Head of Employees Retraining Board thinks 'out of the box' for course ideas Job training programmes for people of all ages should come under the control of a central agency to ensure better planning and organisation, said the new chairman of the Employees Retraining Board. Michael Tien Puk-sun, who became chairman of the statutory body last month, also said in an interview with the South China Morning Post that the government should consider expanding the role of the retraining board beyond training only those who are 30 or older, when more funding becomes available. 'They have to look at training in totality - all ages, all backgrounds,' he said. 'Eventually they have to decide whether there should be a central agency looking at all that or whether to continue with the current model.' Currently, several training and education schemes for young and middle-aged people operate separately under the Labour Department and Education and Manpower Bureau. The retraining board would be well positioned to become this central agency under a scheme that would triple its funding to $1.1 billion a year. The only thing blocking access to that funding is a legal challenge by a group of foreign domestic helpers. They are seeking a judicial review of the $400 levy on employers of foreign workers - which directly eats into their monthly minimum wage. The money collected from the levy was intended to go directly to the board to train local workers, but it has been sitting in a bank account since the tax came into effect in October 2003. The government would review how the funds should be used, with a goal of training more people, when the case was over, an Education and Manpower Bureau spokesman said. Until then, Mr Tien will continue working with a budget of about $370 million a year, training people to become property estate managers, domestic helpers and security guards. The latest job to be added to the list is foot massaging, after Mr Tien realised the service was ideally suited to workers visiting people's homes. 'The kinds of services that could be delivered in the house could be endless, ' he said. 'One day you could have someone go to your home to do your hair.' Mr Tien, who also heads the Kowloon-Canton Railway Corporation and clothing retailer G2000, said his goal was not to provide training on language or computer skills to fill clerical jobs, but to pinpoint unrecognised demands and then train people to satisfy them. 'That to me is the big challenge,' he said. 'You have to think outside the box.' The retraining board was created in 1992 to teach factory workers new skills after the manufacturing industry migrated to the mainland.