CENTALINE PROPERTY Agency has taken part in the Preferred Graduates Development Programme three times since it was launched in 1997. It has hosted five students so far. 'We believe in playing the role of a good corporate citizen,' said Shih Wing-ching, chairman of Centaline. 'As the programme can benefit Hong Kong students, we are more than happy to participate. Through this programme, we can give university students a chance to learn and understand how a commercial organisation operates.' In addition, the company hoped to help students think about what field of work really interested them, he said. Students benefit from the programme in a variety of ways. 'Apart from learning job-related skills, we think that students have plenty of opportunity to experience co-operation and a teamwork spirit through working with permanent staff,' Mr Shih said. 'Also, students can refine their communication skills and problem-solving abilities, which we regard as essential elements for success in their career.' Founded in 1978, Centaline has more than 2,600 staff working in more than 180 branches, providing agency services in the leasing, sale and purchase of properties. It also employs estate surveyors to provide professional valuation services to its clients. The company benefits from the programme because it helps to meet its temporary and permanent staffing needs. 'It is a good chance for our company to identify potential permanent staff,' Mr Shih said. The five interns assigned to Centaline were given the opportunity to work in departments including administration and research. Some of the work they did was clerical in nature; some of it involved research and analysis. 'We treated interns like other employees,' Mr Shih said. 'We provided different kinds of training to students who were involved in different jobs.' Mr Shih said the programme enhanced an intern's employability. All the skills they learnt during placements would give them an advantage over others at future job interviews, he said, because 'a lot of employers prefer recruiting people with working experience'. His company is proof the programme works. Mr Shih said Centaline offered one of its interns a full-time position after she completed the programme a few years ago. 'A participant was employed permanently in 2001 after she took part in the programme in 2000,' he said. 'She was recruited as a databank management assistant in our databank management department. Her job duties were related to data processing for our property databank.' Mr Shih urged other companies to throw their whole-hearted support behind the scheme for two reasons. First, it would be in the company's immediate self-interest. Second, it would be good for society as a whole. 'The programme is meaningful,' he said. 'It not only benefits students but also the participating company. Companies can, on the one hand, gain the benefits of this programme by identifying potential permanent staff and, on the other hand, contribute to society since the programme is part of the education of our next generation.' Students who had the opportunity to take part should treasure the chance, he said. They should take advantage of every chance to broaden their horizons beyond the ability to learn from the books they acquired while at university. 'Participating students should make full use of the chance to learn more skills which cannot be learnt from books such as teamwork and interpersonal skills,' Mr Shih said. 'Also, they should take the chance to think about what their interests and strengths are so that they can make wise decisions in choosing their careers in the future.'