15,000 rail workers needed by 2030

Mr Samuel Tan (second from left), 24, a second-year SIT student taking a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Systems Engineering course, showing Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan (in blue tie) a series of student prototypes at the Systems Engineer
Mr Samuel Tan (second from left), 24, a second-year SIT student taking a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Systems Engineering course, showing Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan (in blue tie) a series of student prototypes at the Systems Engineering Lab 2 after the official launch of the Singapore Rail Academy (SGRA) yesterday. With the minister are SIT president Tan Thiam Soon (in pink shirt) and SGRA chairman Cham Tao Soon (in light blue shirt).ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

This is to support expansion of rail network and improve reliability: Transport Minister

New academy to become 'gateway of rail industry'

The rail sector here will need to grow to 15,000 workers by 2030, as Singapore expands its MRT network and works to improve rail reliability, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan yesterday.

Speaking at the launch of the Singapore Rail Academy (SGRA) at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) in Dover Drive, Mr Khaw said more than 15,000 workers may be needed.

About 10,000 are currently employed by the Land Transport Authority (LTA), as well as rail operators SMRT and SBS Transit, in the engineering, operations and maintenance fields.

To support the expansion of the rail network to 360km by 2030, as well as improve rail reliability, Singapore has to grow the pool of engineering expertise, Mr Khaw said.

  • Easing the transit into rail industry

  • Mr Tan Kiat Beng had worked in the oil and gas sector for three years when he decided it was time for a change.

    Three months ago, the 30-year- old mechanical engineer joined the Land Transport Authority (LTA) as an operations and maintenance executive engineer.

    "The rail industry will be definitely booming over the next few years," he said, pointing to the expected expansion of the rail network to 360km by 2030.

    Mr Tan is part of the pioneer batch of students under the Career On-boarding for Railway Engineering (Core) programme, a collaboration between the Singapore Rail Academy and the Employment and Employability Institute.

    The programme aims to help upgrade and reskill both new and mid-career entrants to the rail sector here by teaching them about various aspects of the industry, such as regulation and finance.

    A three-day foundation module for the programme, held last month, drew 30 engineers from LTA, SMRT and SBS Transit.

    "The course helped me to get to know the industry better, and get to know my counterparts in SMRT and SBS Transit better," said Mr Tan, who helps review the maintenance regime of rail operators to improve rail reliability.

    Core is not the only initiative aimed at skills upgrading for the transport sector.

    Yesterday, the inaugural Public Transport Awards recognised the efforts of 47 students and professionals pursuing courses relevant to public transport.

    They received scholarships, as well as book prizes and training grants.

    One recipient is Mr Lee Xiang Han, 26, a final-year student at the Singapore Institute of Technology pursuing a degree in sustainable infrastructure engineering.

    He will join SBS Transit as a rolling stock engineer when he graduates later this year,

    Though he has a diploma in aerospace engineering, Mr Lee chose to go into public transport as he saw a lot of room for "development" in the rail sector.

    "We need to have our own pool of rail talent here," he said.

    Zhaki Abdullah

"This makes the rail industry a growth industry, whose employment prospects are almost guaranteed in the next decade," he added.

He said the role of rail engineers has become more complex over the years, and that SGRA will help train a new generation of rail engineers.

The academy will allow aspiring engineers and technicians to upgrade and reskill themselves to join the rail industry. It will also serve as a research and development centre for rail engineering.

SGRA chairman Cham Tao Soon said several initiatives are already under way. The academy is currently working with SkillsFuture Singapore and the two rail operators to develop a competency framework, he said.

The framework will allow SGRA to better identify training needs in the industry. It is also working on a rail research and technology road map that will allow it to develop solutions to enhance rail safety and reliability.

The academy has started developing a programme to help new and mid-career entrants to the industry enhance their technical skills and expose them to areas such as design and planning.

"In two to three years' time, the SGRA will become the gateway of the railway industry," said Professor Cham.

To facilitate the academy's work, the LTA signed two agreements yesterday.

The first, with the Employment and Employability Institute, aims to attract, develop and retain the local rail industry workforce.

The second, with SIT and the International Council on Systems Engineering, aims to provide pre-employment training as well as continuing education and training programmes in systems engineering.

 

  • 10,000

    Number of people currently employed by the LTA, as well as rail operators SMRT and SBS Transit, in the engineering, operations and maintenance fields.

    360 km

    Size that the rail network will be expanded to by 2030.

National University of Singapore transport researcher Lee Der Horng said it is timely for Singapore to acquire the expertise to offer training here.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017, with the headline '15,000 rail workers needed by 2030'. Print Edition | Subscribe