By Jane Ng
WHILE the courses catering to the service industry has attracted a large number of students in recent years, it would be wrong to conclude that this reduces the role or importance of engineers and technical expertise, said Education Minister Ng Eng Hen on Wednesday.
Engineering graduates from the Polytechnics have enjoyed high employability and strong demand for their skills in recent years.
Results from the latest survey by the polytechnics on employment outcomes show that fresh engineering diploma graduates earn about $1,930 on average, with those who have completed National Service earning about $2,220.
Within just six months of graduation, 94 per cent of engineering diploma graduates had jobs.
According to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM), the engineering-related sector still provided the largest number of job vacancies over the past two years. In 2006, a third of the 3,639 top ten professional job vacancies were in engineering.
Also, 45 per cent of the current Cabinet ministers have engineering backgrounds.
Speaking at the annual Engineering week opening ceremony at Republic Polytechnic on Wednesday, Dr Ng said the trend of students turning to non-engineering courses is a worldwide one.
In Germany, the shortage of engineers has become so acute that some leading companies want to nurture that interest even at the kindergarten level.
Industrial giants such as Siemens and Bosch are among hundreds of companies giving materials and money to kindergartens to nurture interest in technology and science among children as young as three years old. Bosch even sends its apprentices to kindergartens 'to explain what they do at work and then later invite them to look around the company'.
"For all these reasons, I believe that students who choose to study engineering in our polytechnics have made a very sensible choice that will stand them in good stead for their careers and future," he said.
The annual Engineering Week, into its fifth year, marks the polytechnics' relentless efforts to promote the subject to secondary school students.
This article was first published in The Straits Times on 22 Oct, 2008.