Scholarships, new diplomas to boost construction industry

Mr Muhammad Haidil Kamali (left) and Mr Ajit Kumar are recipients of the BCA-Industry Built Environment ITE Scholarship. They will be working at lift company Chevalier. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - When he was just five years old, Mr Ajit Kumar would take apart damaged household appliances, fascinated by the colourful and intricate wiring inside ovens and fans.

At seven, when he experienced his first blackout at home, he was not afraid - instead he was curious about how it happened.

Now 21 and armed with a Nitec in facility technology (mechanical and electrical services), he is set to start work in March as a technical supervisor at lift company Chevalier.

Mr Kumar was among 134 recipients who received BCA-Industry Built Environment Institute of Technical Education (ITE) scholarships and sponsorships at an award ceremony held on Monday (Jan 29) at ITE College East in Simei.

New specialist diploma courses to upgrade the skills of workers in the industry were also unveiled at the event.

The study awards are part of a drive to draw more young people here to the construction sector. The Construction Industry Transformation Map (ITM), launched in October last year, seeks to overhaul a sector that has long struggled to attract local workers.

The ITM aims to make jobs in the industry more attractive and highly skilled, and to rely less on manual labour. It also intends to more than double the pool of professionals in digital technology, prefabrication and green-building capabilities from the current 33,000 to 80,000 by 2025.

Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee, who was guest of honour, announced the inaugural Building Specialist Sponsorship (BSS) awards to support current employees in upgrading their skills. These include a new ITE Work-Learn diploma course which provides hands-on training for workers in Building Information Modelling (BIM).

BIM, used by 80 per cent of major consultants and 60 per cent of major builders here, is a 3D model-based process that enables more efficient planning, design, construction and management.

The BSS awards also include specialist BIM diplomas for post-diploma graduates, offered by Temasek Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic.

"This is a fast-paced growth area. It is going to be a sector that generates interesting, varied and good jobs and this is where all of you come in," said Mr Lee, who is also Minister for Social and Family Development, in a speech to the award winners.

He added that it is not just the Government that extends support, but industry partners too, as the scholarships are co-sponsored by firms. The scholarships target ITE students enrolled in built environment courses.

Chevalier is co-sponsoring seven such scholarships this year. Its director Quah Eng Hing, 68, said that the programme is a good chance to attract more locals amid an acute shortage of manpower in the industry.

"With their technical background, they could be easier to train. Their eventual roles could be in leading maintenance teams with their good knowledge and skills," he said.

But the Government continues to be the main driver of the flagging construction industry. Estimates earlier this month from the BCA show that public projects will lead industry demand in the coming few years.

Mr Muhammad Haidil Kamali, 23, who graduated with a Nitec in facility technology (vertical transportation), is another scholarship recipient who will work at Chevalier.

"Locals have to step up and take care of our own lifts," he said.

He is hopeful about the sector's prospects. "This industry won't vanish and a career in it is always there."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.