Engineering needs to be a more attractive career choice: PM Lee

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong visited Silicon Valley in California on Thursday (Friday morning, Singapore time), where he chatted with Singaporeans working at Google.

Many of them are engineers at the Internet giant, and Mr Lee said they discussed the importance of making engineering "more attractive" as a career in Singapore.

It was a point echoed in a Facebook post later by Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, who is in the Singapore delegation accompanying Mr Lee during his week-long working visit.

He wrote: "We have to make engineering sexy again, to persuade many more young people to build the future."

During his visit at the company, Mr Lee met Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google and other companies previously owned by or tied to Google; he also met Google chief executive Sundar Pichai.

"We talked about new technologies and global trends, and Singapore's Smart Nation ideas," said Mr Lee, who later went for a spin in one of Google's self-driving cars. He said the ride in the Tesla Model S P90D, which he took with Tesla Motors and SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk was "brief but exhilarating".

Mr Lee and his delegation took a tour of Tesla's 500,000 square metre factory, where the company's cars are made from scratch. Tesla relies more on robots rather than human workers, he noted.

Later in the day, he met California Governor Jerry Brown and they reaffirmed the strong economic ties between Singapore and California. Singapore was California's 12th-largest export destination for goods in 2013.

Mr Brown, 77, has been California's governor since January 2011, when he took over from Arnold Schwarzenegger. Mr Brown had also governed the state - the most populous in the US - for two terms from 1975 to 1983.

During their discussion, Mr Lee also emphasised the importance of the US's continued engagement of Asia, and the swift ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade deal.

Both the US and Singapore are among the 12 nations of the TPP, which was signed in Auckland this month by trade ministers after five years of negotiations.

Mr Lee ended his day with a meeting with Ian Clark, chief executive of Genentech, a firm with investments in Singapore.

"(It is) one of the earliest biotech companies. Genentech has a biologics plant in Tuas which they are very pleased with," said Mr Lee.

On Monday, he will head to the Sunnylands estate in Rancho Mirage for a special US-ASEAN Summit hosted by President Barack Obama.

This article was first published on Feb 15, 2016.
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