When the US pop group The Village People scored an international hit with their song containing the line 'it's fun to stay at the YMCA' (Young Men's Christian Association), they should have said it is also fun to study at the YMCA. 'Combining relevant, high quality academic programmes with life-skills training and activities designed to entertain and ease the stress of studying is an important part of the YMCA's holistic approach to education,' says Stephen Wu Ka-wing, principal, YMCA, College of Continuing Learning. Mr Wu notes that the emphasis is on complete learning, and highlights the importance of developing personal skills, such as communication and confidence-building. Students are also taught how to prepare a CV and develop interview techniques. The YMCA this year celebrates 10 years of providing higher education programmes in Hong Kong. Over the past decade, YMCA courses have helped lay the foundation for learners to build on their academic achievements, or follow a vocational career. 'We see ourselves as a stepping stone for those pursuing a vocational career, and a bridge for those who wish to continue with their academic studies,' Mr Wu said. A large number of Form Five students who do not achieve good grades prefer to enrol in a YMCA diploma or certificate programme, than spend a second term re-sitting Form Five. 'We regularly receive positive feedback from Form Five students and others who appreciate the fact that they have been given a second chance,' he said. In line with the association policy of introducing new programmes that meet community requirements, a Diploma in Tourism Studies will be launched this summer. There are also plans to introduce more computer related courses, and additional Information Technology programmes will be added to the existing curriculum. He said the Diploma in Tourism Studies will produce home-grown talent to help meet the predicted demand for an additional 18,400 employees in the tourism and hospitality industry by 2005. The YMCA offers a number of full-time and part-time certificate and diploma courses. These include business studies; secretarial studies; IT and computer studies; office IT studies; accounting studies, and Japanese and Putonghua. It also operates a programme jointly with universities in Western Australia through its Training and Further Education (TAFE) programme. The one-year, full-time TAFE (two years, part-time) Certificate of Management allows high achievers who have completed Form Five with good grades to apply for degree courses in business-related subjects at universities in Western Australia. Applicants wishing to enrol in full-time and part-time programmes should have completed Form Five or hold an equivalent qualification, or have gained the necessary work experience. Each year, the YMCA provides places for about 400 full-time students and 350 part-time students.