As a media sponsor, the South China Morning Post aims to foster a greater awareness of the need for quality in industry in addition to expert guidance on how that goal can be achieved. It is the second year the newspaper has played an official role, although it has given prominent publicity to the award in previous years. 'We are most supportive of the award,' said Post assistant general manager Sally Chow, a member of the organising committee. As a newspaper, the Post had to keep abreast of the trends and what was happening in the marketplace, then help to publicise this information for the good of the community. 'That is why we're interested in these quality awards. Through them, we are able to arouse the awareness of other companies and encourage them to implement quality within their organisation.' Ms Chow said the key to better quality was training. 'Training is important for every organisation . . . it can sharpen its people skills and, by sharpening these skills, it can give them a competitive edge both locally and internationally. 'This is particularly so in light of the economic turmoil in Asia. When times are good, companies expand. If staff have experience, they can cope with any kind of crisis. 'If they lack the experience, they will be unable to handle it. What we are looking at here is quality rather than quantity, and this is where training is important because it allows your staff to be able to meet both customer and market demands.' In view of the high cost of training, Ms Chow suggested companies which did not think they could afford to provide it should start with their top managers before filtering down through the ranks. 'My advice is to identify and train a few key people so they can then train those under them. This will lead to improved productivity,' she said. 'Obviously, it will cost money to train key people but, if it is done effectively, it will result in reduced costs.' However, for training to be effective, it needed to be an on-going process and there had to be a practical element. 'Training depends on on-the-job experience,' Ms Chow said. 'It's not something you just study from a book, particularly in manufacturing. It has to be hands-on.' Ms Chow was generally optimistic about Hong Kong's ability to adapt to the challenges it faced. 'I think more and more companies are raising their quality standards because Hong Kong is in a most competitive environment. If you don't improve quality, it will be difficult for you to prosper.' She pointed, for instance, to the growing number of companies that were seeking ISO 9000 accreditation then publising the fact. 'To consumers, if a company has ISO 9000, they will think, 'this is the product I want'. So, yes, people do recognise ISO as a symbol of quality.'