How Hong Kong is Preparing its Workforce to Capture High-Value Growth

Dr. David Chung

Under Secretary for Innovation and Technology of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government

March 26, 2019

Every government is trying to find the formula for creating an advanced, high-growth economy. In Hong Kong, we are working to diversify our economy away from finance and tourism and reinvent our manufacturing sector by investing in “Industry 4.0” or the next-generation of innovation—Artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and Internet of Things.

To capture higher economic growth, the Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) was established in 1967 and partially funded by the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government to promote innovation and enhance productivity in small and medium-sized (SME) businesses.

Upgrading SME manufacturing firms with smart technologies

The Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) helps traditional small and medium-sized (SMEs) manufacturing firms transform themselves and upgrade to the latest “smart” technologies. While many of Hong Kong’s factories are located across the border in Shenzhen in Southern China, the business headquarters still reside in Hong Kong. However, even in Shenzhen, labour costs are high and factories need to automate in order to survive and remain competitive. SMEs need to learn how to install “Internet of Things” and automated manufacturing technologies to improve their industrial processes.

HKPC helps SMEs upgrade to new technologies in artificial intelligence, robotics, and Internet of Things in two main ways:

  • Offering consulting services on how to automate their manufacturing processes.

  • Providing training in new tech skills in AI, machine learning, and data science.

We partner with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US and the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany who provide expert consultants on automation and AI.

Partnering with Udemy to provide online training in tech skills

In order to capture high-growth and high-value economic activity in Hong Kong, talent is a major issue we need to address and training is the critical step to reaching our goal.

To upskill our SME workforce, HKPC’s Academy provides a training programme that blends an online and offline curriculum. While HKPC charges fees for the training programme, the Government subsidises two-thirds of the cost for SME employees via the Reindustrialisation and Technology Training Programme (RTTP). Previously, we offered instructor-led courses in the classroom only, but we’ve recently added online training components. Employees at businesses are busy and don’t have time to attend long physical classes. Instead, we can focus our offline component on hands-on projects or customized courses related to a company’s specific manufacturing processes.

HKPC partners with Udemy for Government to provide online training on AI, robotics, and data science for our SME companies. HKPC has been looking for an online partner for a while and launched a partnership with Udemy last November 2018. Udemy is a good choice because their course content is up to date and affordable.

I feel online learning on Udemy offers many benefits for our SME employees. With the speed of technology innovation, training courses created a year ago are irrelevant. Udemy’s efficient content creation process keeps pace with rapid technology change. The second benefit of online learning is the on-demand aspect. If employees have some free time, they can learn an hour or so and at their own pace.

Finally, the Government also offers 3-year internship subsidies for companies that hire graduates of STEM university programmes to enable them to gain valuable experience and ensure this critical talent stays in Hong Kong to work in the innovation and technology industry.

Investing in R&D to stimulate growth in new high-tech startups

Second, the Hong Kong SAR government is investing in R&D to stimulate the growth of new high-tech startups in areas like AI, Internet of Things, and data science. Through innovating new products, we hope to reclaim high-value and high-tech manufacturing in Hong Kong. We have committed around $100 billion Hong Kong dollars to invest in new R&D capabilities, build related infrastructure, talent development and develop R&D partnerships with key global institutions. We’ve announced two major research clusters: 1) AI and Robotics and 2) Health-related Tech and we’re bringing in experts from world-renowned universities like Stanford and Harvard etc.

Our goal is to increase the component of R&D as part of our GDP. Currently, we spend around 0.8% of our GDP on R&D but we want to double this percentage and reach 1.5% in three years. We’re also combining this investment with super R&D taxes deduction to incentivise private companies.

Through R&D innovation, Hong Kong hopes to find our niche in high-tech and high-value manufacturing. For example, cutting-edge research is enabling new startups in new niche product and services like vertical farming and sustainable recycled textiles.

Digitizing the service economy

HKPC is also focusing our Udemy training programmes to digitize the service economy as well. We help SMEs in e-commerce, finance, logistics, tourism, retail, and healthcare upgrade their skills in new data science, AI, machine learning, automation, and Internet of Things as well. We’re also working with the Hong Kong SAR government’s IT department to digitise public services end-to-end with the Internet of Things and upskill civil servants in the latest tech skills as well.

Finally, current unemployment in Hong Kong is quite low, so the only way forward is to upgrade our current workforce with new digital skills. Training is the critical step to reaching our goals of capturing high-value economic growth in Hong Kong.

For more information and to request a Udemy for Government demo, click here.

About the author:

David Chung Wai-Keung JP is the Under Secretary for Innovation and Technology of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) Government. Prior to being appointed to this position, Dr Chung worked as Chief Technology Officer and Head of the IT Office at the Hong Kong Cyberport Management Company Limited. He was the winner of the "China Top 5 CIO Award" in 2013.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at business@udemy.com

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