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Coronavirus has been impacting Hong Kong since early February. Many people are facing a whirlwind of financial woes and an uphill battle to minimse the repercussions. Fresh graduates are no exception. Chief Secretary for Administration, Matthew Cheung Kin-chung, recently warned that it would be more difficult for university graduates to get a job between May and July, compared with previous years.

In light of this, HKBN recently debuted its #ToughTimesTogether — Career Kickstarter for Graduates programme, whereby 100 fresh graduates can have a three-month learning and career opportunity, starting in early June.

CY Chan, HKBN co-owner and chief talent & purpose officer, shares with Human Resources, the rationale and execution of planning a new programme during a time of great uncertainty.

What are the highlights of the new programme?

CY: This is a programme emphasising practical work experiences with inspiring mentorship. Candidates can choose the area of focus they wish to gain broader exposure in.

To help them kickstart their career, we’ll match that with three months of on-the-job training and mentorship from our top one percent of executives (about 70). This is an invaluable springboard for graduates to develop.

Successful trainees can also experience our unique culture and see how we puts values — such as entrepreneurship, disruptive innovation, continuous learning, and life-work priority — into practice.

How is the programme different from HKBN’s existing MT and trainee programmes?

CY: From the standpoint of target groups, duration and objectives, it is different from our existing Graduate Technical Trainees and “Summer Innovators” programmes.

However, in terms of overall mission, they all share a common goal to help develop youngsters and inspire them in their career journey.

In view of the current economic situation, we foresee that the job market for university graduates will be tough. By offering a three-month working experience, we hope to ease the transition for them to find a career, be it with HKBN or elsewhere.

This is quite different from our other HKBN trainee programmes like 'Graduate Technical Trainees', as the engagement period of 18-24 months is much longer, which is necessary to nurture young elite and tech savvy talents to build both technical and professional competencies in a fast-tracked journey to become leaders or “Summer Innovators” Programme, which aims to give a taste of the working world to undergraduates beyond what textbooks tell them so that they would be inspired to be future leaders of HKBN or society via an intensive eight-week journey.

How did HKBN come up with the idea and how did it get approved by the top management?

CY: In line with our core purpose to 'Make our Home a Better Place to Live', other than helping our customers and the underprivileged, we’ve continued to explore more options to help alleviate the current situation as best we can.

As economies continue to suffer and the academic year is drawing to a close, we recognise that university graduates are facing unprecedented challenges in their job search, and therefore we decided to extend #ToughTimesTogether to university graduates.

Once we had the idea of proposing a #ToughTimesTogether Wave 3 to help graduates, we acted (quickly) by getting alignment on the concept among our management committee members within three hours, and then worked out the details and officially launched the initiative in a week.

As everyone understood the sooner the programme launched, the earlier we would be able to provide support for graduates, our teams were highly supportive, and they contributed greatly to devising ways to maximise the gains of these 100 participants in a three-month window.

By offering HK$13,000 per month, the financial cost of this programme is around HK$4 million. We consider it a worthwhile 'investment' as the programme can go a very long way to change and inspire the 100 graduates. Of course, we also hope this will inspire other companies to do likewise.

What does HKBN expect graduates to learn from a three-month programme? Why is it so short?

CY: Even in normal circumstances, the gap between university and the practical working world is huge, and the pandemic has widened the gap even further.

We hope to prepare our graduates to get through the challenges and transition from campus life to full-time employment. In this three-month period, we will provide them with a place to learn and fail, and to build a two-way mentoring relationship with our top executives and to be inspired by their career achievements.

In most situations, it usually takes around three months for talents to acquire the job knowledge and experience to meaningfully become familiar with a business’s operations. As such, this programme is intentionally set on a three-month time window, which we hope will give each graduate enough knowledge and exposure to grasp what it is like to work in a high-pressure dynamic environment.

What kind of talents are HKBN looking for?

CY: Rather than simply focusing on GPA (grade point average) and academic results, we will select the ‘best-fit’ candidates for each specialisation. For example, we will have diverse selection criteria based on factors like their own interest area, mindset, learning agility, academic and exposures on extra-curricular activities to select the 100 ‘best-fit’ talents.