As Singapore works to become a successful advanced manufacturing hub, it will need to develop its workers for the field, Senior Minister of State for Trade and Industry Chee Hong Tat said yesterday.
To help achieve this, industrial developer JTC and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have launched a plan to grow talent in the area.
The NTU-JTC Industry Talent Development Programme will allow more than 200 NTU students to try out internships and projects with eight industry partners such as the Agency for Science, Technology and Research in the next two years.
It will be offered to NTU students as part of their curriculum from the academic year starting next month.
At the programme's launch at the JTC Launchpad in Jurong Innovation District, Mr Chee said it will equip undergraduates with advanced manufacturing skills.
In advanced manufacturing, companies use technology and big data to make the manufacturing process less labour-intensive and more efficient, among other goals.
Examples of new technology include artificial intelligence and 3D printing.
Mr Chee, who announced the programme, said it will help companies build a talent pipeline, adding: "People remain the most critical element in our efforts to build a successful advanced manufacturing hub."
The manufacturing industry contributed to 22 per cent of Singapore's nominal gross domestic product (GDP) last year.
As of March, the sector had 484,500 workers, which made up 13 per cent of the total employment in Singapore, according to official statistics.
Mr Chee said the Government's target is to keep manufacturing at around 20 per cent of GDP, but with a shift towards advanced manufacturing.
He added: "Singapore is not a low-cost manufacturing base, but we can compete on other dimensions such as quality, value and speed, leveraging our advantages in trust, connectivity and talent."
Another key driver in the push towards advanced manufacturing is the development of Jurong Innovation District, he said.
The district is envisioned as the industrial park of the future, and its first phase is expected to be completed by around 2022. Mr Chee said the development is on track.
JTC is the master planner and master developer for the district. Its chief executive officer Ng Lang said the new programme will also help to build up a pipeline of talent to grow the advanced manufacturing ecosystem, amid increasing demand for higher-skilled manpower to manage new technologies.
Rexroth, a company under German engineering giant Bosch, is one of the organisations that has signed up for the programme. It said it is currently "challenging" to attract talent in the advanced manufacturing sector, and such collaborations with schools will help to address the issue in the long run.