AUTOMOTIVE COMPONENTS and systems supplier Delphi Corporation, a United States-based company whose investment in China exceeds US$450 million, is planning a series of growth projects, including a new US$50 million technical centre. As a result, it plans to add more than 600 new staff in China by next year. With technical, engineering, management and other positions up for grabs, Delphi predicts that Hong Kong talent will be best suited for positions in legal, finance, information technology as well as junior to mid-level engineering. A spin-off from General Motors, Delphi has eight joint ventures and two wholly owned businesses in China. These operations manufacture vehicle components and systems for clients including Shanghai Volkswagen, Shanghai GM, Dongfeng-Citroen, Chang'an Suzuki and others. The company aims to diversify from manufacturing into research and development. 'For 2005, the projection of headcount increases for all divisions is huge, [primarily] in the engineering, professional as well as managerial areas,' said Anthony Chong, Asia-Pacific human resources (HR) director of Delphi Packard Electric Systems. According to Mr Chong, 20 per cent of the new recruits next year will be professional and support staff. The rest will be engineers and technicians, including 500 new employees at the Delphi China Technical Centre, expected to open in Shanghai next July. Engineering professionals are needed in several disciplines, including mechanical, electrical, software and electronic engineering. 'Our openings in engineering can be divided into three groups - around 40 per cent are highly experienced with at least six to eight years of experience. They are considered senior engineers. And 30 per cent have two to three years of experience,' he said. 'The other 30 per cent ... need not have experience.' Delphi is seeking talent in electronic engineering as well as software engineering because of the increasingly advanced technology in China's automotive systems. Mr Chong said navigation systems, which were common in North America, Europe and Japan, were also gaining popularity in China. This trend influenced their talent requirement. 'For the software engineers, one requirement is knowledge in navigation systems.' Among the range of opportunities available at Delphi China, some are expected to be more suitable for Hong Kong talent. Engineers should expect lower salaries, while other professionals will receive salaries similar to those offered in Hong Kong. 'Hong Kong talent is good in finance, IT and logistics,' Mr Chong said, adding that legal and HR were two other areas in which Hongkongers excelled. 'Regrettably, for the past five years, when properties and finance boomed in Hong Kong, lots of talent in Hong Kong preferred to pick up on finance, IT and legal [disciplines].' On the other hand, 'engineering is hard-earned money, and had been neglected [in those days]'. Mr Chong said employers would typically go to Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore to recruit employees experienced in manufacturing. The local talent pool of engineers in the mainland is also competitive. In addition to calibre, salary is another key factor. 'For a senior engineer here, [we pay] about $15,000 per month. For the same level of experience in Hong Kong, the salary is about 70 per cent to 80 per cent more.' Mr Chong expected this salary difference to be more easily accepted by engineers in mid-career than senior engineers, because the latter usually had family commitments and mortgages to pay back in Hong Kong. He said if they did move to China, they could 'quite easily find a niche there'. In comparison, he said companies were 'willing to pay a premium price' for talent in other professions such as IT, legal and finance. While he believed Hong Kong talent was 'devoted, driven and able to manage a crisis better than mainland talent,' he added, 'Every year the mainland has 700,000 engineers graduating from college. Those from prestigious schools like Tsinghua are no different from top universities in the US.' what's the deal? US-based automotive systems supplier Delphi is recruiting staff in China, and plans to hire more than 600 employees next year. Openings are in the IT, legal, finance, general management and engineering fields, including mechanical, electrical, software and electronics. Among its expansion plans is a new technical centre in Shanghai, in which it has invested US$50 million. A significant salary gap for engineering positions is expected, but for positions in the legal, finance and IT fields, salaries are expected to be comparable to Hong Kong levels.