You must be a talent!

It is too early for results, but it is possible that Fernando Chui Sai On will be remembered as the ‘father’ of the talent training program implemented in Macau. 

MB April 2020 Special Report | Youngsters living on a keyboard

“Training talents”, “developing talents”, “bringing talents back to Macau”, “betting on talents to develop the economy” – talent seems the key to solve all problems affecting the city. 

In early 2014, the Government created the Talent Development Committee (CDT) and from then on the word ‘talent’ became a kind of mantra that now everyone repeats, from all kinds of schools, to training institutes, to local government officials. Even Chinese leaders are talking about the idea. 

Results, on the other hand, seem scarce at this point, but it is necessary to recognize that five or six years is a short period of time to see the fruits of the bet initiated during Chui Sai On’s second term of office. Chui Sai On, to show the level of his involvement, has assumed the leadership of the CDT, which only held its first general assembly in 2017. 

“In order to promote Macau as ‘a global tourism and leisure centre’ and ‘a trading platform for economic co-operation between China and Portuguese-speaking countries’, as well as to cope with the rapid growth of our society, it is necessary to arrange a strategic deployment for the development of talents as soon as possible, along with strengthening talents cultivation and reservation”, says the government. 

The committee has set up three subsidiary task forces: the “Planning and Evaluation Task Force”, the “Talents Training Program Task Force”, and the “Encouraging Talents to Return to Macau Task Force”. The “Talents Training Program Task Force” is further subdivided into three programs: the “Elites Nurturing Plan”, the “Incentive Plan for Qualified Professionals”, and the “Skilled Talents Acquiring Plan”. 

Having been announced as a government priority, the training of new talents appears with great prominence in the Government’s first Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). 

“The talent development strategy aims to establish a varied and open professional training system, in order to increase professionalism and exercise the technical-professional capacities of the population”, says the document, adding that “It is intended to encourage young people to weave their dreams, seek them out, and make them real, increasing their competitiveness.” 

The Five-Year Plan establishes a concrete goal: “In the next three years, through the ‘Thousand Talents Program’, 3,000 young people will be selected to participate in exchange activities in Mainland China, and to deepen their knowledge about the country’s development strategies, in order to increase the global quality of young people’s talents, and inherit and transmit the spirit of love to Motherland and Macau.” 

The ‘Thousand Talents Program’ appears for the first time in the Policy Address for the year 2016, indicating that the Government will select “annually a thousand candidates from secondary and university education to participate in exchange activities in Mainland China”, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education of China and the Chinese Youth Federation. 

“Through interaction with the youth of Mainland China, the program aims to encourage young people in Macau to raise their cultural level and intellectual abilities”, says the Government, committing itself “between 2019 and 2020, (to) the measures taken to train new talent in the medium term, so that the basis for their education in the long term is solidified.” 

In the interim report of the Five-Year Plan it is stated that 3,318 people were trained in 2018, more than the 2,027 people who were trained the previous year. 

Interviewed in 2017 about the program, Gary Kou, president of the General Assembly of the Macau Professional Development Association, stated that “I can see that there was an improvement when the government started to lay out plans taking talent development into consideration for its five-year plan, but the progress is too slow. Things cannot be slow in Macau, everything needs to be fast”, suggesting that “Students should be granted loans and then scholarships after they have demonstrated themselves capable of achieving certain levels of academic performance. As a result, I believe more students would be willing to work hard and also be encouraged to become more professional in their fields.” 

Better in Zhuhai 

A few months ago, Xinhua talked with Lei Zhen, a young Macau resident who choose to set up his company, Zhuhai Nanometals Technology, in the Zhuhai National Hi-tech Industrial Development Zone. 

“Life in Macau is quite similar to that of other Chinese cities, in terms of daily life, food and culture. The Macau SAR government has many policies to support startups, but it’s better to set up the lab and manufacture base in Zhuhai”, Lei said. 

Although he is a member of the Macau Young Entrepreneur Incubation Centre, and received legal, financial, and operational assistance for his nano products, “he found that Macau’s business environment is not suitable for high-tech manufacture. Thanks to the development of the Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area, I have more choice and room in Macau and Zhuhai as a converging area.” 

In the same sense are the conclusions of the Macau Youth Federation’s survey on the opinions of Macau youth: nearly 70 percent of the interviewees consider the mainland’s employment prospects to be good, while more than 80 percent said that the mainland’s prospects are better than Macau’s.