Don't let summer slip by! Learn valuable skills with a summer job

By Wong Yat-hei

There are some skills you must learn on the job that will come in handy when you start your career

By Wong Yat-hei |

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JiuJik Job Fair at Olympian City.

Now that DSEs are done, it's job hunting season. Many new graduates would like to go straight from their exams to taking on the business world, but most will start with a summer job.

The unemployment rate for people aged 15 to 19 is high at more than 10 per cent, but Labour Department statistics show that there were more than 10,000 job openings in the private sector last month. Among those, more than 15,600 are suitable for secondary school students who have no job experience. The department also recorded 830 summer job openings.

Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, secretary for Labour and Welfare, puts a positive spin on things: "The employment rate for people between 15 and 25 is 90 per cent," Cheung said at the "Say Yes to Work" summer job fair, organised by the Hong Kong YWCA on May 19.

For those looking to work, Hong Kong Federation of Youth Groups employment supervisor Gary Tang Leung-shun says jobs in sales, food and beverage, and customer service continue to have the biggest number of openings.

"I understand that most students are going back to school and will not pursue a long-term career in these industries, but that doesn't mean they can't get a fruitful experience out of it," he says. "They can learn important soft skills such as how to solve problems on their own and get along with co-workers on any job."

Another place to look for summer jobs is the library. Tang said there are more than 200 openings for library assistants this summer. "Students who are looking to experience office work can give this job a try," he said, adding that almost any summer job is a good job for teenagers.

"Students should not be choosy with summer jobs. Whatever job they work on, they are going to learn something new."

Manpower Group Greater China region vice-president Lancy Chui, a human resources expert, agrees. She encourages students to embrace the opportunity to learn in any summer job.

"Every opening is an opportunity to gain experience. Students will equip themselves during the summer job period, particularly with soft skills," she says. "For example, interpersonal and problem-solving skills, patience and discipline are not taught in university or college. These experiences can be meshed into leadership positions in postsecondary life, if they plan to join associations or clubs."

A summer job is usually a short-term commitment, but Chui believes that it can present an opportunity for both employees and employers to foster a long-term relationship. She says students should work hard because there is a possibility it will kick off their careers.

"Employers can engage summer job staff to stay as long-term employees on a part-time basis if students work well during the summer period," she says. "We recommend employers present a career path - even with summer jobs - and open an opportunity to retain students in the company after the summer term."

Making the switch from school to work is a major challenge for many graduates, so Tang advises employers to set up a buddy system, in which a young employee mentors the summer job holders.

"Having a buddy definitely helps young workers fit in," he says. "Employers should also be patient to explain what they want in detail so that summer job employees can have a better idea of what to do."