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LCQ14: Training of industrial skilled talents
     Following is a question by the Hon Holden Chow and a written reply by the Secretary for Education, Dr Choi Yuk-lin, in the Legislative Council today (January 18):
     There are views that the Government has not attached adequate importance to applied programmes. For instance, the Government last year only included four programmes of self-financing post-secondary institutions in its Pilot Project on the Development of Applied Degree Programmes (Pilot Project). Moreover, in the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination (HKDSE), the results of Category B Applied Learning (ApL) subjects are only reported as "Unattained" and by three refined levels for "Attained", which are unlike the results of Category A senior secondary subjects being able to award the highest level of "5**". Such situation will dampen students' interest in choosing to study applied programmes and is not conducive to the training of industrial skilled talents. In addition, the Reindustrialisation and Technology Training Programme (RTTP) of the Government only provides training courses and grants related to "Industry 4.0" and advanced technologies, and cannot take care of the training of industrial skilled talents needed by traditional manufacturing industries in the process of their upgrading and transformation. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has plans to unify the grades of results and the treatment for Category B ApL subjects and Category A senior secondary subjects in the HKDSE, so as to attract students to choose to study ApL subjects; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(2) whether it will expand the Pilot Project further, and encourage self-financing post-secondary institutions to offer more applied degree programmes of different types (e.g. programmes related to new generation semiconductors, food technologies, health technologies and green technologies); if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that;
(3) of the number of enterprises which applied for training grants under the RTTP and the number of applications approved, in the past three years, with a tabulated breakdown by industry category; and
(4) whether it has regularly reviewed the effectiveness of the RTTP, and ensured that the RTTP is helpful in respect of training the industrial skilled talents needed for the upgrading and transformation of traditional manufacturing industries; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     In consultation with the Innovation, Technology and Industry Bureau, our reply to the question raised by the Hon Holden Chow is as follows:
(1) There are three categories of subjects under the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE) Examination: Category A (comprising more than 20 senior secondary subjects under Key Learning Areas such as Chinese Language Education, English Language Education, Mathematics Education and Science Education), Category B (comprising about 60 Applied Learning (ApL) courses), and Category C (comprising six Other Languages). In addition to the four Category A core subjects of Chinese Language, English Language, Mathematics, and Liberal Studies (which is now replaced with Citizenship and Social Development), students may study up to four subjects from Category A elective subjects, Category B ApL courses, and Category C Other Languages in accordance with their interests, aspirations and abilities, for articulation to multiple pathways.
     ApL courses are elective subjects, each with 180 contact hours (except for ApL Chinese) and no public examination. The learning contents focus on practical learning elements linked to broad professional and vocational fields with dual emphasis on theory and practice. ApL complements subjects under the other two Categories to form a flexible subject combination that helps enrich students' subject choices and cater for learner diversity, providing broad and balanced learning experiences for students.
     Given that the learning objectives, contents, contact hours, and the modes of learning and assessment are different between Category A and Category B subjects, it is inappropriate and undesirable to directly compare or simplistically adopt unified practices for the two Categories of subjects as this is not conducive to catering for learner diversity. In fact, the number of ApL courses has increased from about 30 when ApL was first introduced to the senior secondary curriculum to around 60 at present, providing students with diversified subject choices. The Education Bureau (EDB) has also implemented different support measures, including offering ApL courses early at Secondary 4, relaxing the funding eligibility for students taking ApL as the fourth elective subject, providing Extension Programmes of relevant ApL courses to enhance students' workplace experience, and offering Taster Programmes of ApL at the junior secondary level. All these fully demonstrate the great importance the Government attaches to the promotion of ApL. ApL subject entries have increased from about 5 400 for the 2021-23 cohort to about 9 200 for the 2022-24 cohort.
     In terms of further studies, tertiary institutions in general value the learning experiences students acquire in ApL. ApL subjects are recognised as elective subjects, or considered for award of extra bonus or additional information, varying by individual institutions, faculties or programmes. In terms of employment, the Civil Service Bureau accepts students' ApL results in the HKDSE Examination (including "Attained" and "Attained with Distinction", up to a maximum of two ApL subjects) in civil service appointments.
