Anti-epidemic Fund to support construction industry in training
Hong Kong’s economy has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and the construction industry is inevitably affected with its unemployment rate continuously rising. New graduates of the relevant professional sectors and assistant professionals who have just completed professional training this year may face difficulties in finding jobs. The Government earlier announced that targeted measures would be swiftly introduced under the Anti-epidemic Fund (AEF) to provide subsidy for employers to create opportunities for both on-the-job and practical training for the industry. This time, I would like to introduce the details of the support measures and invite the Legislative Council (LegCo) members representing the industry to share their expectations on the scheme.
1 500 training subsidy places for new graduates
Currently, if employers of the engineering sector provide recognised training under the Scheme “A” Graduate Training (generally known as Scheme A) of the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers to each new graduate, they can apply for a monthly subsidy of $5,610 from the Vocational Training Council for a period of 18 months. The Labour and Welfare Bureau will increase the subsidy places to 1 000 from 272 this year.
Meanwhile, the Development Bureau (DEVB) has launched similar support measures specifically for the architectural, surveying, town planning and landscape (ASPL) sectors. Employers can apply for a salary subsidy of $5,610 per month from the DEVB for providing professional training to each employed new graduate of these sectors. The subsidy period is also up to 18 months and a total of 500 subsidy places will be provided.
1 250 training subsidy places for assistant professionals
For assistant engineers who complete recognised training within this year but still need to obtain practical work experience, or assistant professionals who complete recognised training within this year and satisfy the admission criteria of the professional assessments in the ASPL sectors, we will also provide salary subsidies to their employers through the AEF with a view to encouraging the private sector to employ these young assistant professionals and offer them practical training opportunities.
The approved employers can apply for a salary subsidy of $10,000 per month from the DEVB for providing opportunities for recognised professional practice to each eligible assistant professional employed. The period of the subsidy is up to 12 months. A total of 1 250 subsidy places will be provided, with 750 for the engineering sector and 500 for the APSL sectors.
Engineering sector signing up for the Charter to support the scheme
According to the LegCo member representing the engineering constituency, Mr LO Wai-kwok, the subsidy scheme has received positive feedback from the sector, which has recently initiated to sign up for the Charter, pledging to use and help promote the scheme. He says that every year, engineering graduates are keen to receive formal engineer training. However, due to the epidemic, there is a business downturn for some engineering companies, which cannot spare the resources to train new graduates or employ trainees who have just completed training. The situation is worrying. This time, by providing actual subsidies for training and professional practice, the Government is providing the sector with very useful support to continue to nurture young engineers to take up the baton despite the epidemic and the overall economic slump.
Timely assistance to ASPL sectors
The LegCo member representing the ASPL constituency, Mr TSE Wai-chuen, Tony, says that there are as many as 1 000 graduates in these sectors every year. This year, they are worried that many companies will not only stop hiring but even downsize amid the epidemic. Having said that, since the Government has responded swiftly to the situation and launched the subsidy scheme, companies are provided with “timely assistance” and new graduates no longer have to worry about becoming unemployed after graduation. Companies of various sizes, with graduates in their employ or with assistant professionals in their training programmes, have said to him that they will gladly take part in the scheme.
Helping the industry nurture successors
Each graduate or assistant professional has to put in years of efforts and work hard before they can obtain professional qualifications to take up the major responsibility for the future infrastructure and city developments in Hong Kong. If there is a brain drain of such talents under the impact of the epidemic, it will be a great loss to both the industry and Hong Kong. I hope that the above targeted support measures can help the graduates and assistant professionals seek employment so that they can put what they have learnt to good use. At the same time, I am hopeful that the measures can help the industry retain talents and provide continuous training to groom their successors.
Regarding the subsidy under the Scheme “A” Graduate Training, the application has closed recently. Other support measures are now open for application from relevant employers until 18 July. Employers who are interested to join can visit the website of the DEVB.
Hoping public works projects to commence on schedule
Nevertheless, it is equally important that some public works projects can commence on schedule. Last Wednesday (24 June), the LegCo’s Public Works Subcommittee (PWSC) had its last meeting of the current term. Thanks to Chairman Mr LO Wai-kwok for expediting the process of scrutiny, 12 funding projects were approved on that day, involving an amount of $19.8 billion. However, we are disappointed that the funding proposal for an engineering study for Lung Kwu Tan reclamation could not be approved. We will submit the proposal for scrutiny in the new term of LegCo and work hard to make up for lost time, so that the project can commence as soon as possible.
Currently, within the remainder of the current session, the Finance Committee (FC) has yet to approve more than 50 funding proposals which have gone through the PWSC, involving more than $46 billion. One of the projects is the studies related to artificial islands around Kau Yi Chau in the Central Waters. We expect the FC to expedite the scrutiny process and approve all funding proposals as soon as possible to benefit the economy, improve people’s livelihood and provide more job opportunities.
28 June, 2020