Promising Prospects for IT Professionals
Prof. K.F. Wong
Associate Dean, External Affairs, the Faculty of Engineering, CUHK
President, Hong Kong Information Technology Joint Council
Prof. Wong is an academic and a scientific researcher who often interacts with the information technology sector in order to catch the latest developments in the field and to foster a deeper understanding of tertiary education in the IT sector.
In order to help students find their ideal job, the Faculty of Engineering in the Chinese University of Hong Kong organizes various career talks, workshops and seminars on specific IT topics so that students can learn the developments in the IT sector and better prepare themselves before graduation. In the case of career talks, companies of different sizes will come or will be invited to come and introduce their background and vacancies available. Students can take this opportunity to talk directly to the company representatives and find out more about how the company operates and what the requirements of a specific job are.
Notwithstanding the speculations that the IT job market will stay stagnant, statistics of job vacancies and career talks organized in the past two months show that the number of IT related jobs will double, reflecting keen market demand for IT professionals. The recovery of the IT industry is faster than expected and the sector has almost shaken off the gloom and doom of the financial tsunami. From my experience of organizing career talks and communication with the management of different companies in the past months, I have the following observations:
Firstly, I have realized that there are abundant IT job opportunities around. The Faculty of Engineering has recently received a lot of recruitment notices, the number of which has already exceeded the annual total last year, and most of these notices are from IT companies. A company usually provided 1-2 posts for university graduates in the past but the number of post has increased to 5-6 this year. I am pleased to see how fast these IT companies have expanded. I have learnt during my interaction with the visiting company representatives that some small companies with 40-50 employees have doubled in size in the past year. Quite a lot of companies expect that their revenue will continue to climb and thus have planned to increase manpower.
Foreseeing the shortage of IT professionals in the coming years, various organizations in the field have been actively working with tertiary institutions to train a new generation of science and engineering professionals. For example, the Communications Association of Hong Kong (CAHK) has rallied the support of local communications companies and launched the ICT Elite Incubation Program, which provides internship and elite training opportunities for students. Another example is the mentorship and internship programmes that provide hands on job training for students launched by the Hong Kong Medical & Healthcare Device Industries Association Limited (HKMHDIA).
The keen market demand for IT professionals is not just a localized but rather a global one. As part of their global recruitment efforts, various medium to large sized overseas corporations have come to hire local experts to work in their headquarters, among which are US and Japanese companies that have held recruitment seminars in CUHK. It is known that one company has 100 vacancies just for recruiting international IT graduates. There are two reasons why these companies come to recruit in HK: 1) Employers have confidence in the skills of HK graduates thanks to the good international rankings of our tertiary institutions; 2) They would like to enter the mainland market and HK graduates could help these companies set up in the mainland because of their advantages in bridging east-west cultures. In order to attract professionals, the US government will make suitable arrangements in issuing working visas.
In addition to the abundant job opportunities, I noticed that companies are providing good remuneration packages for graduates. According to the job vacancy statistics of the past few years, the average monthly salary for graduates is $13,000 - $14,000. However, as the demand for IT professionals becomes intense, employers who come to recruit this year have raised the salary to $17,000-18,000, some even to $20,000. A number of overseas companies who are recruiting in Hong Kong are offering even more competitive salary packages, with $500-600k basic annual salary to attract top graduates to work overseas. Besides, more and more IT companies are adopting a bonus system which rewards employees with a bonus, in some cases equals to more than 10-month salary, according to their performance.
In my meeting with some entrepreneurs, I found that they all agree the creativity of our youth is boundless. In order to provide a better environment for young employees to create, numerous IT companies have resolved to change the rigid, boring working environment into a comfortable, pleasant and energetic one in various ways, such as providing free snacks, drinks, games, and even after-work entertainments. These amenities are effective in stimulating creativity, for example of systems developers, whose job is known to be tough, and to whom a clear mind, good programming skills, and creativity are all indispensable. Some companies even provide each of their software engineers with the latest and chicest laptops and personal digital gadgets so as to motivate and boost staff morale.
We can conclude form the above observations that the prospects of IT industry are very promising. Looking back at the economic ups and downs in the past, I believe that we have to be farsighted and look beyond the present in education. We should endeavour to train cross disciplinary professionals as Hong Kong is a pluralist, knowledge-based society and it is only through such training that students can develop all-round capabilities which are essential in adapting to the ever-changing world. Cultivating a talented workforce is certainly the focus of education as it is the core capital of a knowledge-based society. I hope the new government would invest more resources in cultivating talent and advancing the culture of innovation.