is to work and go to school at the same time,' he said. 'But it's worth it in the end.' The participating schools in the scholarship programme include Hong Kong Productivity Council; technical institutes (Morrison Hill Technical Institute, and Haking Wong, Sha Tin, Kwai Chung, Lee Wai Lee, Kwun Tong, and Tuen Mun institutes); Chinese University of Hong Kong; technical colleges (Chai Wan and Tsing Yi); Hong Kong Baptist University; Hong Kong Management Association; Hong Kong Polytechnic University; University of Hong Kong; Hong Kong University of Science and Technology; and for the first time the Open University of Hong Kong.

Classified Post advertising director Sylvia Wilson predicted further growth for the scheme.

'We're getting more participants, on every level every year,' Ms Wilson said.

Karen Lai, a dean's assistant at Hong Kong Baptist University, said the number of young professionals pursuing higher education had skyrocketed in the past decade. The university had two scholarship winners who would enroll in purchasing and supply programmes.

Ms Lai said numerous universities had recently improved and expanded their programmes with an emphasis on specialised diplomas and certificate programmes for part-time and evening students.

'We've addressed the trend to Hong Kong people moving towards these specialised types of programmes,' she said. 'In the past, people studied more generalised subjects. All that has changed.

The winners' aspirations backed this up.

Yu Pik-shan, an insurance executive assistant, said the award would allow her to pursue her interest in Japanese in a two-year diploma course at the University of Hong Kong.

The 23-year-old, employed at Pine Link Knitting Factory, is keen to widen her computing skills, particularly in networking and data management. She was confident Hong Kong's future would require further expertise in these fields.

Numerous students said they were the first in their families to pursue degrees past high school.

Yu Kwai-yin, a 27-year-old accounting assistant with the Jockey Club, said the degree in accounting he hoped to win from the Open University of Hong Kong would, indeed, make a family first.

'I'm proud and I know it will advance my future,' he said.

The South China Morning Post, with the support of the Hongkong Telecom Foundation, awards scholarships every year.

Scholarships are awarded in 10 categories - accountancy/finance; business/secretarial/computers/electronics; design/graphics; engineering; languages; merchandising/textiles; personnel and training; sales and marketing, and tourism/hotel and catering.

To be eligible, applicants should be Hong Kong residents, in full-time employment and earning $14,000 or less per month.

The selection panel looks for applicants who have a clear view of the career path they wish to follow.

Judges also look for those whose aspirations match their abilities.