Surbana staff to get boost in digital skills

Surbana Jurong mechanical and electrical designer Jerine Tay (seated) and technical manager Tan Siew Fong showing NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng how their team coordinates a design with different colour coding in the drawing using digital software. M
Surbana Jurong mechanical and electrical designer Jerine Tay (seated) and technical manager Tan Siew Fong showing NTUC secretary-general Ng Chee Meng how their team coordinates a design with different colour coding in the drawing using digital software. Mr Ng witnessed the signing of the agreement between Surbana and Batu yesterday. PHOTO: SURBANA JURONG

Firm ties up with union to equip 630 employees with advanced industry-specific tech skills

As the construction industry moves to embrace technology, infrastructure consultancy Surbana Jurong will work with a union to help its employees boost their digital skills.

A total of 630 of its 3,900 consultancy staff in Singapore will be trained over the next year in technology tools relevant to their jobs - such as drones, advanced building information modelling (BIM) and Audiance, a tool that facilitates data collection and site inspections.

Surbana Jurong signed an agreement yesterday with the Building Construction and Timber Industries Employees' Union (Batu) to form a company training committee to drive several initiatives. National Trades Union Congress secretary-general Ng Chee Meng witnessed the signing.

The new initiatives include identifying the relevant adaptive and technological skill sets for workers, developing mentorship programmes to help mentors learn how to guide employees, and ensuring all new and existing relevant technical staff are trained in three-dimensional BIM.

The company and the union said in a joint statement that employees will be equipped with advanced industry-specific technology skills in line with the Construction Industry Transformation Map.

They also want more employees to use new digital tools so that their work environments will be more productive and safe.

Surbana Jurong group chief executive Wong Heang Fine said clients have increasingly complex challenges in urban and infrastructure developments, so the latest and most advanced digital technologies are needed to better serve them.

He added that input from the union will inform the pace and nature of the training that the company conducts, among other things.

"The union will be able to work with us to tailor our training to the needs of the workers, rather than just to satisfy the needs of the company in terms of their skill sets in delivering the work," he said.

Batu will gather feedback from employees during and after their training so that what they learn and the way training is conducted can be continually fine-tuned. It will also work with company management to ensure the skills learnt are useful for current or upcoming projects.

Batu executive secretary Zainal Sapari, who is also NTUC assistant secretary-general, said the union wants to help workers understand the potential of digital transformation and equip them with adaptive skills, especially in change management. He added that the aim is to "ultimately enable them to move up the value chain and seize better wages, welfare and work prospects".

Mechanical and electrical designer Jerine Tay hopes to learn programming for BIM to expand her use of the software to design electrical systems for building plans.

The 57-year-old, who has been working in this line for 37 years, has gone from doing drawings on tracing paper to using 2D software and now 3D visualisation software.

Two years ago, she completed a half-year specialist diploma in BIM.

"At my age, to go for this type of training is really tough, but we have to go ahead and cannot turn back. I'm glad my bosses believe in me and support me in upgrading my skills," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 21, 2019, with the headline 'Surbana staff to get boost in digital skills'. Print Edition | Subscribe