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L.K. Chan1, P. Hodgson2

1The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HONG KONG)
2The University of Hong Kong, Faculty of Education (HONG KONG)
Lifelong learning is not simply flavour of the month but standard practice across many industries in Hong Kong. In a working environment where change is ongoing, employees are required to seek continuous updates and enrich their knowledge and skills if they want to perform effectively at work. However, there are limitations to on-the-job learning, as there can be limited expertise, and a learning culture can be lacking in organizations. On-demand learning may be of benefit if employees can experience the synergy of cross-role collaboration in an organization. Organizations may resort to external agents to provide training opportunities.

There has been growing demand for university–industry partnership schemes, in which an organization adopts a proactive staff development strategy so that employees have the benefit of structured and organized training and learning activities. This can provide opportunities for employees to develop broader knowledge and skills for their jobs despite having different roles and responsibilities in an organization.

This paper reports the benefits and challenges experienced by employees of a well-established apparel buying company in Hong Kong attending a full-time university–industry partnership scheme that has been adopted for two consecutive years. Because the company is expanding and has entered global partnerships, it is essential to ensure that its employees have a global perspective. Participants were selected from different ranks in the company and were expected to develop practical skills and competence in managing global partnerships in the industry. Participants had diverse working backgrounds, and working experience covered a wide range. This paper reports the experiences of participants learning together outside the normal working environment and on how they developed professional skills by scaffolding strengths and talents in group projects and developing evaluative skills through peer-group feedback. As participants were challenged with non-routine tasks and were required to develop new competence, the majority of participants showed heightened interest despite varying levels of achievement. End-of-course surveys were conducted with each cohort. This paper summarizes the findings from 82 participants in the two cohorts.