CLAP for Youth on Career Roadmap

According to data released by the Census and Statistics Department in 2016, 3.8% of the youth population, or 29,780 youngsters, are not in employment or education. Assisting their integration to increase their participation in the community has become an important social issue. Through "Career and Life Adventure Planning Project for Youth" (CLAP), Professor Victor Wong Cheong-wing of the Department of Social Work at HKBU, and his team are providing guidance to young people on their development pathway.


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Prof Victor Wong Cheong-wing


CLAP for Youth@JC is Hong Kong's first cross-sectoral support platform that helps students and non-engaged youths navigate their futures. Supported by a HK$500 million donation from The Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust, the project was launched in May 2015, for a period of five years.


As the Principal Investigator of the Community-based Team, Prof Wong leads the HKBU team with a focus on helping people between 15 and 21 years of age who are not in employment, education or training (NEET) and at-risk youths, in a community setting. While the age of NEET youths may vary, for the purpose of this project, it refers to young people aged 15 to 21.


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CLAP promotes an expanded notion of career


Vocation is not equal to career

Community projects that serve NEET youth exist, but Prof Wong pointed out that the primary goal of these projects is to facilitate enrolment in further studies or job search. Prof Wong considers that this approach merely removes the "N" from "NEET". It only focuses on changing the status, but neglects whether it is an identity outcome or a positive outcome. He said that traditional outreach and youth services tend to just try to help youths find a status or place within mainstream society without taking into consideration talent allocation or the meaningfulness of career development in the eyes of youths.


In contrast to the conventional notion of career, which is limited to vocational career or paid work, Prof Wong's concept goes beyond vocational career to also include leisure career and learning career. Learning career traditionally means qualifications, but he believes learning is much more than that. "When people in mainstream society look at these marginalised teenagers, I hope they will see their potential, rather than academic qualifications. Academic qualifications are important, but experience is equally important." This has become the driving force behind his promotion of "CV360". A standard CV (curriculum vitae) only places emphasis on academic qualifications, professional qualifications and work experiences, but CV360 aims to provide a more rounded overview of the person by attaching importance also to life experiences, because these life experiences often bring about growth and development in young people.


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The VASK of dance is transferrable to other fields


Bi-directional transfer of VASK

The VASK framework proposed by Prof Wong is an abbreviation for "values, attitudes, skills and knowledge", which he considers transferrable across different forms of careers. He cites a youngster he met who failed his HKDSE examinations and developed an interest in street dance. The youth realised that it is difficult to earn a steady income as a street dancer, but through CLAP, he soon understood that a career is not limited to a vocational career. So, he took a job as a steel fixer, and teaches street dance at a non-governmental organisation (NGO) after work. He aspires to run a dance studio one day. Prof Wong pointed out that the VASK of steel fixing and dancing can be bi-directionally transferred. The safety mind-set developed from steel fixing can be applied to dancing, while the concentration, teamwork and planning required for dancing can also help his job as a steel fixer.


Prof Wong's intention is not to downgrade the importance of a vocational career, but to promote the idea that a vocational career is not only dependent on academic qualifications. Unpaid work also has great value, especially in broadening the life experience of young people. In the example above, serious leisure is a form of unpaid work. Leisure, if pursued in a systematic and determined manner, is not that different from work, only it is unpaid. It might be in the form of volunteering, however if one is successful enough at it, there is a chance to get monetary reward. Magic, cooking and handicrafts are common examples.


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The Hon Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor , then Chief Secretary for Administration of the HKSAR, and distinguished guests at the launch ceremony held in 2015


RON: indispensable for youths

In addition to letting young people explore their interests and talents, an enabling environment is crucial to helping them develop and pursue those interests and talents. Prof Wong pointed out that society must provide people with resources, opportunities and networks (collectively called "RON" ). CLAP has been running District Service Teams in collaboration with five NGOs, namely The Boys' & Girls' Clubs Association of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Young Women's Christian Association, Hong Kong Christian Service, Hong Kong Children & Youth Services, and Evangelical Lutheran Church Social Service (Hong Kong), to provide RON for youths in various districts.


Through CLAP, Prof Wong encountered a girl who had led a reclusive lifestyle for seven years. With only primary-level education, finding a job was very difficult for her. Noticing her talent in cleaning and tidying up her home, the team helped her secure a part-time job in a local homeware company. A year later, she was promoted to full-time employment in light of her good performance. The girl later returned to school and now hopes to attain at least a junior secondary school qualification. Cases like the girl show how important social support is for the development of young people.


Changing the principles of talent allocation is also beneficial for enterprises as academic performance is not always the determining factor for job performance. Rather, matching people and positions with reference to VASK can foster employee engagement, and thus lead to higher staff retention rates and productivity. It can also lead to recognition and build positive employer reputation. The aforementioned homeware company won an award for equal opportunities in the workplace by applying the ENOW-VASK framework, which identifies personal strengths and defines jobs informed by the expanded notion of work (ENOW), and encompasses both paid and unpaid work experiences.


CLAP has been operating for more than four years now. From the start of this project until July 2019, 9,011 young people have benefitted from its services. Of the online users, 85% agreed that CV360 has helped boost their self-confidence, self-understanding and career development. Moreover, 87% of all service users agreed that they have had meaningful engagement in education, employment or training through CLAP. As many as 93% of the 672 business partners participating in the programme expressed their openness and willingness to support youth on their career roadmap. Buoyed by the success of the programme and seeing the positive impact it has on young people’s lives, Prof Wong hopes to extend the novel idea of ENOW-VASK to other societies and cultures to benefit more disadvantaged youths who possess lower levels of formal education, and even those more privileged with better education qualifications.