After Lo Hoi-fung completed Form Six studies four years ago, he did not join his fellow students in the scramble for a university place.
He opted instead for a training and apprenticeship programme offered by the Vocational Training Council.
The 21-year-old has been passionate about cars since he was a boy. On the programme, he acquires technical knowledge about vehicles and learns about the inner workings of the car industry.
Hoi-fung's decision to take the vocational route instead of the usual academic path has paid off.
He is now a mechanic apprentice in a car dealership.
"I feel proud of myself," he said. "I feel like a doctor when I can fix a broken car."
Learning and earning
Launched in 2014, the Vocational Training Council’s Earn & Learn Scheme targets school leavers with at least Form Three education.
It covers various industries including electrical and mechanical engineering and construction, testing and certification, and elderly and rehabilitation services.
So far, the scheme has trained 2,000 people.
The four-year scheme provides vocational courses and apprenticeships with salaries and other subsidies.
Before his apprenticeship, Hoi-fung studied for a Diploma in Automotive Technology at the council’s Youth College, for one year full time.
He learned about the basic principles of car systems and servicing skills.
"I acquired much technical knowledge like car structure and I know how to identify mechanical problems using computerised diagnostic equipment."
His current job as an apprentice mechanic includes plenty of hands-on experience.
"I need to do basic vehicle care and maintenance, including changing engine oil and repairing worn parts such as brake pads and wheel bearings."
He receives a monthly salary of $8,000 plus a $2,000 allowance from the Government.
He also studies part-time and the tuition fees are paid by his employer.
His boss, General Manager of Zung Fu Company’s After-Sales Division SW Wong, said the council’s scheme is attractive to young people.
"Vehicles now have more specialised functions. The market expects a higher standard in car maintenance and servicing," he said.
"The training mode of the scheme suits the needs of the car industry. It helps attract young people to join the sector, lessen labour shortage and boost manpower supply in the industry."
Twenty-five-year-old Ben Law is another beneficiary of the scheme, which he joined in 2014.
His apprenticeship is with Hong Kong & China Gas Company as a gas utilisation fitter.
In addition to the training provided by the company, he does house calls together with his instructor.
"I visit customers’ homes to carry out safety inspection, which includes checking all gas installations and pipes," he said.
"Sometimes, we also go to hotels and restaurants for inspection. I cherish the opportunity to learn from my instructor. I cannot learn these vocational skills in school."
His experience has also changed how he views vocational education.
"In the past, I think vocational training is not the best option for me. However, now I think there are other avenues besides university education to attain success. I have learnt a special skill which I find very useful."
Ben added he sees his current job as a career for life and he will pursue further studies for career advancement.