The Funding Scheme for Workplace English Training launched by the Government's Workplace English Campaign (WEC) has received 63 applications from employers to commission in-house English training tailor-made for their 800 employees in the first six months of this year, involving funding amounting to nearly $1 million.
Mr Michael Tien, the Chairman of the Standing Committee on Language Education and Research (SCOLAR) which steered the campaign, was pleased with the application figures.
"This shows that employers are keen to upkeep their employees' English standard which is essential in maintaining Hong Kong's competitiveness. In view of this encouraging response, SCOLAR has decided to inject another $3 million from the Language Fund to further the Scheme," he said.
The Funding Scheme was launched in 2000 to subsidise local employees who need to use English in the workplace to receive training to attain the relevant Hong Kong Workplace English Benchmarks (HKWEB) of their job type through any of the international business English examinations specified by WEC.
At the end of June 2005, nearly 23 000 working adults have already attained the relevant benchmarks and received their training grants from the Scheme, involving a total disbursement of $38 million of funds.
To better coordinate with other funding schemes provided by the Government on training, SCOLAR decided, after a review in early 2004, to focus the Funding Scheme on supporting the provision of in-house tailor-made English training commissioned by employers for their employees with effect from January 2005. Funding is given to meet 50% of the employees' English training costs and examination fees, subject to a maximum of $3,000 per person.
The first-time applicant to the Funding Scheme, Neway Karaoke Box Limited, which has successfully secured funding to provide English training for their receptionists and waiters, welcomed the change.
The Assistant Human Resources Manger, Mr Nicholas Wan, said, "The English training courses offered in the market may not meet our company's and the industry's specific needs. Therefore, we have had to develop our own teaching and learning materials for staff English training in the past. But now with the new arrangement, we can hire services from professional bodies to provide systematic English training for our employees, which has greatly enhanced the training efficiency."
His view was echoed by Sime Darby China Limited, which is the first successful applicant for earmarking of subsidies for in-house tailor-made English training from the Funding Scheme.
The company's Assistant Manager – Training & Development, Miss Judy Wong, said, "The Funding Scheme requires our staff to attend one of the specified international business English examinations after the training courses, which is good as the examination provides a means to let our staff apply what they have learned from the course, while the examination results will also give them a better understanding of their English standard for future study plans."
The Funding Scheme's application forms and guidelines for applying can be downloaded from the WEC website (http://www.english.gov.hk). To let more employers understand the Scheme, the Office of WEC (OWEC) has been organising a series of seminar and exhibitions targeting human resources personnel and owners of small-and-medium enterprises. For the exhibition schedule, please visit the website at http://www.english.gov.hk/exhibition.
Employers who want to receive more information on the Funding Scheme may contact OWEC at the enquiries hotline at 2186 8800. Trade associations that are interested in introducing the scheme to their members are also invited to contact OWEC via email at email@example.com to arrange briefing sessions or small-scale exhibitions.
WEC was launched by the Government in 2000 with the aim of heightening public awareness of the importance of workplace English and raising the standard of English among the Hong Kong workforce.
It is a Language Fund project steered by SCOLAR, which was established in 1996 to advise the Government on language education issues and the use of the Language Fund.