New task force to support built environment sector

A new task force in the built environment sector will design a "comprehensive training pathway" for present and future employees - part of the Government's efforts to retain a strong core of Singaporean labour in the industry.

But while industry players welcomed the new initiative, they said relatively low pay, "outdated" perceptions of the construction sector, and younger Singaporeans' desire for work-life balance will remain challenges for hirers.

The Built Environment SkillsFuture Tripartite (Best) Taskforce will develop better internships, pre-employment training, and training for graduates, Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee announced yesterday.

The task force is led by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA), institutes of higher learning and industry stakeholders.

First, it aims to help students in institutes of higher learning level up in areas such as Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA), integrated digital delivery (IDD) and green building.

Mr Lee said: "The curriculum will be updated to equip (students) with relevant knowledge in built environment transformation areas. There will also be more interdisciplinary projects to help build up experience in collaborative work."

CURRENT AND COLLABORATIVE

The curriculum will be updated to equip (students) with relevant knowledge in built environment transformation areas. There will also be more interdisciplinary projects to help build up experience in collaborative work.

MR DESMOND LEE, Second Minister for National Development, on the task force.

In addition, internships will be "more structured", and graduates in the workforce can expect to see the current Continuing, Education and Training framework enhanced with "more specialised training in transformation areas", he said.

Mr Lee was speaking at the BCA-Industry Built Environment Scholarship and Sponsorship Award Ceremony for over 400 postgraduates, undergraduates and diploma students, held at Marina Bay Sands Expo And Convention Centre.

A new network for young leaders in the industry by BCA will also allow them to share their knowledge, collaborate and go on site visits.

BCA said: "The majority of PMETs (professionals, managers, executives and technicians) in the construction industry are Singapore citizens and permanent residents - about three quarters of those employed by consultants and two-thirds of those employed by contractors."

Mr Edwin Khew, president of The Institution Of Engineers, Singapore, said young people opt for more lucrative careers as wages in the construction sector are depressed by foreign labour. About 30 per cent to 50 per cent of people across the engineering sector are Singaporean, he said.

Mr Khew, who is also co-chair of the Best task force, flagged another problem: "Many companies don't have the time to train and give a pathway as far as young employees are concerned."

Both Mr Khew and Mrs Sarah Tham, associate director of DLE M&E, suggested that longer internship periods and stepping up the use of technology might draw more young Singaporeans to the sector.

Mr Louis Khoo, director of Kimly Construction, said: "Outdated perceptions... do cause some Singaporeans to shy away from joining contractors or the industry."

But with the industry moving forward in areas such as DfMA, IDD and green building, new high-value skillsets are increasingly in demand, and work conditions on job sites will improve, he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 21, 2017, with the headline 'New task force to support built environment sector'. Print Edition | Subscribe