Government to hire 1,000 engineers this year

It will review salaries to match market rates, provide training and leadership grooming

Children learning about science at yesterday's opening of a new building at The Institution of Engineers, Singapore.
Children learning about science at yesterday's opening of a new building at The Institution of Engineers, Singapore. ST PHOTO: LAU FOOK KONG

Engineers can expect more job openings, higher salaries and better prospects in the public service.

The Government, the largest employer here, will this year hire 1,000 engineers, expanding the existing pool by more than 13 per cent .

It will also review the salaries of public sector engineers and start a leadership scheme to groom them for positions such as chief engineer, chief technologist and chief scientist in the public service.

The moves were announced yesterday by Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean at the opening of a building at The Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES).

"As we transition into an innovation economy, we need to build up capabilities in newer engineering and multi-disciplinary fields," said Mr Teo, who is also Coordinating Minister for National Security.

There will be structured training and development opportunities to help engineers in the public service continually refresh and upgrade their skills, Mr Teo added.

"We need more and better engineers who go beyond just designing, building, operating and maintaining public infrastructure and systems with their deep technical expertise," said Mr Teo, whose first degree was in Electrical Engineering and Management Science from the University of Manchester.

A salary review will be conducted this year to make sure engineers are fairly compensated for the work they do, he said, adding that this will be for fresh graduates and current engineers and to keep pace with market benchmarks.

More details will be announced during the Committee of Supply debate in April, he said.

There are currently about 7,700 engineers in the public service.

In December last year, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan urged the Land Transport Authority to beef up its engineering team so that it can take over the running and maintenance of the MRT if needed.

IES president Chong Kee Sen said the new changes are a "good start" to draw more people to engineering but more needs to be done.

All stakeholders have to be engaged as engineering is competing against other professions in an increasingly tight labour market.

"Schools can make classes more exciting and employers can make engineers' jobs more interesting," Mr Chong said. With a new building next to its existing one at Bukit Tinggi Road, the IES can hold more training and networking sessions to bring the community closer, he said.

The gross monthly starting salary of engineering graduates from the National University of Singapore or Nanyang Technological University who started work in 2014 was $3,000 to $3,770, according to the Manpower Ministry. It does not provide the breakdown between public and private sectors but labour experts said the difference in starting pay can be about $1,000.

Singapore Human Resources Institute president Erman Tan welcomed the changes.

"With higher pay, Singapore will be able to attract and retain more talent (and prevent them from joining other sectors)," he said.

"Engineers boost the country's competitiveness because they spearhead innovation but of course, with higher pay we must hope that there are more productivity gains."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 17, 2016, with the headline Government to hire 1,000 engineers this year. Subscribe