PolyU master’s degree programmes train talents in occupational therapy and physiotherapy meeting urgent demand from

While the demand for healthcare services is growing drastically in Hong Kong, the supply of qualified therapists is far from adequate especially in the social welfare sector, bringing difficulties to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in meeting the healthcare and rehabilitation needs of society. To alleviate this manpower shortage, the Social Welfare Department (SWD) of HKSARG has been offering a Training Sponsorship Scheme in collaboration with The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) and NGOs since 2012.

The two master’s entry degree programmes PolyU is offering under this Scheme are Master in Occupational Therapy (MOT) and Master in Physiotherapy (MPT). Introduced in 2012, these two-year full-time programmes provide an opportunity for those who aspire to serve the community as competent and qualified therapists. Under this Scheme, potential talents are funded by NGOs to take part in a two-year master’s entry degree programme either in occupational therapy or physiotherapy. After graduation, these students are required to contribute to the work of the NGOs they signed up for three consecutive years.

The Scheme has yielded good results with over 250 students having been trained in four cohorts under the Scheme to serve in NGOs that offer care and rehabilitation services for the elderly, persons with disabilities or children with special needs. Well received by the social welfare sector, the Scheme will be extended for another three cohorts in 2021, 2022 and 2023. The next cohort is open for application today (12 August 2020)

PolyU has been playing an instrumental role in nurturing talents needed to meet the changing needs of different sectors in our community.

Professor Alexander WAI

Deputy President and Provost of PolyU

Professor Hector TSANG, Chair Professor of Rehabilitation Sciences and Head of Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, said, “According to the Report of the Strategic Review on Healthcare Manpower Planning and Professional Development 1 , Hong Kong will have a shortfall of about 190 occupational therapists and 900 physiotherapists by 2030. Facing such surging societal need in NGOs, PolyU is set to help train talents in these disciplines with the two master’s degree programmes. Students were admitted in alternate years in the previous four cohorts in 2012-2020. Due to the favorable feedback from the social welfare sector, we have decided to offer the programmes on an annual basis for the next three consecutive years from 2021 to 2023.”

Mr Peter AUYEUNG, Chief Executive Officer of Heep Hong Society, echoed Prof Tsang’s comment about positive feedback, noting their organisation had greatly benefited from the Scheme. “Due to the shortage of professional therapists, the provision of some of our regular services and new initiatives are inevitably affected. We are delighted that PolyU and SWD offer us strong support by training the occupational therapy and physiotherapy specialists needed to serve in organisations like ours. I am impressed by the passion and proactiveness of the graduates in serving people in need. I look forward to seeing more graduates join our family in the future,” said Mr AUYEUNG.

One of the MPT graduates in the first cohort, Ms Sinfia VONG, joined Heep Hong Society in 2014 after graduation. In the last six years, she has been promoted to Physiotherapist I, mainly serving pre-school children with special educational needs. Holding a first degree in physiotherapy obtained from Taiwan, Sinfia decided to take the entry level of MPT with the hope of developing her career in this profession. “I like interacting with children and I am very glad to be able to help them develop their potential and lead a fulfilling life.”

Mr Dino LEE, a graduate of the third MOT cohort, joined Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Welfare Council as an occupational therapist in 2019. A graduate in counselling and psychology, he loves helping people from all walks of life. Dino said, “Some people in our society face more challenges than others and need extra care from us. It is such a meaningful career where I can help the underprivileged through the professional service I provide.” He highly recommends the Scheme to those who want to develop their therapy career in the NGOs.

Mr LEUNG Chung-tai, Gordon, Director of Social Welfare of SWD, said, “Given the problem of the ageing population in the Territory, the shortage of therapists poses a hurdle for the social welfare sector, and the Scheme is set to help alleviate the situation. It is very gratifying that, according to a PolyU survey, more than 65% of the participating students of the first and second cohorts continue to serve in the NGOs after completion of their post-graduation service. Having such an encouraging response, SWD will extend the Scheme for three more cohorts, providing sponsorship to more than 290 students in total.”

Professor Alex WAI Ping-kong, Deputy President and Provost of PolyU, said, “PolyU has been playing an instrumental role in nurturing talents needed to meet the changing needs of different sectors in our community. The Scheme is good testimony to PolyU’s collaboration with government and industry to address the needs in society. To our young people, the programmes open up another career path for them to realise their aspirations.”

The fifth cohort of the two programmes offered by PolyU is now open for applications. The first semester will commence in January 2021. All bachelor’s degree holders, who have obtained credits for the subjects of human physiology and human anatomy (three credits each or equivalent), are eligible to apply. Preference will be given to those applicants who obtained their first degree in healthcare-related fields such as psychology, nutrition and kinesiology. Graduates will be fully qualified to register with the corresponding professional bodies for practising in Hong Kong. The Training Sponsorship Scheme provided by SWD is also available for successful programme applicants. For more details, please visit https://polyu.hk/xWBuL

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