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Speech by PSLW at Continuing Professional Development Seminar (English only)

    Following is the speech by the Permanent Secretary for Labour and Welfare, Mr Paul Tang Kwok-wai, at the Continuing Professional Development Seminar 2008 which was jointly organised by the Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Alliance and the South China Morning Post (SCMP) today (June 16):

Ms Virginia Choi (Chairperson of CPD Alliance), Mr C K Lau (Executive Editor of SCMP), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

    Good morning.  I feel greatly honoured to be invited to attend the Continuing Professional Development Seminar 2008 today and to address such a distinguished audience.

    Since 2005, CPD Alliance and SCMP have joined hands in organising annual seminars to update CPD Alliance members on the latest developments and trends of continuing professional development in Hong Kong.  With the earnest efforts of the CPD Alliance and SCMP, the seminar has fast become one of the most anticipated manpower-related events in the year, bringing together so many seasoned professionals and prestigious business leaders who fully appreciate the value of and the need for continuing professional development.  I would like to congratulate our hosts on such a remarkable turnout this year and wish to extend a warm welcome to all of you.

    The theme of the seminar this year is :Nurturing Talent for the Sustainable Development of Hong Kong;.  Undoubtedly, :nurturing talent; is a mission of the utmost importance in any society.  This is especially true for Hong Kong, as we are experiencing a record low unemployment rate of 3.3%, and human capital has become the scarcest resource sought by every employer.  Indeed, sustainable development of Hong Kong would not be attainable if we fail to nurture and secure a quality and adaptable workforce.  With a view to staying ahead of the increasingly competitive global market and maintaining Hong Kong・s economic vibrancy, the Government has invested heavily in human capital and made considerable efforts to enhance the quality of our local workforce over the past decade.  Let me share with you what the Government has been doing to nurture talent for Hong Kong・s sustainable development.


    The quality of our population hinges on education.  The Government attaches much importance to and makes significant investment in education to ensure that no one will be deprived of education due to lack of means.  Over the past years, we have been undergoing major reforms to enhance our education system.  To take an example, the introduction of the new 3+3+4 academic structure from the 2009/10 school year onwards will not only help students develop their potential, but also nurture their attitude towards lifelong learning.  Through the on-going education reforms, we seek to nurture a well-educated, self-directed, adaptable and creative workforce which has a global perspective and the capacity to absorb and apply new knowledge. 

    In his 2007-08 Policy Address, the Chief Executive announced the implementation of 12-year free education with effect from the 2008/09 school year, which clearly demonstrates the Government・s steadfast commitment to education and the nurturing of our next generation.  Form Three school leavers who choose to enroll in full-time courses provided by the Vocational Training Council and pursue an alternative pathway will also be entitled to full subsidy.


    With the exponential growth of knowledge and rapid advances in technology, skills acquired could become easily obsolete and what has been learnt in school may have a limited shelf life.  As such, the Government strives to provide adequate opportunities of continuing education and training to those already in the workforce to enhance their employability and better equip them to rise to the challenges in the labour market.

    The Government has introduced various initiatives to provide our workforce with suitable and effective training.  For instance, the Skills Upgrading Scheme launched in 2001 with a capital injection of $400 million aims to provide industry-specific training for in-service workers to help them adapt to changing working environments.  Through the collaboration of employers, employees, training providers and the Government, courses are tailor-made to cater for the specific needs of the respective industries.  The scheme currently covers 26 industries and has offered over 220,000 training places.

    With a view to encouraging our workforce to pursue continuing education and lifelong learning, the Government set up the $5 billion Continuing Education Fund in 2002.  Residents aged between 18 and 65 are eligible for as much as $10,000 subsidy to take any of the 6,800 registered courses in the eight specified economic sectors and skills domains.  More than 410,000 applications for subsidy under the fund have been approved so far.  To further enhance the operation of the fund, the Government has implemented a series of improvement measures in phases since mid-2007, such as lifting of the upper age limit of eligible applicants from 60 to 65 and linkage of the Fund to the Qualifications Framework. 


    Encouraging lifelong learning and in-service training apart, the Government also considers it essential to ensure that the unemployed and less-skilled members of our workforce receive suitable training in order to cope with the demands of the changing economy. 

    The Employees Retraining Board (ERB) currently provides both full-time, placement-tied training courses and part-time generic skills training courses under the Employees Retraining Scheme (ERS) to help local employees adapt to changes in the employment market arising from Hong Kong・s economic restructuring.  It used to provide 100,000 training places a year with an annual expenditure of about $400 million.  So far, over one million training places have been offered.  Since the need for training and skills enhancement is no longer confined to low-skilled, middle-aged workers with low education attainment nowadays, the Government has relaxed the eligibility criteria of the ERS with effect from December 2007 to cover all local residents aged 15 and above with education level at sub-degree or below. 

    In view of the latest economic developments and changes in the global as well as local markets, the ERB has recently completed a strategic review of its future directions.  It is expected to take on a new strategic role and responsibilities and offer more comprehensive and diversified training and retraining services to better the training needs of the local workforce.  The ERB will also increase the number of training places and training courses, strengthen the training content and step up measures to assure course quality.

