$72m boost for skills training as building sector goes high-tech

Scholarship and sponsorship recipients taking a wefie with National Development Minister Lawrence Wong (fourth from left) at the iBuildSG scholarship ceremony at the National University of Singapore yesterday.
Scholarship and sponsorship recipients taking a wefie with National Development Minister Lawrence Wong (fourth from left) at the iBuildSG scholarship ceremony at the National University of Singapore yesterday.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Funds will be used to finance scholarship, sponsorship programmes for students and adults, says minister

A $72 million training fund has been set up to help the building industry move away from labour-intensive methods to more "smart" processes.

The funds, which have been earmarked from June last year to May next year, will go towards boosting skills in the sector, including financing existing scho-larship and sponsorship programmes for students and adults, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong said yesterday.

The 118,000 Singaporeans working in the construction industry as well as architects and facility managers will benefit from the training fund.

"The construction industry is rapidly changing, and it is changing all over the world, including in Singapore," said Mr Wong who, however, added that the changes in the industry were lagging behind those in other sectors like transport and finance.

He noted that venture funding in building technology was growing and traditional firms were starting to do more to transform how they build, picking up new capabilities in automation, prefabrication, and digital building and design methods.

"To make all these happen, our people are at the heart of this transformation journey. How far we go depends on the quality of the people we have," said Mr Wong, who was spea-king at an iBuildSG scholarship ceremony at the National University of Singapore.

The $72 million fund will support an enhanced iBuildSG Scholarship and Sponsorship programme for those seeking academic qualifications on a full-time undergraduate, diploma or Institute of Technical Education (ITE) track.

There were 448 scholarships and sponsorships awarded to polytechnic and ITE students, university graduates and postgraduates yesterday.

The programme partners these students with industry firms so they will have a job in the sponsoring company on graduation.

The company will also provide on-the-job training programmes and part-time upgrading courses.

Previously, this sponsorship programme was open only to polytechnic and ITE graduates. University graduates are now eligible as well.

All those awarded scholarships and sponsorship will receive a $3,000 training grant to boost their skills and competencies through courses. They will also be encouraged to stay on in the industry with a $7,000 retention incentive one year after their bond with their sponsoring firm ends.

The existing Building Specialist Sponsorship programme, which supports the training of technical personnel, will also be extended from two to three years. This allows students to attend longer courses, such as part-time Nitec, higher Nitec and post-ITE development courses, said Mr Wong.

In addition, a new iBuildSG Tripartite Committee, comprising industry stakeholders from the unions, institutes of higher learning and trade associations and chambers, will find oppor-tunities in attracting and developing talent.

The Building and Construction Authority will also launch an iBuildSG Club in April to attract secondary school and tertiary students to the building industry, helping them to figure out the courses they can take if they wish to pursue a career in the field.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 23, 2019, with the headline '$72m boost for skills training as building sector goes high-tech'. Print Edition | Subscribe