Employ stop-gap move as local talent beefs up

I echo the concerns over hiring abilities raised by the president of the Singapore Institute of Architects, Mr Theodore Chan ("Architecture profession facing same problem"; Jan 29).

These same concerns plague the consultant engineering industry. Engineering consultancy espouses an innovative blend of art and science to tackle contemporary challenges, such as efficiency in built environments.

Thus, it is especially essential, given Singapore's land-scarce situation.

Yet, similar to architecture, amid the forecast population and built development growth, we too suffer a dearth of engineers and technicians within the local pool of Singaporeans and permanent residents.

This deficient supply has not been made easier by the stricter hiring quotas on foreign engineering technicians.

Admittedly, efforts have been made to ameliorate this situation.

The foreign hiring restrictions were enacted alongside expanding efforts to boost local productivity - do more with less.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) has been one of many at the forefront of this call.

Nevertheless, although improvements to productivity should continue, a minimal level of human resource remains a necessity and cannot be entirely disposed of yet.

Questions of varying levels of productivity, growth and expansion end, at some level, on whether we can hire more.

On this note, the Ministry of Education has, in an effort to boost local skilled supply, rightly initiated programmes like the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (Aspire), which enhances the ability of Institute of Technical Education and polytechnic engineering students to better progress into the industry.

However, even with such restructuring and training, it will take some time before these graduates can fill productive roles within the industry at large.

Till then, as a stop-gap measure, it might be reasonable to revise the hiring quotas on foreign engineering technicians.

This would grant the industry much-needed relief as we await a recalibration of local supply.

When so many within the broader industry have raised the same concern, it can only show the presence of a real, wide and structural problem besetting these sectors.

The current situation is not improving. It requires urgent attention.

Ling Shiang Yun


Association of Consulting Engineers Singapore

This article was first published on February 10, 2015.
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