April 2010 was a landmark month for both Shanghai and the whole of China. Marked by a spectacular firework display along the Yangtze River waterfront, the launch of the city’s Expo 2010 represented the first time that an ‘emerging economy’ had staged one of these iconic cultural and commercial events.
The Expo was hardly needed to raise the economic and political profile of China and its main commercial center, and yet – with more than 240 countries staging exhibitions – this global fair offered a genuine opportunity for businesses, government officials, journalists and individual travelers to get to know China a little better. Equally important, Expo 2010 provided a forum for the people of China to engage with the world. During the course of this six-month event, over 70 million people passed through the doors of the Culture Center where the Expo was held.
"Better City, Better Life"
The theme for the event was urban living, or to be more precise, "Better City, Better Life." Within this concept, the event was a showcase for new technologies and new concepts for life in a world where 55 percent of us live in cities. As emphasized by the organizers, such a pressing theme provided huge opportunities for cross-cultural dialogue.
However, the main topic of the Expo was, of course, trade. Since the heady days of Britain’s Great Exhibition, the ‘expo’ has always been about companies and governments showing off their technology to the world. At Expo 2010, American companies were out in force, with Coca-Cola introducing a self-freezing drink and General Motors demonstrating a smart car that could park itself. China also had plenty to present to the world, including a robot restaurant and the Shanghai Corporate Joint Pavilion, an eco-building that incorporates intelligent technologies and an architectural design based on ancient Taoist philosophies.
A center for trade
Shanghai was a natural location for Expo 2010. Situated at the mouth of the Yangtze, the city has been a center for trade between East and West since the 19th century. It’s status as China’s most populated city also chimed perfectly with the Expo’s theme of urban living.
Modern Shanghai is a vital Chinese port, which presently outstrips Hong Kong in terms of traffic. While the Chinese economy has undergone a radical recalibration in recent years, Shanghai now contains a hotbed of activity in the private sector, which comprises 42.5 percent of the city’s GDP, according to figures published by the government in 2005. Finance is increasingly important and, in addition to the city’s banking industry, Shanghai hosts the most important market share on the Chinese mainland.
KPMG in China
Shanghai’s recent expansion has created a growing demand for an educated workforce, a trend reflected throughout China. As Lily Siu, a senior manager with KPMG in China in human resources, explains, the company is recruiting heavily, not only in Shanghai but also across the whole country. "Overall, we will be recruiting between 1,300 and 1,500 graduates this year," she says.
Lily stresses that KPMG’s graduate recruitment policy does not merely focus on a narrow range of graduates. "We are looking for graduates from all disciplines," she says. "What we’ve found is that by recruiting across a mix of disciplines we bring a valuable diversity to the workplace."
This approach to recruitment depends on an effective conversion and training program that provides graduates from a range of backgrounds with the skills required to work in practices such as audit, tax and advisory. However, Lily is keen to emphasize the importance of selecting candidates with the right blend of personal qualities. "We are looking for team players who are good communicators with logical minds," she says. "We are also seeking people who have a real passion for the work they will be doing."
The demand for experience
KPMG in China’s recruitment program also fulfills the company’s demand for experienced applicants. This is especially true in the case of KPMG’s Advisory practice, where candidates with a track record in particular industries are much sought after. However, the company’s search for personnel is not limited to China. "We’re looking for good candidates on a global basis, whether graduates or people with industry experience," says Lily. The caveat here is that candidates must have the right to work in China. In the case of students, this usually means Chinese nationals who are studying abroad.
Lily acknowledges that KPMG is recruiting in a competitive marketplace. "It’s important that we have the right corporate image to attract graduates," she says. "It’s also very important for us to understand who they are and what they want. To that end, we’ve done research involving internal and external analysis and focus groups."
Outreach also plays an important role in KPMG in China’s recruitment strategy, with HR organizing exhibitions and events in universities and cities across the country.
As KPMG’s talent search continues, so China’s economy continues to grow, attracting more people and more industries to commercial and industrial centers such as Shanghai. This will undoubtedly mean an ongoing demand for educated and skilled workers in a tight labor market. And it’s within this challenging environment that KPMG continues to work hard to establish itself as an employer of choice.