John Swire & Sons' management training programme offers an unparalleled opportunity to get first-hand experience in a large company and guidance from some of its most senior staff. 'We received training and there was also a lot of job sharing,' said Raymond Leung, who completed the programme last year. 'So we experienced how things work in the corporate world and we got to try things out.' The programme takes a select group of trainees from Hong Kong, the mainland and London. It gives them courses in management skills and placements to work within Swire's divisions. Leung began the programme in 2005 and was placed with Cathay Pacific Airways. After a short stint with the check-in team, he joined the purchasing department, where he was given responsibility for redesigning in-flight catering equipment for economy flights 'We receive a lot of trust from the management,' he said. 'Many companies like to say they give early responsibilities to trainees, but this company is serious about that.' He then moved to the flight operations department, dealing with personnel operations for the pilots. Then he worked in London as an assistant to the general manager, Europe. Leung said one of the most useful skills the programme gave him was the ability to pick up new ideas and quickly adapt to different roles. 'You are parachuted to a new position and you have to learn new things,' he said. 'It's my fifth year, and I've been working in five departments. 'It's not easy to adjust to the dynamics, but I've tried to get used to it and see it as part of my job that I will learn something new every year.' Eugenia Lee, another graduate of the programme, now works in Swire's property division. She also felt the programme offered a good balance of instruction and hands-on experience. 'They gave you all-round training, not just in how to work well, but in all sorts of soft skills,' she said. 'Because we were trainees, we had the privilege of being exposed to all kinds of opportunities at work. Our supervisors always asked what we would like to learn and tried to make sure we touched on all sorts of projects.' Lee joined the programme in 2006 and was placed with Swire Properties. Her first role was preparing for the launch of a property on Hong Kong Island by creating price lists and researching the neighbourhood. 'I knew nothing about the Hong Kong land administrative system,' she said. 'My supervisor taught me a lot about it and guided me in my research. It laid a very good foundation for me to know what's happening in the Hong Kong real estate industry.' In her second year, Lee moved into office leasing and management and saw Swire Properties' One Island East development in Taikoo Place progress from start to finish. 'I did a lot of sales analysis, especially during the financial tsunami,' she said. 'It's very different exposure. You see what the managers think and how they're going to handle this crisis. It was a very good learning experience.' Lee is now moving to Beijing to take a position as executive assistant to Swire's chief executive for mainland China, helping to oversee all the company's mainland projects. She said the most useful thing the programme taught her was about how to approach work. 'It's not just the knowledge or the skills part, it's the attitude towards work,' she said. 'We see our peers and seniors all very eager to learn and contribute. That's what I learned from the company. Being a trainee, you are in a very good position to see what the managers do and how they think.' Both Lee and Leung said they saw the training programme as a way to build a long-term relationship with Swire and to share in its business values. 'Swire is always talking about long-term investment,' Leung said. 'They take this seriously in terms of human resources investment too.' Cindy Cheung, manager of group public affairs in Hong Kong, agreed that the course was intended to make trainees well versed in Swire's practices. She said that although admission to the course was competitive, there wasn't a fixed quota and the company primarily looked for applicants who could relate to its values. 'For the management trainees, we are looking for people who share Swire's long-term vision,' she said. 'This is very important to Swire. It's a long-term commitment to the community we serve here.' Leung said it was important for people who were considering applying for the programme to recognise that it would not offer them training in a specialised field or a fast-track route to management positions. 'It's suited to somebody who has a broad interest in a number of business functions and would like to develop a long-term career with the company,' he said.