Forum: Obvious why engineering not popular

An engineer working on a medical system for a company that designs and manufactures high-value medical devices and lab equipment, on Feb 11, 2019.
An engineer working on a medical system for a company that designs and manufactures high-value medical devices and lab equipment, on Feb 11, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

The Institution of Engineers, Singapore's (IES) 53rd annual dinner was a good occasion for Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat to extol the virtues of engineers (Engineers will play key role in future economy: Heng, Oct 11).

Unfortunately, Singaporeans today shun engineering as a career and an engineering degree is no longer as sought after as those of medicine and law.

Why is this so?

First, we have ourselves to blame. The engineering fraternity is fragmented, non-inclusive and fails to govern itself.

The Institute for Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Professional Engineers Board of Singapore are just some examples of organisations which run independently of IES.

Practising engineers in Singapore do not need to register themselves with IES.

And when engineers get into trouble, as in the case of the Tampines viaduct collapse, IES does not get involved.

Engineers don't govern themselves, unlike the Singapore Medical Board and the Law Society.

Second, unlike the medical and law fraternities who restrict foreigners from practising in Singapore, there is no such restriction for engineers.

As a result, local engineers who go through years of Singapore's world-class education system and graduate from Nanyang Technological University, one of the top engineering universities in Asia, struggle to find jobs while employers prefer to hire an engineering graduate from a foreign university.

Finally, as a result of the influx of foreign engineers, the wages for engineers have been suppressed because these foreign engineers are willing to accept lower pay.

Unless these issues are addressed, Singaporeans will continue to shun an engineering career no matter what the virtues of engineers are.

Liu Fook Thim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 15, 2019, with the headline 'Obvious why engineering not popular'. Print Edition | Subscribe