Learning through "give-and-take"

Karen Lai


The summer of 2003 proved to be very rewarding for 40 Associate Degree students who participated in a nine-week career exposure programme that placed them in organizations such as the Society of Boys' Centre, Hong Kong Student Aid Society, and Princess Margaret Hospital. Most experiencing full-time work for the first time, the students found the programme an eye-opening in terms of career and personal development.

Ms Queenie Hung , Ms Maggie Young , and Ms Irene Kwan , students of the Division of Language Studies, were placed in Shing Tak Centre School, a branch of the Society of Boys' Centre. Their duties included coordinating outings, organizing a computer study group, and tutoring students.

Queenie, who majors in communication studies, first expected to assist in translating annual reports for the Hospital Authority. So she was not content with her placement in the School at first. After some soul-searching, however, she found it worthwhile. "I realized that having a job is already a blessing. No matter what the job nature, you can give and take," Queenie said. She wasn't equipped to help out much when she first reported for duty. Through her initiative to learn and interact with others, she gained job satisfaction. Using her own observation and guidance from her supervisors, she played a more active role in the computer study group and helped devise worksheets for students. "Eventually, I become part of the team. And all the skills learned will be useful in my future career," she concluded.

From the classroom into the real world

Maggie and Irene commented that through the placement they learned how to communicate with children, and express their own ideas in the workplace. What surprised them most was being granted the chance to help editing the Centre's newsletters during the last few weeks of the placement. "At the job briefing meeting, we expressed our wish to do work related to languages. What a surprise for us to get to apply our subject knowledge to the real world," Maggie reminisced. Irene added that they encountered difficulties in communication and interpersonal relationships, but through overcoming these obstacles, they grew. After completing the placement, the students agreed that they have a clearer picture of what they aim for in their future career, such as what kinds of organizations they would like to work for, and how to dress and behave in an office.

Another student, Ms Phoebe Wong , who worked in the Planning Department of Princess Margaret Hospital, gained valuable experience from a construction project renovating an Intensive Care Unit for SARS patients. She improved her communication skills through coordinating the construction and attending site inspections. Phoebe now works in a construction company after completing her ASc Construction Engineering Management. "Thanks to the two-month career exposure scheme, I can translate my classroom knowledge into field practice. It helps me a lot in my present job," she said.

Introduced in 2002, the Career Exposure Programme has been well received by the College students. This year it reported a total of 186 applications, out of which those students were chosen who could "demonstrate strong commitment to completing the task" Mr Chan Wai-to , Director of Student Learning of the College of Higher Vocational Studies, explained. "The programme is a cross-division, tailor-made placement experience, aiming to boost students' confidence through service and learning."

This year, all the participants received pre-placement training from experienced counselors of the Student Development Services in a two-day workshop at the Student Hostel located on Cornwall Street. The team also tackled challenges posed by SARS when their placement started in April. The students at first showed some hesitation, especially those working in the Princess Margaret Hospital, but then they realized that they should perform their duties as usual. "Through the process, I witnessed their sense of responsibility and how the placement helps them grow. That's really encouraging," Mr Chan said. At the end of the placement, they attended a job evaluation session with the host organizations, and 95% of the students achieved a full attendance rate. Mr Chan commented that the programme provided a platform for students' lifelong learning. He also thanked host organizations for their generous guidance to the student interns.

The programme held a sharing session 26 September, during which Mr John Dockerill , Provisional Provost of the College, praised the participants' efforts and presented them with certificates. Participants reported what they learned, and thanked a long list of teachers, supervisors, peers, and co-workers, by various means such as role play, drama, and presentations.

Back on campus now, Queenie, Maggie and Irene continue their language studies and agree that the skills learned during the past summer are highly transferable. Preparing the programme for the year 2003-04, Mr Chan seeks more participation among senior students to help newcomers. Applications for the 2004 programme will start in March.





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