With 10 major infrastructure projects underway, along with new massive MTR jobs, Hong Kong can't seem to get enough engineers. "There is a keen competition for engineering graduates," says Catherine Tsui, Arup's human resources director in East Asia.
"We are an organically grown firm and we take in 60 to 70 graduates in Hong Kong to ensure we grow from within. We look at graduates from other places as well, from famous universities in the US and Britain, to widen our talent pool," Tsui says.
The 1,650-employee company encompasses several disciplines and a range of practices.
Tsui says they value teamwork, communication skills as well as flexibility.
"Our forte is innovative design. We want our graduates to be flexible and come up with innovative ideas. They have to be physically flexible as well. Hong Kong is the regional headquarters. We move quite a lot of staff to other places such as China or Vietnam," she adds.
Arup wants graduates who understand that it takes time to build the foundations of the profession. They seek people who are committed to their career and to building the profession with the company.
According to Gary Cheung, a graduate trainee who has been with Arup for 32 months and is close to becoming a chartered engineer, the biggest challenge is the transition from university to real-life engineering. "There are so many things to learn and there's never enough time," he says.
Arup has 10 accredited training schemes with the Hong Kong Institution of Engineers, and it takes two to three years to finish the formal training schemes under the watchful eyes of designated engineering supervisors.
Within that period, they also get exposed to related disciplines.
"We are a total-design firm, and offer [new hires] the opportunity to rotate their jobs to related disciplines to understand how the whole project should be implemented. The duration [of the job rotation] is about six months," Cheung says.
There are several educational tools that can enhance one's skills, he adds. Arup University, set up two years ago, offers modules at BA and MA levels. A PhD is possible in co-operation with local universities such as the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The "Early Development Programme", set up last year, offered 27 places for international training, and six local engineers went to the US and Britain for a two-year training period.
"We place a lot of emphasis on ethics. We have a local code of practice and have recently launched an e-learning platform. We invite the ICAC every year to give a lunch-time talk as fresh graduates come on board," says Tsui.
Cheung appreciates the lunch-time talks at which staff members discuss their projects. He also likes the in-house "skill network" - a web forum where new and experienced members can swap ideas.
"When we have any problems, we can sit together and help each other. It is a very effective way to get experience," he says.