EDB, World Bank to build talent for local infrastructure sector

MS FONG PIN FEN (above) , EDB director for cities, infrastructure and industrial solutions.
MS FONG PIN FEN (above) , EDB director for cities, infrastructure and industrial solutions.

Singapore's Economic Development Board (EDB) is teaming up with the World Bank to roll out an industry secondment programme for players in the fast-emerging local infrastructure sector.

Under the new programme - to be unveiled in the coming months - companies can second their employees to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development or the International Finance Corporation for a year-long stint.

They will be delegated to various World Bank projects in developing economies, where they will be able to gain "first-hand experience of the operating conditions and, at the same time, hone their project-development and project- financing skills", said Ms Fong Pin Fen, EDB director for cities, infrastructure and industrial solutions.

The move is part of Singapore's efforts to develop talent in the industry amid burgeoning infrastructure needs across the region.

"Infrastructure is a service business, which means talent is key. And Asia is opening up, so there is a need for people who can understand the operating environment here and how you do business in infrastructure in Asia," Ms Fong told The Straits Times.

"What we see today are gaps in talent for project management and project development, especially in Asia, where governments are just starting to involve the private sector in the structuring and the financing of their projects. Being able to plug these gaps will allow us to better tap infrastructure opportunities in the region."

Already, several firms are doing more to ramp up their talent capabilities here, noted Ms Fong.

Design, engineering and project management consultancy Atkins Group, for example, announced the launch of a global end-to-end advisory business, Atkins Acuity, last June. The new business will invest in and train consultants, managers and directors in Singapore to develop skills, such as in advanced infrastructure development.

NEED FOR TALENT

Infrastructure is a service business, which means talent is key. And Asia is opening up, so there is a need for people who can understand the operating environment here and how you do business in infrastructure in Asia.

MS FONG PIN FEN, EDB director for cities, infrastructure and industrial solutions.

Faithful+Gould, an integrated project and programme management consultancy that is also part of the Atkins group of companies, plans to develop 16 project managers by deepening their skills for project leadership roles.

Samsung C&T Engineering & Construction Group, which houses its regional headquarters here with a 1,500-strong headcount, is also investing heavily in digital applications for construction. It will be building a regional Centre of Excellence in Singapore that will focus on driving improvements in productivity and safety performance at its construction sites and for the industry.

Ms Fong noted that investments in the infrastructure sector over the past two years amounted to about $200 million, with some 400 new jobs to be created. The sector, which is estimated to employ 18,000 people and contribute $2.6 billion in value-add to Singapore's economy, is also on track to meeting the employment target of 19,000 by 2020, she said.

Ms Fong believes Singapore is well positioned to tap growth opportunities in terms of infrastructure demand in the region, given its value proposition as a "reference city" for Asia.

"In the past 50 years, we have invested heavily in our urbanisation and infrastructure development, and this strong track record has put us in good stead to grow," she said. "What we are doing with Changi Airport and the upcoming Tuas port, for example, is really gaining a lot of interest."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 24, 2017, with the headline 'EDB, World Bank to build talent for local infrastructure sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe