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Executive Director’s Message

The photo of Mr. Byron NG Kwok-keung, BBS, Executive Director of the Employees Retraining Board

Byron NG Kwok-keung, BBS
Executive Director
Employees Retraining Board 

The Employees Retraining Board (ERB) is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2017.  The year also marks the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong's returning to our Motherland.  Over the years, we experienced the peaks and troughs in our economy, as well as ups and downs in the employment market.  During this volatile era, under the general trend of globalisation and knowledge-driven economy, front-line jobs are also increasingly specialised.  People with enhanced professional skills have access to more employment opportunities and job options.  It is crystal clear that continuous improvement of vocational skills both in terms of width and depth is the key to career development and upward mobility.

To adapt to the ever changing employment market and to enhance our employability, we need to “add value” to ourselves.  To put it simply, “value-adding” is closely related to “studying” and “continuous learning”.  In 2016-17, a record high of over 120,000 trainees enrolled in the training courses of ERB.  Among them, training courses targeted at certain labour-intensive industries, including domestic services; environmental services; property management and security; catering; Chinese healthcare and Health Care were more popular.  We witness a trend that industries are moving towards professionalisation, and people are increasingly aware of the importance of “upgrading and value-adding” to their personal as well as career development.

The proportion of women and mature persons in the overall trainee population is increasing gradually, indicating that age and family commitments are posing fewer obstacles to training and employment.  We will continue our efforts in supporting social groups with special needs, women and mature persons inclusive.  We will step up our work in the development of dedicated courses and services for special target groups with a view to preparing them to enter the world of work and addressing their career aspirations.

In 2017-18, ERB plans to provide 130,000 training places.  Among them, about 52,000 training places are for placement-tied courses and 78,000 for “Skills Upgrading Scheme Plus” courses and generic skills training courses.  To promptly react to changes in the society and the employment market, we have earmarked another 40,000 training places as reserve, of which 10,000 will be used for organising the “We Love Upgrading Scheme” to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of ERB.

Course development is always a major task of ERB.  We are committed to improving our existing portfolio of courses on a continuous basis, developing course series and exploring new courses with employment potentials.  We will make reference to the Specification of Competency Standards (SCS) for human resources management sector soon to be issued and develop a series of related “SCS-based” courses.  In response to the interest of the public in physical fitness and street workout activities, a new course series on fitness coach training is being launched.  Other subjects under our course series development plan include real estate agency, beauty therapy, hairdressing, business, as well as workplace languages.

In 2015-16, ERB spearheaded the “First-hire-then-train” programme to assist middle-aged women and homemakers to land on jobs in elderly homes as care workers.  In 2016-17, we partnered with more employers of the healthcare industry to continue the programme, and extended it to cover the hotel industry for training of hotel room attendants.  In 2017-18, we will examine whether the “First-hire-then-train” arrangements can be experimented in other industries (e.g. catering).  On the other hand, we will review the effectiveness of the “Modular Certificates Accumulation Scheme” and consider how best to extend it to cover other courses such as the “Foundation Certificate in Infant and Child Care Worker Training”.

In 2017-18, we will launch the “Squad 3S Tailor-made Course” to provide one-stop training and employment support services to young people with a view to assisting them to land on high-end property management and security jobs.

To ensure the quality of our training courses and services, we will administer a series of regular monitoring measures including annual audit, class visits, assessment observations and surprise inspections.  We will also conduct targeted inspections on specific quality assurance subjects covering all training bodies within a designated time period.  Depending on circumstances, we will offer professional advice and support to help training bodies develop a management culture conducive to quality assurance and improve their implementation systems.

In April 2017, we implemented improvement measures to the “Smart Starter” referral platform for part-time jobs to better meet the employment needs of new arrivals.  In May of the same year, we have completed the performance review of the “ERB Service Spots” set up in Kwai Tsing and Tsuen Wan.  In view of its effectiveness and satisfactory result, we will in early 2018 set up 12 “ERB Service Spots” in Kowloon West, to step up our efforts in promoting ERB training courses and services to the public at the district level.  We will also review the effectiveness of the “Smart Living” and “Smart Baby Care” schemes, and consider developing a dedicated mobile application to tie in with the inclination of people in accessing information through their mobile phones.

It is estimated that the working population of Hong Kong will reach its peak in 2018 and start declining, different industries are expected to face with persistent manpower shortage problems.  To help unleash the latent workforce, we will further strengthen our support services for social groups with special needs by assisting them to enter the employment market.  We will develop more dedicated courses such as property maintenance, airport ground handling or customer service courses for ethnic minorities; art, plumbing engineering and wood carving courses for young people; and training on workplace communication skills for new arrivals.  We will organise thematic workshops to enhance the understanding of employers and training bodies of the characteristics and employment needs of persons with disabilities and persons recovered from work injuries.  We will also study the feasibility of providing training consultancy service in the form of video conference so that target clients can discuss their training needs and career pathways with training consultants in an environment they prefer.

We will continue improving our “Workplace Re-entry Activity Series” to help mature persons acquire confidence to re-enter the employment market and motivate employers to recruit mature persons.  We will continue to organise career talks for upper secondary students, including students of ethnic minority origin and special schools and sub-degree level.  More work experience activities and a summer internship programme will be rolled out in parallel to help students plan for their future.

Build on the past, prepare for the future.  I can feel the challenges and responsibilities ahead in joining ERB at its 25th Anniversary.  I fully appreciate the “people-oriented” service philosophy of ERB, and am confident that with the guidance of the Board and by collaborating with the Government, employers, trade unions, training bodies and all stakeholders, we will continue doing our best to assist Hong Kong people to “study” and “upgrade and value-add” on different fronts.  I appeal to members of the public to make the best use of our training courses and services to enhance their skill levels and build up a right mindset to prepare for breakthroughs in personal as well as career development.