Qualifications Framework

    To foster an environment conducive to lifelong learning and sustainable manpower development, the Government has established the Qualifications Framework (QF) and its associated quality assurance mechanism to facilitate the development of flexible and diverse progression pathways.  The QF, which was officially launched in early May 2008, is a seven-level hierarchy of qualifications applicable to the academic, vocational and continuing education sectors.  With well-defined standards of qualifications and clear indication of articulation ladders between them, the QF enables learners to set clear goals and directions for obtaining quality-assured qualifications.  Following its further developments, such as the completion of the Specifications of Competency Standards for different industries and the launching of the Recognition of Prior Learning Pilot Scheme, employees will have a better sense of direction in pursuing further education and training, while employers will have a better understanding of the actual level of competency of their existing and prospective employees.

Admission of talent

    In addition to nurturing home-grown talent, the Government also opens the door wide to people of talent from all over the world.  We do so through two major schemes, namely the General Employment Scheme (GES) and the Quality Migrant Admission Scheme (QMAS).  Under the GES, individuals with special skills, knowledge or experience of value to and not readily available in Hong Kong may apply to work in Hong Kong.  The only prerequisites are that the individual needs to secure an employment offer in Hong Kong before entry and the salary is in line with the prevailing market rate of Hong Kong.  Since 1997, some 200,000 professionals around the world have come to Hong Kong through this channel.

    The QMAS offers another admission channel for overseas and Mainland talent to Hong Kong.  Applicants are not required to have secured local employment prior to application or admission.  They are assessed under a point-system based on objective criteria such as age, language skills, academic attainment/professional qualifications and work experience.  Those capable of contributing to Hong Kong・s economic development will be screened in.  About 400 places have been allotted under the scheme to applicants from a wide array of professions, ranging from the commercial sector to arts and sports.  In the face of strong international competition for skilled workers and professionals, the Government has relaxed the upper age limit and other prerequisites of the scheme earlier this year with a view to attracting more quality migrants to Hong Kong.

    Furthermore, the Government has recently decided that non-local fresh graduates of full-time locally-accredited programmes at degree level or above will be allowed to stay for one year in Hong Kong without any restriction to take up employment from the 2008/09 academic year onwards.  We believe that the above measures will help attract a larger pool of talent who will in turn help enhance the overall quality of our workforce and contribute to Hong Kong・s competitiveness.

Manpower Projection Exercises

    To facilitate the formulation of policies and measures that are able to respond to the changing needs of our society, the Government conducts periodic manpower projection exercises to assess the manpower demand and supply situation in Hong Kong at the macro level in the medium term.  The last exercise, MP2007, was conducted in 2002-03. 

    In MP2007, it was projected that the main thrust of increase in manpower requirement would come from the tertiary sector (or the service sector as a whole) with the :financing, insurance, real estate and business services; sector expected to experience the fastest growth.  Concurrent with a shift in manpower requirements towards the upper segment of the occupation hierarchy, a shift towards the higher end of the educational attainment ladder was also anticipated.  Manpower requirements for persons at :post-secondary; and :first degree and above; levels were projected to grow strongly over the projection period.  Results also indicated that there would be a mismatch in manpower resources, with a surplus in manpower with lower educational attainment but a shortfall in manpower with educational attainment at post-secondary level and above.  Special analyses were carried out for five strategic sectors/domains which were considered to be of strategic importance to the Hong Kong economy.  These sectors (viz. trading and logistics, tourism, financial services, professional services and information technology personnel) were, in general, expected to provide much impetus to the growth in overall manpower requirements over the medium term.  Our preliminary checks indicated that MP2007 was fairly accurate in projecting the overall manpower trends.

    The Government is currently undertaking a new round of the manpower projection exercise, aiming to project the manpower development needs of Hong Kong up to 2013 in the light of its transformation into a knowledge-based economy and the impact that the Mainland・s 11th Five-year Plan will have on our manpower situation and requirements.  We expect that the latest exercise will provide high-level indicators including the extent of mismatch in the demand and supply of manpower by educational attainment level and the economic sectors that will experience the fastest growth or the biggest decline.  In addition, more detailed analyses will be conducted on six strategic sectors of importance to Hong Kong, namely, financial services, trading and logistics, tourism, information technology and information services, creative industries and professional services.  The projection results of MP2013 are expected to be available in around the third quarter this year.

Concluding remarks

    Ladies and gentlemen, while the Government is fully committed to nurturing talent and enhancing the quality of our workforce, we would not be able to do this all alone.  The continued support and co-operation of employers, the business sector and professional organisations like the CPD Alliance is indispensable.  Let us all join hands to contribute towards the continuous upgrading of our workforce and the sustainable development of Hong Kong. 

    I would like to thank our hosts again.  May I wish the seminar great success and everyone here a very fruitful experience. Thank you.

Ends/Monday, June 16, 2008
Issued at HKT 13:06


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