A host of new vocational schemes offering foreign companies the chance to access government-subsidised apprenticeship programmes – which will enable local employees to develop highly tailored skills to match firms’ needs – will help Hong Kong retain its appeal as one of Asia’s foremost FDI destinations, Eddie Ng Hak-kim, Hong Kong’s secretary for education, asserted in an interview. The city-state's ageing population has become a concern for the government in recent years, but Mr Ng said that by developing world-class educational programmes, Hong Kong can position itself to adapt to the competitive pressures of international investment, and he remained confident that the city will retain its appeal to international companies.

“Hong Kong’s population dividend is fading, and the average age of our workforce is 42 years old,” said Mr Ng. “Yet this is part of a wider trend in Asia, and we have put in place several measures to manage this risk. We have a strategic education plan for the future, and we want to focus first on the younger generation and ensure that they flourish. We have worked to build a solid qualification framework and the government remains confident that our focus on creating a high-quality workforce means that we will remain attractive to foreign companies.”

Advertisement

Pointing to a host of measures that have focused on boosting the educational attainment of young and university-level students, as well as enhancing the skill-base of the city’s workforce, Mr Ng said that the government was looking to consolidate its reputation of having Asia’s most advanced educational facilities. Building on a comprehensive educational reform that was started in 2000, some of the newest policies that will be implemented this year include a guarantee of 15 years of free, state-funded education. Also, the government’s move to deepen its educational ties with foreign universities, such as its decision to collaborate with 78 universities in China to facilitate student exchange programmes, shows that Hong Kong’s reforms will remain outward facing.

“Hong Kong will always remain international in its focus,” said Mr Ng. “It is a small city with just 17 universities so we recognise that there is a capacity limitation. We have gone around this issue by collaborating with other countries and we have seen positive results. For example, Chicago Booth Business School, based in the US, set up its Asia campus for MBA programmes in Hong Kong. Hong Kong needs to continuously build its global talent and to that end, we have also provided 100 global scholarships for our outstanding students, provided that they are willing to come back and build Hong Kong’s future.”

Another key pillar of the government’s reform efforts will be the development of vocational educational programmes. According to Mr Ng, these programmes will be designed to ensure that the skill-base of the city’s current workforce, as well as its future employees, will remain relevant to the evolving needs of foreign businesses.

“Hong Kong needs to diversify its educational offerings, and we will work to promote vocational education as an alternative, but equally suitable, form of qualification,” explained Mr Ng. “We have looked at apprenticeship schemes in countries such as Germany, which have been very successful, and we have a task force that will create a strategy for these vocational training schemes.”