Asked by : Hon. Audrey EU
Replied by : SEM
Since March last year, non-civil servant employees may apply for subsidies under the Funding Scheme for Workplace English Training for attending English training courses and benchmark tests. Each applicant may receive subsidies for taking a maximum of three training courses and the relevant tests, and the level of subsidy for each course-cum-test is set at half of the relevant cost, subject to a ceiling of $1,500. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
The Funding Scheme has two main features. One is the provision of subsidies to meet 50% of the training costs and examination fees for non-civil servant employees. A total of $40 million has been earmarked for this purpose. Each applicant is allowed to take up to three training courses in eight months and attain one spoken benchmark and one written benchmark. A maximum subsidy of $1,500 per course and examination will be reimbursed to the applicant (i.e. a maximum of $4,500 per applicant) after he has completed the course(s) and attained the benchmark(s) in prescribed test(s).
Over 20 000 applications have been received since the commencement of the Funding Scheme. About 14 000 applications, which involve a total commitment of more than $20 million, have been approved; some 5 000 applications have been rejected due to withdrawal, double application, incomplete information or failure to provide valid proof of current employment; and some 1 000 applications are being processed. Among the approved applications, about 9 600 are individual applications while more than 4 500 are company/organization applications (see Annex 1 for details). So far, over 5 000 employees have completed their training courses and attained the benchmark(s) in their respective job type.
Another main feature of the Funding Scheme is the allocation of $10 million for the development of English training programmes which target the employees of a specific trade or profession, and which address a specific training need not served by other courses in the market. Employers' associations, trade and industry organizations and professional bodies are eligible to apply for course development. 50% of the cost of course development, or a maximum of $500,000, whichever is the less, is provided.
Up to now, a total of 24 applications have been received. Among them, seven applications have been approved. The successful applications are from the taxi industry, legal sector, accounting and catering industry, and the subsidies involved amount to $1.2 million. The details of another 14 applications, involving subsidies of $630,000, are being discussed. The remaining three applications, which are not course development or workplace English programmes by nature, have been rejected.
In October 2000, we commissioned the Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies of the Chinese University of Hong Kong to conduct an assessment on the implementation of the Funding Scheme. The Institute has successfully interviewed more than 1 000 applicants over the phone. According to the findings, nearly 80% of the respondents were of the opinion that the Funding Scheme helped them enrol in English training courses; 80% of the respondents considered the eligibility criteria of the Funding Scheme reasonable; and nearly 70% of the respondents felt their English standard had improved after taking the training courses.
In setting the ceiling of subsidies and deciding on the duration of courses under the Funding Scheme, the Steering Committee on Workplace English Campaign has given due consideration to a number of factors, including the tuition fee of similar courses provided by major English training institutions in Hong Kong, the advice given by training professionals and training institutions on course duration, and alternative types of English courses. After all, the Funding Scheme for Workplace English Training only serves to take the lead to mobilise the working population. Whether or not the standard of workplace English can be raised hinges on the efforts of our workforce. Employers, on their part, should also work out long-term staff development plans for their employees and encourage their employees to pursue continuous learning so as to achieve a higher standard of English.
|Funding Scheme for Workplace English Training
Number of Applications and Total Amount of Subsidies for
Employees to Attend Training Courses and Attempt International Tests
|No. of individual applications||No. of company applications||Total no. of applications||Amount ofsubsidies involved(in million dollars)|
|Total no. of applications||15 118||5 494||20 612||31.50|
|No. of applications approved||9 594||4 553||14 147||21.62|
|No. of applications rejected||4 739||773||5 512||8.42|
|No. of applications being processed||785||168||953||1.46|