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Skills shortage mounts amid boom in hiring
Published on Friday, 03 Jun 2011

These are the best of times - if you're a job-seeker with the required experience, or the worst of times - if you're a human resources manager scrambling to find that perfect candidate while fending off rivals keen to poach your top talent.

In the latest Hudson Report on employment and HR trends for April to June this year, hiring expectations in Hong Kong hit a record high, with 69 per cent of the 550 executives surveyed saying they will be recruiting more staff in the second quarter.

This compares with an even higher 77 per cent on the mainland and 61 per cent in Singapore, based on a survey of 1,650 executives, across the three markets.

In Hong Kong, hiring expectations are particularly high in sectors such as legal services, information technology and telecoms (IT&T), banking and finance, consumer, as well as media, public relations and advertising.

As regional economies - and consumer spending - continue to recover, it's no surprise that sales professionals are in big demand.

James Carss, executive general manager of Hudson, Hong Kong, attributes this to employers' optimism over their business prospects and plans for growth.

"We are finding that these are extremely active roles in many sectors and employers are struggling to find the required volumes of high-calibre candidates," he adds.

Asked about the most critical HR challenges over the next six months, 39 per cent of the local respondents cited the difficulty of hiring staff who fit the job requirements, while 36 per cent said it was retaining top talent.

"I believe this relates to the acute skills shortage in Hong Kong in many specialised roles," Carss says.

"Hong Kong is a very attractive destination for overseas candidates. However, many of them lack the specific skills and sometimes mandatory local skills and language ability that may exist," he says.

This suitability problem is especially serious in the IT&T sector, which is probably the most demanding in terms of technical requirements of certain roles, says Carss.

"There is also an acute global shortage of those candidates, so it is a huge concern," he adds.

Although the survey was done before the March earthquake in Japan, Carss believes such external threats are not among the chief concerns of Hong Kong's HR practitioners.