Another great concern to retired athletes is whether the programme can help them to find a suitable job and whether they are competitive enough in the job selection process.
Wong says the programme invites and persuades companies to hire recently retired athletes. It also helps applicants to analyse their strengths, weaknesses and their needs. Staff will then try to match applicants with suitable jobs and refer them for interviews. Retired athletes may be given priority over other applicants in obtaining an interview but whether they are ultimately hired depends on the company.
Wong stresses retired athletes have qualities that are particularly attractive to employers. For instance, athletes need to work in a team, so they have to know how to communicate with other team members. They are good team players and hard workers.
To date, around 15 companies have signed up for the scheme. Cheng Ka-ho, a retired Wushu athlete, got a job through the programme as a community service officer with Hopewell Holdings Limited.
He says the programme does help retired athletes to find suitable jobs. In the long term, he believes this could give athletes confidence about their retirement, helping them to focus better on their training.
Lobo Louie Hung-tak, associate professor of the department of physical education at the Hong Kong Baptist University, conducts research on social issues in sports and recreation. He says that whether a company wants to employ retired athletes depends on the background of the employers and companies. If an employer is also a retired athlete or the company has its own athletic clubs, they will be more likely to hire retired athletes.
Despite Sam Wong’s evaluation of the qualities of retired athletes, Louie says they do not enjoy many advantages over other candidates in the job selection process. Louie explains this is because the sports atmosphere in Hong Kong is not strong. The public tends to forget the achievements of even medallists in major competitions after a short while. “Not many companies will employ retired athletes particularly,” he says.
In order to become more competitive in the job market, Louie says retired athletes need to equip themselves with better language skills and knowledge. They need to continue their studies after retirement.
On the whole, Louie believes the HKACEP is a good starting point in helping retired athletes because it can help them to find suitable jobs. The education assistance offered by the programme can also help former sportsmen and women to broaden their knowledge. He stresses the online language courses provided are particularly useful in helping them to raise their language standards.
Although the eligibility benchmarks of the programme are criticised for being too stringent, Louie argues this may be necessary to build up the reputation of the scheme. He explains that if the eligibility benchmarks are set too low, the programme might inadvertently refer some lazy applicants, which would hurt the programme’s standing with employers. He believes the programme will cover more and more retired athletes once it establishes its reputation.
However, he stresses that retired athletes should not wait for help from the government. Instead, they need to prepare for their retirement while they are still competing. “Athletes should start equipping themselves with better language and social skills long before retirement. They should not wait until they retire to start doing all these things,” he says.