LTA seeks to attract more engineers

Engineers working to resolve the problem in the tunnel during the MRT breakdown along the North-East Line (NEL) between Habourfront and Dhoby Ghaut stations on March 15, 2012.
Engineers working to resolve the problem in the tunnel during the MRT breakdown along the North-East Line (NEL) between Habourfront and Dhoby Ghaut stations on March 15, 2012. PHOTO: SBS TRANSIT

Consultant engaged to boost image of land transport industry as manpower needs rise

Looking for a job that's going places? The Land Transport Authority says it is offering just that - especially for job seekers with an engineering background.

The authority has even hired a branding and marketing consultant to convince people that the land transport sector provides attractive career choices.

The unprecedented move is in anticipation of manpower needs on the back of a fast-expanding land transport network.

It also aims to improve the industry's image which has been battered by a recent spate of breakdowns and project failures.

In its tender document, the authority said it and the public transport operators "face increasing difficulty in recruiting and retaining staff... especially for roles like engineers, rail technicians, bus drivers and bus technicians".

According to Ministry of Manpower statistics, land transport and support services employed 90,500 people as of the end of last year. This figure is expected to rise exponentially in the next 15 years when all the new rail lines are up and new bus contracts awarded.

According to Ministry of Manpower statistics, land transport and support services employed 90,500 people as of the end of last year.

This figure is expected to rise exponentially in the next 15 years when all the new rail lines are up and new bus contracts awarded.

An LTA spokesman said: "Given our aggressive efforts to expand the rail lines and the bus sector in the years ahead, LTA seeks to improve the image and professionalism of the industry as a whole, so as to make it an attractive career choice for talents to join and remain in the industry.

"The public transport industry is facing keen competition in our manpower needs - especially in areas where engineering expertise is required."

However, the LTA may have to go further to win people over.

Human resources consultant Alex Yew, a partner at Kyle & Associates, said: "I asked my son what would make him take up engineering and he says we need to make engineering hot again.

"How can a business administration degree command a higher starting pay than an engineering degree? Something is broken."

Mr Yew said the LTA's initiative "will be a waste of money" unless the whole government promotes the sector like it did aerospace, finance and energy.

Mr David Leong, managing director of recruitment firm PeopleWorldwide Consulting, said: "If you call for engineers to join an operator which may not have such good reputation now, there will be inertia.

"Our perennial shortage of engineers is a real problem.

"But given enough motivation, recognition and national focus - like how Ministry of Education recruits teachers or Ministry of Health recruits nurses - we can get the best minds to the problem."

The Straits Times understands the shortage has been worsened in the light of booming infrastructure developments in the region.

Malaysia, for instance, is said to have persuaded a number of LTA engineers to work on its Kuala Lumpur MRT project by trebling their salaries. On its part, the authority has been replenishing the talent pool with engineers from countries such as India, China, the Philippines and Myanmar.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2015, with the headline 'LTA seeks to attract more engineers'. Print Edition | Subscribe