AUYEUNG CHIN-CHING received his A-level results last July. He was disappointed but he had prepared for the worst. He had passed only two subjects, so instead of researching his further education options he decided to find a job. Mr Auyeung is not from a well-off family, so he was determined not to be a financial burden. Moreover, the opportunity to contribute economically to the household had a certain appeal. 'I knew I couldn't get into any degree programme,' he said. 'So I thought getting some work experience would be the best way forward.' Mr Auyeung now works full time in the retail sector. 'I'm satisfied with my work and the experience I'm gaining from it. But as for the future, I'm open to other fields. I'm still young and I enjoy a challenge. I'm also thinking about doing investment banking. But the most important thing for now is to network so that I can seek out more opportunities.' Wong Man-shun, a youth work officer at the Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups, said A-level graduates were competing with HKCEE graduates for the same pool of jobs. According to Mr Wong, few jobs require A-level qualifications. Jobs in the market can be divided into three categories. The first job category does not require any academic qualification, usually being physical in nature. The second category consists of service sector and clerical jobs that require five HKCEE passes, while the third comprises jobs that require postgraduate degrees or other professional qualifications. Employers usually prefer to hire fresh A-level graduates rather than HKCEE graduates, not because of their academic level but because of their age, maturity and language skills. But HKCEE graduates with two years' work experience are seen as more competitive than inexperienced A-level graduates. 'However, not many A-level students want to find jobs after graduation,' Mr Wong said. 'In the age of the information economy, people need to become professionals first to get secure employment. In many cases, A-level graduates should earn professional qualifications before looking for work. They have already passed their nightmarish HKCEEs, so why not go one step further and enter tertiary education?' Shauna So Sai-yan, social work assistant of Whampoa Integrated Children & Youth Service Centre, Church of United Brethren in Christ Social Service Division, said: 'Some students might want to try the employment field to get some work experience before deciding on a career or further study. 'There are a lot of part-time jobs available, and some that provide on-the-job training. After working for a few years they can enrol in university programmes as mature students. The programmes require less academic qualifications.' Ms So said big companies often had better training opportunities. But smaller companies might be better in helping students to gain work experience and determine their future career paths. 'A-level graduates are at a critical age,' Ms So said. 'They can try different professions but they do not really have that much time. 'They should narrow down their choices to three professions and prioritise them by their ability, interest, personality and market trends.' She said they should set a time frame of about one year on a job to see if they liked it before deciding on their future prospects. 'Having a reasonable job expectation is also important.' Ms So said. 'I've met some A-level graduates who expect more than $10,000 a month. 'A-level graduates usually get $6,000 to $7,000. They must learn on the job.' Samantha Lam Yick-wah, programme manager of Youth Work Experience & Training Scheme, Labour Department, said many students encountered problems when they started to work. 'From school to work, the paths that lie ahead for Hong Kong students have changed drastically. The picture is more complex,' she said. 'A lot of them find it difficult to get jobs. They don't know where to find jobs, what to expect, what jobs to choose, how to prepare CVs, and interviewing techniques.' To act as a bridge between school and work, the Labour Department launched in 2002 the Youth Pre-employment Training Programme (YPTP) and the Youth Work Experience and Training Scheme (YWETS). The YPTP provides school leavers aged 15 to 19 with a wide range of employment-related training so that they are better equipped for the job market. For the YWETS, trainees are placed in employment that provides on-the-job training under the guidance of mentors appointed by employees. Additional support such as counselling is available from case managers who are registered social workers. It is for all people aged 15 to 24 with education attainment below degree level. The two programmes will be open for enrolment from July 29.