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Financial Secretary


Boosting the Gourmet Economy and Unleashing Young People’s Potential through Vocational Training

From poetry in ancient times to newspaper columns and videos of web celebrities nowadays, food culture is one of the all-time favourite themes. Food is an integral part of culture, through which we can have a glimpse of changes in history, evolution of economic conditions, as well as cultural traditions and people’s daily living habits. Whether it is about making a cup of tea or cooking a bowl of noodles, the methods involved vary distinctively across the globe and throughout history. It is fair to say that one can learn about the culture, economy and history of a place through its local food.

The development of a food culture is closely related to natural resources, climate, geography, economic activities and level of economic development, etc. of a place. We, the Chinese, see that food is a gift of Mother Earth; for food, we look to where we live, be it the mountains or seas. Food culture, indeed, is manifestation of the social, economic and cultural characteristics of a place. In a modern economy, the catering sector is an important part of the services industry, which interacts closely with the trading, retailing and tourism sectors. Its entire industrial chain comprises agriculture, food procurement, transportation and logistics, food and beverage services, as well as sales and promotion. Rich and distinctive gastronomic experiences not only boost local consumption and activities, but also stimulate exports and inbound tourism. Hong Kong has long been acclaimed as a culinary capital, and the development of a gourmet economy definitely presents a golden opportunity for us. In particular, it provides our young people with more development opportunities that can meet their aspirations and interests.

I visited the Chinese Culinary Institute (CCI) and International Culinary Institute (ICI) under the Vocational Training Council (VTC) recently and exchanged with instructors and students.

I visited the Chinese Culinary Institute (CCI) and International Culinary Institute (ICI) under the Vocational Training Council (VTC) recently, which touched off some even deeper feelings within me. I could sense the strong interest and passion of the students in culinary arts as well as joining the catering industry when they were introducing the production of gourmet chocolates, the art of handcrafted candy and the pairing of different floral teas and dishes. With humility and enthusiasm in learning, industriousness and strive for excellence in their study and work attitude, no wonder these students repeatedly achieved outstanding results in international competitions at young ages. Many students had also received job offers well before their graduation. The two Institutes has maintained close connections and collaborations with the catering industry. Many master chefs and famous chefs from Michelin restaurants (including internationally renowned chefs visiting Hong Kong) have been invited to conduct demonstrations and exchange with teachers and students. Some of them even served as consultants for the Institutes. The Institutes have also arranged for their students to take part in internships on the Mainland and overseas. Apart from enriching the learning experiences of students, these opportunities can also stimulate more exchanges between Chinese and foreign culinary arts, and facilitate their integration; and nurture more cross-cultural talent that will reinforce Hong Kong’s position as a culinary capital and help diversify our food culture.

The VTC is one of the staunch supporting organisations of the series of “Happy Hong Kong” events. Whether it comes to demonstrating noodle pulling at the launching ceremony, setting up food-tasting booths at the “Gourmet Marketplaces”, or the “Skills Fiesta” to be organised in October, students have been actively participating in the events or making preparations to share their creations and joy with members of the public through culinary demonstrations, fashion shows, sports activities on smart technology, cultural activities, etc.

I visited the Chinese Culinary Institute (CCI) and International Culinary Institute (ICI) under the Vocational Training Council (VTC) recently and exchanged with instructors and students.

The VTC is the largest vocational and professional education and training (VPET) provider in Hong Kong, offering training to some 200 000 students each year through a full range of pre-employment and in-service programmes with internationally recognised qualifications. Apart from culinary institutes, there are also institutes with diversified themes in hotel and tourism, design, maritime training, etc. In a number of my Budgets, I allocated resources to enhance and strengthen VPET development in Hong Kong, covering areas such as catering, construction, nursing, cultural and creative industries, fashion design, etc. Meanwhile, the Pilot Training and Support Scheme has also been regularised, allowing trainees to receive apprenticeship training under the “Earn and Learn” model with a salary under the Scheme. Upon completion of training, trainees will also receive certificate, diploma, or higher diploma qualifications. As of February last year, more than 7 600 trainees and 550 employers had benefited from the Scheme, covering industries including engineering and related technologies, automobile, design, jewelry and creative industries, testing and certification, medical centre operation, etc.

The nurturing of talent and multiple progression pathways are the key pillars that support the high-quality development of Hong Kong’s economy. Not only do they help youngsters actualise themselves and unleash their potentials; they also bring together everyone’s creativity and hard work to provide impetus for growth in different economic sectors. A sufficient supply of talent is key to sustainable socio-economic development. Strengthening the cultivation of talent and enhancing the skill level of the workforce are fundamental to maintaining productivity and creativity. While the emergence of technological innovations such as artificial intelligence, big data, and robotics, etc. may challenge traditional workflows and positions, they will also bring new opportunities. We need to strengthen local manpower training, especially pre-employment and in-service programmes that enhance interdisciplinary skills, in order to provide more opportunities and assistance for aspiring youngsters to explore new directions and embark on new runways. Meanwhile, we also envisage the provision of more progression choices for people who aim to enhance their competitiveness and income through learning new skillsets. VPET and diversified training could enhance the standard and learning capabilities of the workforce and productivity as a whole. The vocational training platform could allow students, employers, potential customers, and the market to better connect and co-operate. As Hong Kong pushes forward economic transformation towards high-quality development, there is definitely more room for the development of VPET.

May 21, 2023

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