$12.5m fund to groom talent in transport

Mrs Josephine Teo talking to Singapore Polytechnic students Amirul Husni Sidek (third from right) and Bryan Lim Wen Chong (far right), both 19, during a tour of the school's rapid transport technology programme exhibition. With them is SMRT group chi
Mrs Josephine Teo talking to Singapore Polytechnic students Amirul Husni Sidek (third from right) and Bryan Lim Wen Chong (far right), both 19, during a tour of the school's rapid transport technology programme exhibition. With them is SMRT group chief executive Desmond Kuek (fifth from right).ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

It will be used to develop relevant courses, sponsor study awards and set up training centres

With the country's rail network set to double in length to over 360km by 2030, more manpower will be needed in the public transport sector - such as engineers and technicians.

To address this, the Land Transport Authority (LTA) launched a $12.5 million kitty yesterday to help attract and groom talent in the industry.

The Public Transport Manpower Development Fund will, over the next three years, be used to develop industry-relevant courses, sponsor study awards, and set up new training facilities, like simulators.

Senior Minister of State for Transport Josephine Teo, who announced the fund yesterday, said Singapore's rail expansion must be supported by an "equally determined effort to build up the core of local talents".

The manpower is needed to "design, develop, operate and maintain a system that is not just comprehensive, but highly reliable", she added.

Mrs Teo said the Government has partnered with the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), polytechnics and universities to develop courses that will cater to students and mid-career professionals.

Two such courses are already under way - an ITE Higher Nitec in rapid transit engineering that was launched in April with an inaugural batch of 40 students, and a part-time Diploma in Engineering (rapid transit technology) that was started by Singapore Polytechnic last month, with an inaugural intake of 15 mid-career professionals.

Next year, Singapore Polytechnic and the Singapore Workforce Development Agency will also roll out a SkillsFuture Earn-and-Learn programme for rapid transit technology.

This will be offered to all Nitec and Higher Nitec engineering graduates, who will undergo on-the-job training with employers, apart from structured classroom sessions.

From next year, students and professionals can also apply for study awards and training grants for rail-related courses. Up to $2 million is expected to be disbursed every year, benefiting some 450 people, the LTA said.

LTA chief executive Chew Men Leong said the current workforce in the public bus and rail sector is about 19,000 strong. He is targeting between 200 and 300 rail engineers, and 600 to 700 train technicians to join the industry annually, for the next 15 years.

Both SBS Transit and SMRT welcomed the new fund. SBS Transit chief executive Gan Juay Kiat said the company has seen "very fast-paced growth" in its rail business, and has ramped up its recruitment in the lead up to the Downtown Line 2 (DTL2) opening on Dec 27. More staff will also be recruited for the DTL3 that is targeted to open in 2017, he added.

SMRT Corp president and group chief executive Desmond Kuek said the company has been recruiting actively, boosting its rail engineer numbers by over 70 per cent in the past three years to 328, with a target of 400.

Mr Sam Bin Mian, 50, a senior technical officer with SBS Transit who is taking the part-time diploma, said: "I currently specialise in train repairs and overhaul. Through the course, I'll learn about (train) electronics and electrical (systems) and it'll help me better communicate with staff from those departments in my company."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2015, with the headline '$12.5m fund to groom talent in transport'. Print Edition | Subscribe