A public consultation currently taking place regarding the future development of Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) proposes two options - maintain the existing two-runway system or expand to three runways.
According to estimates by the Airport Authority's consultant, under the three-runway development option, around 97,000 "job-years" related mainly to construction and engineering activities would be generated during 2012-2030. A job-year is defined as one person employed full time for one year. In another survey done in late 2010 among some 400 companies operating on the airport island, the respondents said roughly 50 per cent of the anticipated jobs would be manual or low-skilled.
"The development anticipated for either option will involve infrastructure construction which will provide opportunities for local professionals to use and develop their skills. As Hong Kong is currently in need of employment opportunities for manual/low-skilled labour, the expansion of HKIA would contribute towards filling this gap," says an Airport Authority spokesperson.
Recruitment specialist Eunice Ng, director at Avanza Consulting, says if the third runway proposal goes ahead, there will be robust employment opportunities, ranging from engineering and operational level to front line people servicing customers, guest services and retail people. "There would also be demand for property management services and security people," says Ng.
Max Connop, executive director of Aedas, believes that plans to improve and expand transport nodes to support the growing business and financial demands of Hong Kong are necessary. However, they should address cultural, social, economic and sustainability factors. He says aviation is at the core of Hong Kong's success, supporting the financial, political, cultural and social ambitions of the city.
"In our experience as airport and transport designers, it is vital that the requirements of passengers, airlines, operators, retailers, and other stakeholders are thoroughly understood, properly addressed and effectively balanced, alongside innovation and design excellence," he says.
"We need to ensure we have an optimum mix of operational requirements, commercial revenue, safety and security, property development and urban regeneration opportunities based around sustainable design and community engagement," says Connop.
Neil Bentley, Aecom sector managing director for aviation in Asia, says the construction of the third runway represents a large and complex engineering project. "If it is going to be built, all facets of Hong Kong's economy and available labour force will benefit from the construction," he says.
Aecom has been appointed by the Airport Authority as one of its nine consultants for the development of the Hong Kong International Airport Master Plan 2030, and is responsible for providing consultancy services in airport facilities planning.
"The opportunity to work on major projects in Hong Kong provides the type of experience which is very hard to come by in other places. The opportunities for skills development available in Hong Kong are second to none," says George Ramsbottom, vice-chairman of the Institution of Civil Engineers - Hong Kong Association (ICE HKA).
"The knowledge and experience that can be gained by young engineers provide good grounding that would allow them to work anywhere in the world."
He adds that projects including the proposed third runway would create similar opportunities. "Engineers who worked on the airport core projects in the 1990s have progressed to become senior figures in the engineering industry," Ramsbottom adds.