This undated file photo shows Hong Kong Science Park in Sha Tin. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)
Hong Kong authorities and universities are ramping up efforts to augment the city’s technology talent pool and meet the growing demand from tech companies.
The special administrative region’s goal of becoming an international innovation and technology hub has made innovative applications an inevitable trend.
Apart from the digital transformation fueled by the pandemic, which has increased the need for tech talents, Hong Kong has invested heavily in the innovation and technology sector with the SAR government creating official bodies, improving regulatory systems, and incubating startups and entrepreneurs
Apart from the digital transformation fueled by the pandemic, which has increased the need for tech talents, Hong Kong has invested heavily in the innovation and technology sector with the SAR government creating official bodies, improving regulatory systems, and incubating startups and entrepreneurs.
According to a report by the FinTech Association of Hong Kong, most of the 77 tech-related companies polled this year see the SAR as the best regional tech hub to develop businesses, including artificial intelligence and big data. More than 80 percent of the respondents plan to increase their headcounts in the city, indicating a strong demand for tech talents.
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Andy Kwan Cheuk-chiu, director of the ACE Centre for Business and Economic Research, said Hong Kong’s culture of innovation and technology is still in its infancy and more university graduates are needed.
In this year’s Diploma of Secondary Education examination — the local university entrance exam — none of the top eight students said they intend to study technology-related subjects, with medical courses remaining their favorite picks.
“It seems like we still don’t have enough top students who could really make the grade in the high-tech industry,” said Kwan. The priority is to encourage university students to adapt themselves to the new economy.
Zhou Xiaofang, Otto Poon professor of engineering and chair professor of computer science and engineering at The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, believes that Hong Kong has distinct advantages in nurturing innovative minds, given the city’s top-notch tertiary education level.
According to the 2022 QS World University Rankings, five Hong Kong universities are among the world’s top 100 tertiary education institutions.
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Zhou said higher educational institutions have been constantly reviewing and updating their plans to cultivate talents to answer the fast-changing needs of society.
Last year, the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology rolled out the city’s first tech-related academic framework, “major + AI”, to help students keep abreast with cutting-edge artificial intelligence applications that have been widely used in the workplace.
The City University of Hong Kong, as the first local university to establish a school of data science, spent HK$500 million ($63.7 million) on its innovation and entrepreneurship program, “HK Tech 300”, to incubate 300 startups in three years by offering training schemes and venture capital.
Other universities, including the University of Hong Kong, The Chinese University of Hong Kong and Hong Kong Polytechnic University, have also introduced various initiatives to help tech talents integrate into the city’s robust innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem.
The SAR government, in an attempt to speed up nurturing tech talent, has been adopting a multi-pronged approach to reinforce Hong Kong’s role as a magnet for talent. Programs like the STEM Internship Scheme and the Research Talent Hub are designed to provide incentives or subsidies for individuals and companies. The Global STEM Professorship Scheme supports universities in recruiting renowned scholars in innovation and technology subjects from across the globe.
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Praising the efforts Hong Kong has made in the past few years, Zhou said one way to beef up the local talent pool is to offer more funding to universities to raise the student intake, especially those taking the master’s and doctorate programs.
Zhou said the five percent acceptance rate for master’s programs in big data technology meant letting go of many outstanding applicants who may then go elsewhere.
“Although the number of applications for admission to local universities has seen explosive growth in recent years, universities find it hard to raise the student intake due to funding considerations, lecturers’ workload and limited space,” said Zhou. “A moderate increase in the acceptance rate to 10, or even 20 percent, actually, would have little impact on the quality of students and teaching, and would help market supply to a great extent.”
Joe Qin, dean of the School of Data Science at the City University of Hong Kong, said the priority now is to retain talented technical minds and resolve the talent shortage amid the growing labor demand from tech companies.
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“Today’s world allows Hong Kong graduates to vote with their feet in pursuing their careers wherever they want,” said Qin. Retaining such technically-talented individuals in the workplace or for them to start a business in Hong Kong will be a treasure in consolidating the city’s tech-driven economy.
Qin said more efforts should be made to create a favorable environment for the fast-growing high-tech sector, such as increasing benefit packages and streamlining the approval process in applications for technological funds. “These will make Hong Kong a more attractive place for both home-grown and overseas tech talents, and can thus fill the evolving market needs.”