Why It Matters

Drawing more to engineering

In a bid to attract more engineers to the civil service, the Government plans to offer more attractive starting salaries, following a review in April that will see their pay keep pace with market benchmarks.

It will also be starting a leadership scheme to groom its engineers to take on top posts such as chief scientist, chief technologist and chief engineer, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said last week. Structured training and development opportunities will be provided as well, to help engineers continually refresh and upgrade their skills.

The changes show that the Government is stepping up efforts to woo talent to fill at least 236 engineering positions listed in Careers@Gov. The field also has the most job listings, compared with other categories such as customer service, accounting and marketing. Agencies such as the Land Transport Authority, Defence Science and Technology Agency and Centre for Strategic Infocomm Technologies are most in need of engineers.

Mr Teo said the Government, the largest employer, will hire 1,000 engineers this year, expanding the existing pool by more than 13 per cent. In 2014, The Straits Times reported that the Republic needs 1,000 more engineers each year for the next five years to keep public infrastructural projects going. With the coming review expected to benefit both new and current engineers, the Government is determined to keep its pool of 7,700 engineers and expand it.

During a visit to Silicon Valley in California this month, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said firms in Singapore do not always treat engineering as the core of the business, an attitude that needs to change.

Labour experts commended the moves to draw more people into engineering, which can spearhead innovation and lead to better jobs, rather than lose them to more lucrative sectors such as banking. But they also warned of the danger of the private sector following suit, given the tight labour market.

Productivity must thus be watched keenly to make sure the wages are not simply inflated, said Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2016, with the headline 'Drawing more to engineering'. Print Edition | Subscribe