Scholarships, leadership training among efforts to boost engineering

It has been a mounting challenge for both the public and private sectors to meet their demand for engineers ("Offer scholarships to make engineering more attractive" by Mr Andrew Seow Chwee Guan; last Monday). The issue could grow in significance as our economy becomes more technology-driven.

Scholarships could be a way to attract students into engineering. Over the years, engineering scholarships have been given out by the Government, industry and institutes of higher learning. One example is the Building and Construction Authority-Industry Built Environment Scholarships and Sponsorships, which are awarded to tertiary students in built environment-related courses.

Last year, The Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES) launched the IES-SG50 Golden Jubilee Scholarship Fund to support 50 needy students with a passion for engineering to pursue engineering studies.

Thus far, 54 corporations and individuals have contributed a total of $226,000 to the fund. This encouraging response points to an industry-wide acknowledgement of the importance of nurturing future engineering talent.

Attracting young talent into engineering is a multi-faceted issue that goes beyond scholarships. It is good to see the Government taking the lead to enhance the attractiveness of an engineering career in the public sector.

IES has also been actively promoting engineering as a career to the young, by holding the National Engineers Day and other activities.

However, it is not just about churning out enough engineers. Engineering visionaries and leaders were the ones who played critical roles in Singapore's past success. It will take engineers of such calibre to take charge of Singapore's progress towards SG100.

It is thus encouraging that the Government has included leadership training in its plans for the public sector. In 2014, IES started the Young Engineers Leadership Programme jointly with NTUC U Associate to train young engineers to be next-generation leaders, and we are currently designing the Advanced Engineers Leadership Programme for senior engineers.

IES also believes that our younger generation need role models to inspire and guide them in developing not just hard skills, but also to build core values integral to the profession. To this end, we have been identifying inspiring engineers and celebrating their works.

It would take time for engineering to be the top course of study and career choice again. There is no simple solution and it would take the efforts of not just the Government, but also all stakeholders.

Schools can make classes more exciting and employers can make their engineering jobs more interesting. If all players work together, engineering will support Singapore to achieve yet another 50 years of amazing transformation.

Chong Kee Sen

President

The Institution of Engineers, Singapore

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'Scholarships, leadership training among efforts to boost engineering'. Print Edition | Subscribe