Talent development is high on the agenda for companies looking to thrive. This is crucial when the business of an organisation revolves around consultancy service. The Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC), a key industrial support statutory organisation, is running a trainee consultant programme to support its talent development in advanced manufacturing technology, environmental technology, information technology and management systems. 'We need to groom our own talent so we will be able to fuel our long-term growth and help the industry continue to excel in their operations,' says Bobo Fung, senior consultant for human resources and administration. The trainee consultant programme, which has been running for two years, caters for exceptional university graduates. According to Carmen Lee, the organisation's consultant for human resources and administration, HKPC will organise talks for potential candidates at University of Hong Kong, Chinese University, Polytechnic University, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and City University. 'Our branch directors will speak to the students about the programme and participate in the recruitment and selection processes,' Lee says. The organisation has three major branches, 28 centres of excellence and 10 testing laboratories. Applications open next month and the selection criteria are stringent. Last year, the HKPC received 1,000 applications from the universities. Students with a bachelor's degree in any discipline can apply, but Lee says that applicants with business, technology, environment, manufacturing, industrial engineering, and electrical and electronic engineering backgrounds will have an advantage. Strict entry qualifications ensure that only the very best candidates qualify for the programme. Lee says 80 to 100 out of 1,000 applicants last year were selected in the first phase of screening for an interview with a panel, which tested their presentation skills in response to written reports and selected articles from newspapers. They were also required to debate a selected topic in a group setting. According to Au Ming-piu, HKPC's general manager for human resources and administration, group interviewstest candidates on their presentation skills, analytical abilities, problem-solving skills (particularly important for a consultant), and how well they perform in a team environment. 'Candidates who dominate the group discussion do not necessarily stand a better chance,' Au says. 'Successful candidates should be able to share their insights while incorporating the views of others in their discussion. 'In the selection process, we look at academic performance, language ability in Chinese and English, and whether applicants have a relevant technology field. We also look at the maturity of the candidates, which is reflected in their involvement in extracurricular activities, which can demonstrate their leadership qualities.' After the screening process, about 20 candidates will be invited to attend one-on-one interviews. The finalists are expected to start their training in June or July. During the first six months, trainee consultants will rotate their job functions in different industry support areas, and the focus of the second half of the year will be on business management. 'Mentorship is emphasised [throughout] the training period,' Lee says. 'Each trainee is assigned a mentor who will coach, supervise and evaluate their performance. Trainees will learn about consultation skills, and production and implementation processes, maximising their exposure to different skills and knowledge areas in technology and management consultancy.' HKPC provides a structured career path for qualified consultants. Once the trainees have successfully completed the training and passed the evaluation, they will be offered the role of associate consultant which will lead to senior positions, such as consultants, senior consultants, principal consultants, and general managers and branch directors. Last year, the organisation admitted nine trainee consultants into the programme, eight of whom were promoted to associate consultant upon completion of the training. HKPC has more than 200 consultants providing services to companies in technology and management service.