Room to groom construction talent

Room to groom construction talent
Artist's impression of the new extension of the BCA Academy, which costs $62.2 million and will be operational from the second quarter of next year.

A new $62.2 million extension to the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Academy will be opened next year with the aim of grooming more talent and improving Singapore's research capabilities in the industry.

The BCA's educational and research arm will have two buildings on its 20-year-old Braddell campus, which will allow for a higher intake of students as well as better testing of materials in the built environment sector.

Currently, the academy, which trains people for the sector, takes in about 8,000 students. But this will rise to 10,000 over the next two to three years.

Said BCA chief executive John Keung: "While we are pushing for technology to drive up productivity... we need the people in the industry to do all this. The software, the brainpower, is very important."

The extension will come with exposed pipes and fittings that students can explore first-hand, facility-maintenance technology and an urban farm. Another key feature is a rotatable rooftop laboratory which can test building materials and systems - the first of its kind in Asia.

The lab, a collaboration between the BCA and the United States' Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, is open-air and can be rotated to face different directions when required.

Previously, building components were tested either in a controlled laboratory environment or in non-tropical climates abroad.

The campus extension, to be operational by the second quarter of next year, will also incorporate productive construction techniques, green features and disabled-friendly designs.

Sustainable technology such as solar panels and pumpless water tanks will save some 35 per cent in energy, while 88 per cent of the structure will be made using precast methods. "We are walking our talk and doing what we preach," said Dr Keung.

Mr Winson Ng, general manager of Soon Loong Engineering and Construction, believes that upcoming facilities will be a boost for the sector.

"The rotatable lab will provide more realistic and accurate testing. The exposed fittings can also help us better visualise current designs," said the 35-year-old, who is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in construction management at BCA Academy.

Having completed a specialist diploma in mechanical and electrical coordination and a diploma in construction engineering there, Mr Ng was one of 970 who graduated from the academy yesterday.

The BCA's push to attract more women to the male-dominated sector is also reaping results.

Almost 40 per cent of the graduates this year were women - the highest proportion in the academy's history.

One of them was Ms Ellen Teo, 23, who earned a diploma in construction engineering.

She started working as an assistant project manager at Modern Concrete Drill Cut last month, and intends to carve out a career in the built environment sector. "Since the time I was young, I've always liked to see things go from nothing to something," said Ms Teo, whose father is a subcontractor.

Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan, who attended the ceremony, said that Singapore's workforce has to continuously update its skills in order to stay relevant in the future.

He said: "To future-proof our workforce against obsolescence, we need our workforce to regularly un-learn and re-learn. We need to develop the passion to embrace lifelong learning."


This article was first published on November 15, 2014.
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