"Our motto is `Developing the leaders of tomorrow'. We provide students [the opportunity] to challenge themselves and develop their practical and leadership skills to pursue a professional career in today's global society," says Agnes Chan, regional managing partner for Hong Kong and Macau at Ernst & Young. "We want to develop leaders who are competitive, entrepreneurial, socially responsible, and who have global perspective."
The three-year programme will enrol 120 first-year students with strong academic records, analytical and organisational skills, excellent written and spoken English and Chinese, and enthusiasm. "The [EYA] is specially designed for first-year undergraduates in Hong Kong," says Loretta Shuen, EYA programme partner-in-charge.
The first-year students join the programme as cadets and undergo a corporate social responsibility (CSR) challenge. This year, the theme of the competition is "CSR - Together we make a better world". Cadets will also participate in ice breaking, team building, and networking events, and technical and soft skill training, including presentation skills, and, finally, the case competition.
"We chose CSR as the theme of the challenge because we not only want our EY cadets to be outstanding employees, but also responsible citizens of the world," says Shuen.
The challenge has three phases: research, project day and CSR challenge finals. The project day is based on discussion groups in which assessors select outstanding cadets who will be short-listed for the finale.
The CSR challenge finals are also based on group work. Each group will have 10 minutes to present an implementation plan for a research project, after which they will face 10 minutes of questions.
The stakes are high, as the champion team will be awarded a HK$30,000 cash prize, with HK$15,000 for the first runner-up, and HK$10,000 for the second runner-up.
About 50 per cent of the EYA cadets will be awarded internship opportunities - 40 per cent in the firm's Hong Kong office and the top 10 per cent in the Shanghai and Beijing offices. The top 5 per cent of participants will have the chance to represent Hong Kong at the Ernst & Young Annual International Intern Leadership Conference in Orlando, Florida.
In the second year, students - now promoted to senior cadets - will undertake leadership training, work shadowing, real-life case sharing and internships. In the third year, cadet leaders will attend coaching, mentorship and networking events.
"This is more than a management training programme," says Chan. "[We aim] to develop socially responsible future business leaders."
Ernst & Young is also increasing its intake of fresh graduates this year to 400 from about 300 last year. Recruitment for their Hong Kong Graduate Programme starts from end-October. Offers are given in late December or early January. Strong performers at the EYA may be fast-tracked on to the programme.