Booming science parks struggle to find recruits with the right qualifications A lack of science and engineering graduates is creating a recruitment crisis for technology firms in Hong Kong's science parks, according to academics and industry sources. Thousands of jobs are set to be created in the hi-tech sector over the next few years, but falling numbers of graduates in key subjects mean employers are being forced to look overseas for recruits. 'There is a big need for science and engineering graduates,' said Cheung Shu-wing, vice-president of business development and technology support for Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks (HKSTP). 'It's across the board, everything from physics and biology to electrical engineering and computer engineering.' Mr Cheung was speaking at a forum at the University of Hong Kong on numbers of engineering graduates. HKSTP's sites were approaching capacity, but there was a shortage of qualified employees, Mr Cheung said. There were currently more than 400 new technology vacancies at companies in the science parks but once all the companies were fully operational, between 5,000 and 6,000 more jobs would be created. Developments in the mainland meant there would be more vacancies north of the border, Mr Cheung said. 'Over the past two years I have been trying to recruit for 36 positions, but I have still only managed to find 25 people,' he said. 'I really don't know where the others are going to come from. 'We're now hiring people with no experience. To begin with I was looking for people with master's degrees, but I have dropped almost all my requirements. If someone is willing to learn that's good enough.' In the longer term, he said, it was important to promote science and engineering in schools. 'It is no good me asking the universities for 400 graduates tomorrow,' Mr Cheung said. 'It has to start in the secondary schools. We have to let the students know that science is worth it.' Dean of the University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Engineering, Ng Tung-sang, agreed saying more work was needed to raise students' interest. 'Applications to this department have been declining over the past three years. This is the most worrying thing,' he said. It was difficult to attract students to engineering as they had very little exposure to the subject during secondary school, he added. Academics at other universities said applications were down in subjects like electrical engineering and computer sciences. Lee Chan-hei, an associate professor at City University's department of computer science, said applications were down by 20 per cent compared with last year. 'In the past few years, the IT sector has been going through a slump worldwide,' Dr Lee said. 'This year, though, graduates are finding it a lot easier to get jobs and they are getting higher salaries.' But it would be some time before the jobs situation would have an impact on secondary school students' choice of university subject, he said. Lauren Chan Lai-wan, associate dean of Chinese University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Engineering, said many secondary students had grown wary of job prospects in the hi-tech sector. 'Many companies are returning their IT departments to Hong Kong,' Professor Chan said. 'In the short term the talent shortfall may be a problem, but not in the long term. Whenever there is a demand, supply expands to meet it.' Hong Kong Polytechnic University is already seeing a rise in interest in its computing degrees. 'We seem to be experiencing a rebound from rock bottom,' said Keith Chan Chun-chung, head of the university's department of computing.