     The EDB will continue to holistically review students' needs, optimise the different Categories of subjects under the HKDSE Examination, strengthen industry participation to develop up-to-date ApL courses in line with social, economic and technological developments and demands, as well as communicate with different stakeholders including universities, post-secondary institutions and employers, in a bid to enhance the recognition of ApL and continue to promote ApL as a valued senior secondary elective subject to further attract students to study ApL.
(2) As announced by the Chief Executive in the 2022 Policy Address, we will strengthen the promotion of vocational and professional education and training with a multi-pronged approach, by adopting the strategy of fostering industry‑institution collaboration and diversified development, with a view to nurturing the talent needed for the development of Hong Kong. Among others, we will continue to review the Pilot Project on the Development of Applied Degree Programmes and actively explore the introduction of more applied degree programmes, further to the first batch of programmes launched in the 2022/23 academic year, and look into the future development of applied degrees. We also enhance and expand the Study Subsidy Scheme for Designated Professions/Sectors, including covering top-up degree programmes for the first time, and according priority to programmes of applied nature that involve industry‑institution collaboration, in order to nurture talent in support of specific industries with keen demand for human resources.
(3) To nurture local Innovation and Technology (I&T) talents, the Innovation and Technology Commission (ITC) launched the Reindustrialisation and Technology Training Programme (RTTP) in August 2018, which subsidises, on a 2 (government):1 (enterprise) matching basis, local enterprises for training their staff in advanced technologies, including trainings that assist the upgrading and transformation of traditional manufacturing industries. For instance, the Hong Kong Productivity Council Academy's training course on "Future Skills in Scientific Molding" introduces scientific molding skills to trainees so as to establish or refine the injection molding processes of industry. The RTTP imposes no restriction on the industry of the applicant company. The numbers of approved trainings under the RTTP by industry of applicant enterprise as at end-December 2022, involving a total funding of around $240 million, are tabulated as follows:
  Industry (Note) Number of approved trainings Number of enterprises
1. Innovation and Technology 3 145 484
2. Management and Consultancy Services 2 508 374
3. Building and Civil Engineering 2 285 269
4. Retail Trade 1 983 316
5. Media and Communications 1 842 230
6. Import, Export and Wholesale Trades 1 420 295
7. Banking and Finance 1 333 111
8. Biomedical and Healthcare 1 040 81
9. Electronics and Telecommunications 1 017 85
10. Manufacturing Industry 1 003 274
11. Transport and Logistics 934 86
12. Hotel, Catering and Tourism 803 150
13. Beauty Care and Hairdressing 748 115
14. Electrical and Mechanical Services 592 63
15. Real Estate 509 86
16. Fashion and Textile 435 155
17. Accounting 336 35
18. Insurance 290 36
19. Jewellery, Watch and Clock 237 46
20. Print Media and Publishing 131 38
21. Automobile 96 47
22. Environmental Industry 45 13
23. Testing and Certification 19 8
24. Security Services 3 2
  Total 22 754 3 399
Note: An enterprise may involve more than one industry. The enterprises are categorised by their principal industry in the above table.

(4) The Vocational Training Council (VTC) is currently the Secretariat for administering the RTTP, which is overseen by the Innovation and Technology Training Board of the VTC with the responsibility of determining the technology training courses eligible for subsidy under the RTTP such that the courses could better suit the needs of enterprises. The Secretariat has been maintaining liaison with trade associations, industry organisations, professional bodies and course providers to keep abreast of the latest trend in technology training, and encouraging course providers to enhance communication with applicant enterprises and industry organisations, etc, and to take into account trainees' feedback. The Secretariat has also conducted regular surveys to gauge the feedback of participating enterprises and the feedback is largely positive. The latest round of survey showed that almost 90 per cent of the surveyed enterprises considered that the courses under the RTTP had a good or excellent effect in enhancing the knowledge and skills of their employees. The ITC will continue to make timely assessments and adjustments to the RTTP so as to continuously optimise the programme.
Ends/Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Issued at HKT 12:30
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