SINGAPORE - Students who graduated from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) last year started their working life with an average monthly salary of $1,646 - the highest in four years.
Their pay was 18 per cent higher than the $1,391 a month earned by those who graduated in 2009, according to an ITE survey.
It also found that students who graduated from engineering courses last year took home the highest overall monthly salary of $1,725 - 9.5 per cent more than the starting pay of the engineering cohort in the previous two years.
Mr Kurt Wee, president of the Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (Asme), is not surprised.
He told The Straits Times that "increasingly, small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) are lacking people with the engineering or technical know-how".
"In the last eight to 10 years, financial and legal sectors are seen to be very... sexy," he added.
"A lot of those who graduated with engineering knowledge are moving to other sectors."
The rising wages "seem to be a result of both SMEs being more willing to pay more, and the tightening of labour policies", added Mr Wee, referring to the reduction in foreign worker quotas.
Mr Josh Goh, assistant director of corporate services at human resources firm The GMP Group, added that the reduced talent pool - especially in engineering - has driven wages up.
"Many ITE engineering graduates do not stop at the Nitec or Higher Nitec qualification. They would go on to pursue a diploma or degree if they have the means and ability," noted Mr Goh, adding that this "inevitably reduces the talent pool".
Mr Neo Kah Kiat, 43, founder of Neo Garden Catering, said workers tend to job-hop when they are not paid competitively. He pays fresh ITE graduates between $1,600 and $1,800.