LCQ11: Pilot Earn and Learn Scheme for Retail Industry
Following is a question by the Hon Ho Kai-ming and a written reply by the Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development, Mr Gregory So, in the Legislative Council today (November 9):
The Government, the Vocational Training Council (VTC) and the Hong Kong Retail Management Association (HKRMA) jointly launched in 2014 a Pilot Earn and Learn Scheme for the Retail Industry (the Pilot Scheme) to provide student-workers with an opportunity to "earn and learn" as well as a well-defined progression pathway, aiming to attract talents to join the retail industry. In respect of the Foundation Diploma (FD) programme under the Pilot Scheme, the first cohort of student-workers graduated in March this year and the second cohort will graduate in February next year. Upon graduation, if the student-workers are to become full-time employees of the same employer as during the training period, they will be entitled to a monthly income of not less than $11,000, which includes basic salary and commission. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the number of graduates in the first cohort of the FD programme, and among such graduates, the number of those who are at present still employed by the same employer as during the training period;
(2) whether it knows the total number of positions offered to the graduates in the first cohort of the FD programme by the employers participating in the Pilot Scheme; among such positions, the respective numbers of those with a basic salary of more than and less than $11,000 per month; among the positions with a basic salary of less than $11,000 per month, the respective numbers of those with a basic salary of less than $5,000, between $5,000 and $7,000, between $7,001 and $9,000, and more than $9,000;
(3) whether it knows the number of the second cohort of student-workers studying in the FD programme; the total number of confirmed positions to be offered to such student-workers by the employers concerned; among such positions, the respective numbers of those with a basic salary of more than and less than $11,000 per month; and
(4) regarding the steering group comprising representatives from VTC, HKRMA and the Government, of the details of its work in monitoring the operation and progress of the Pilot Scheme over the past two years; whether the steering group will consider inviting trade union representatives to join the group so as to enhance its communication with trade unions in the industry; if the steering group will, when such invitation will be extended; if not, of the reasons for that?
To alleviate the manpower tightening problem of the retail industry, the Government launched in 2014 three measures for its manpower development. As one of these measures, the Earn and Learn Pilot Scheme for the Retail Industry (the Pilot Scheme), implemented by the Vocational Training Council (VTC) in partnership with the Hong Kong Retail Management Association (HKRMA), enables Secondary Six graduates to attend classes on campus while acquiring work experience with participating employers and receiving a Government allowance of $2,000 per month. It aims to ease the manpower strain of the retail industry and attract aspiring youngsters to join the retail workforce.
My reply to the various parts of the Hon Ho's question is as follows:
(1) The first cohort of student-workers of the Foundation Diploma (FD) programme under the Pilot Scheme, 161 in total, graduated in March this year. The VTC plans to conduct a total of three post-graduation tracking surveys over a period of two years to follow their situation. The first survey was launched in August this year, with responses received from 86 graduates by mid-October representing a response rate of 53 per cent. An interim analysis of these responses is given below.
Among the respondents, over 40 per cent (35 respondents) have joined the retail workforce, with half of them (17 respondents) employed by the companies that have provided them with the internship placements and the other half (18 respondents) by other retail companies. Nine respondents have pursued a career in industries other than retail, while 31 respondents are taking higher diploma or associate degree courses in other disciplines or considering further studies. The remaining 11 respondents have yet to decide on a definite path they wish to take. The VTC will follow up with those graduates who have not yet responded to encourage them to return the questionnaires. The VTC plans to conduct the remaining two tracking surveys in the third quarter of 2017 and 2018 respectively.
(2) As pointed out in the funding proposal for the Pilot Scheme submitted to the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council, employers will offer a salary of no less than $11,000 per month, which may include basic salary, commission and allowances, to the graduates of the FD programme if they become full-time employees of the companies that have provided them with the internship placements.
According to the above interim analysis, 17 of the respondents are now employed by companies that have provided them with the internship placements, with eight of them being full-time and nine being part-time employees. All of the full-time employees are receiving a salary of no less than $11,000 per month, which includes basic salary, commission and allowances. Their average basic salary is over $9,300.
(3) As at mid-October this year, there are 104 student-workers in the second cohort of the FD programme under the Pilot Scheme. It is expected that they will complete the programme in February 2017. Same with the arrangement for the first cohort of graduates, employers will offer a salary of no less than $11,000 per month, which may include basic salary, commission and allowances, to these graduates if they become full-time employees of the companies that have provided them with the internship placements. As the student-workers of the second cohort have yet to complete the programme and decide on their paths after graduation, we are unable to provide employment information as such for the time being.
(4) The Government will continue to monitor the operation and progress of the Pilot Scheme, particularly the working conditions of graduates joining the retail industry, through a steering group comprising representatives from the Government, the VTC and the HKRMA. For over two years since the Pilot Scheme was implemented, the steering group has advised on such areas as course arrangements, ancillary learning support and internship placements for students, and the comments were then followed up by the VTC and the HKRMA. The steering group is of the view that the Pilot Scheme is generally running smoothly, and it will continue to closely monitor the learning and placement arrangements for student-workers as well as their situation after graduation. In addition, the VTC keeps abreast of the developments of the retail industry through the Retail Trade Training Board (RTTB), which comprises stakeholders of the retail industry (including employee representatives of the industry), so as to ensure that the VTC's vocational and professional education and training can meet the anticipated manpower requirements of the industry. The RTTB has been advising the VTC on curriculum development, course planning and quality assurance issues, including following up on the implementation of the Pilot Scheme on a regular basis. The RTTB acknowledged the positive impact of the Pilot Scheme and considered it conducive to nurturing new talents for the industry. It also noted that the internship placement of student-workers had inspired improvement in the existing staff's attitude towards continuous learning.
We will do our best to implement and improve the Pilot Scheme and provide graduates with a clear articulation and career ladder, which will help inject new impetus into the retail industry and enhance its professional service standards.
Ends/Wednesday, November 9, 2016