Following is the speech on Future Direction and Strategy of Training in the Civil Service by the Secretary for the Civil Service, Mr Joseph W P Wong, at the Symposium on Continuous Learning and Development in the Civil Service today (April 2) :
Ms Liz Davis, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are very honoured to have the Chief Secretary Mrs Anson Chan with us today to launch our three-year Training and Development Programme for the Civil Service. I am also most grateful to Ms Liz Davis and Mr Vincent Cheng for sharing with us their precious experiences and achievements in inculcating a learning culture in their respective organisations.
The Chief Secretary has highlighted in her opening address the importance of developing a continuous learning culture in the Civil Service and what management can do to make this work. I would like to follow-up on this subject and elaborate on what our plans are to create a conducive environment with enhanced training opportunities for our civil servants in the coming years.
Investing in Our People
It is our long-standing aim to keep the Civil Service efficient and effective so that high quality service can be provided to the public. However, it is people who make up the Civil Service and it is these people who make the Government work. Hence, we see the provision of training and development for our civil servants as playing an important role in helping them to contribute their fullest potential in meeting the needs of the community.
Last year we invested over $1 billion for the provision of training to our staff. To meet common departmental needs, the Civil Service Training and Development Institute (CSTDI) provides centrally organised courses in subjects ranging from IT, customer service, language and communication to stress management. Individual departments, on the other hand, focus on providing vocational and technical training relevant to their operational needs.
Civil servants now receive on average 10 days training in a year (4.6 days for non-disciplined staff and 20 days for disciplined staff). Training and development has clearly become an important component in our human resources management policy and forms an integral part of our worklives.
Three-Year training and Development Programme
With the arrival of the knowledged based economy, the rapid proliferation of e-learning opportunities and our firm commitment to be a world class civil service capable of providing quality service to meet the changing needs of the community, it is essential for us to continuously strengthen and modernise our approach to training and development. These factors form the backdrop to our Three-Year Training and Development Programme which offers multi-faceted learning opportunities to our staff and aims at building up a continuous learning culture in the Civil Service.
Let me outline to you the scope of the Three Year Training and Development Programme. The focus of this Programme covers three major areas: training for staff affected by the Voluntary Retirement Scheme, training in relation to the Civil Service Reform initiatives and promotion of a continuous learning culture in the Civil Service.
Training for Staff affected by the Voluntary Retirement Scheme
As part of our reform measures to streamline our Civil Service, we launched the Voluntary Retirement Scheme last year, targeted at 59 grades which may have surplus staff in the next few years because of changes in circumstances or productivity enhancement. Around 10,000 civil servants or 15 per cent of the staff involved have joined the Scheme, with the majority of them leaving the service within the next two years. For colleagues in the Voluntary Retirement grades who have chosen to stay on, some of them may have to take up a new job or face a new working environment. We recognise their concerns and will help them develop new skills to meet the changing requirements. CSTDI and departments will work together to provide the necessary training, i.e. departments will respond to the job specific needs of these staff while CSTDI will focus on programmes to enhance their generic skills and their adaptability to change. Our aim is to train and motivate these staff so that they can continue to make a contribution in the new environment.
Training in Support of the Civil Service Reform Initiatives
Most of the Civil Service Reform initiatives have been implemented progressively since April last year. In the next three years, we will provide more training programmes to enable both staff and departmental management to take forward the implementation of these initiatives. Their understanding and buy-in of the reform initiatives are critical to the success of our Reform.
Promoting a Continuous Learning Culture
The third area: fostering a continuous learning culture in the Civil Service, is also the most important and significant component in our three-year programme. We will be spending over half of our three-year Programme budget on this area. We will assist departments to enhance their learning infrastructure and organising promotional activities. We will also expand various self learning packages. More importantly, we will launch two major initiatives to pursue this objective. First, we will introduce a Training Incentive Scheme which serves to encourage our civil servants to make the full use of external training opportunities. We will subsidise at least 18,000 of our colleagues to embark on external studies or short courses that are employment-related according to their own interests, time and preferred learning modes. Unlike the arrangements in the past, our colleagues may get reimbursement of course fees even though the courses they enrol in are not directly related to their present job. With the launching of this Scheme, we envisage that many of our colleagues will start, for the first time, on their life-long learning journey. Today's exhibition will help them discover the many diverse learning choices available.
Another major initiative to support our continuous learning aim is the expansion of our Cyber Learning Centre. Thanks to the rapid advancement in the information technology field, civil service learners can now get ample learning opportunities within easy reach. At present, our Cyber Learning Centre has 10,000 registered users. To allow more civil servants to have access to the centre, we will expand its capacity through upgrading the existing system and developing a central e-learning platform. Besides, more learning packages and job aids in the form of new learning portals with linkages to web-sites of other training providers will be introduced. We will organise a large-scale registration drive in the near future and more details will be announced.
Other Initiatives in the Pipeline
Training and Development Plans for individual Departments and Grades
The three-year Programme is only a prelude to our commitment to foster a continuous learning culture in the civil service. We have a number of other initiatives in the pipeline to enable us to pursue this worthwhile cause. The Financial Secretary announced in his budget speech that Heads of Departments and Grades will draw up detailed training and staff-development plans. While many departments already possess some form of a training plan, we would like to see all departments have such plans in place. These plans would help management assess and review their departments' or grades' manpower training needs in the light of the operational requirements, and facilitate the release of staff for training purposes. For staff, they will have a better appreciation of the opportunities available to them for training and development and hence can choose the time and mode of learning to suit their needs. I believe this is an important step to fulfil our goal of enhancing training for our staff at all levels. We will, together with CSTDI, liaise with departments and assist them, if necessary, in this exercise.
Personal Development Programme
In addition to departmental training plans, we are also exploring the concept of developing a more structured personal development programme for our staff. We are starting at the directorate level and depending on the results, we will see how the approach can be extended further to the rest of the Civil Service. The starting point will be to look at the core competencies expected of our senior officers and draw up a specific and focused plan to update their knowledge and upgrade their potential to meet the challenges ahead. Apart from attending traditional training courses, we will look to expand the horizons of colleagues through different development modes, for example, self-reading, experience sharing, exchange programmes or even giving talks to fellow colleagues.
Another area we are now actively studying is the exchange programme between public and private sector employees. The Civil Service is not an isolated world. We communicate and interact with the rest of the community. It is essential that we attune ourselves to the latest market trend and private sector best practices. Against this background, we will introduce a pilot exchange programme with the private sector this year so that some of our Administrative officers will work in private sector companies for between three to six months while the same number of private sector secondees will work in government for a similar period. Through this exchange programme we hope that our civil servants can gain a better understanding of how government policies would impact on business operations as well as an enhanced sensitivity towards economic parameters in future policy formulation. For the private sector secondees, we hope they will be able to gain a better appreciation of the wider political and social environment in which businesses operate. I believe that there is no better way for people to learn than through actually being involved in specific tasks and learning on the job. We have had initial discussions with some private sector companies and their response has been extremely positive. I believe that this exchange process is beneficial to both the government and the private sector. We will review whether the programme can be introduced in other grades and departments in due course.
Innumerable learning opportunities are awaiting us everywhere. Yet, the final success depends on how much everyone of us make an effort and, most important of all, take the first step. I urge you to join hands with me to explore the boundless learning world. Let's learn for success.
End/Monday, April 2, 2001