Bending backbone

Engineering has been considered the backbone of Singapore’s economy but over the past decade, it has lost its appeal among the younger generation. Although the past decade has seen more engineering graduates, most of them plan to have careers outside their discipline. This means that engineering companies have found it increasingly difficult to fill engineering vacancies, thereby affecting their productivity.

In fact, the 2014 Ministry of Manpower Job Vacancies Report showed that among the top 10 professions with the highest number of vacancies, half were related to engineering such as civil, mechanical, electronics, electrical, industrial and production engineering. For mechanical, electronics and electrical side of things, employers found that 75% of the vacancies were hard to fill with local engineers.


Losing its luster

There are several reasons for this difficulty in filling these vacancies but observers peg a misconception of the work as one of the main reasons. They believe that engineering jobs are perceived as being rigorous and mundane. and this puts a lot of young people off.

Some students have even changed their courses shortly after going for their internships. They think that a career in engineering is all about doing the daily grunge work. This, however, is only partly true.

Granted the first 3-5 years are rigorous and challenging, according to the president of the Institution of Engineers. However, these years are critical in strengthening an engineer’s technical know-how for the future, which is not as mundane as they perceive it to be.

Industry experts say that the role of engineers is getting more sophisticated over time due to advances in technology and software. In addition to this, engineers are now required to have leadership and project management skills as well as technical skills, making the work anything but mundane.


Bringing back the shine to Engineering

In order to fill in those vacancies, universities have begun offering more adapted engineering programs for their students.

The National University of Singapore (NUS) now offers nine ENGR courses up from four. While the Nanyang Technological University (NTU) now has thirteen courses from only three courses 20 years ago.

In addition to this, NTU offers a Renaissance Engr Programme which offers multidisciplinary training for engineers. Along with the technical skills, they are now trained in business, entrepreneurship and liberal arts. They even get to go abroad for a year for more exposure.

Such initiatives are aimed to hopefully:

(i) renew students’ passion for the profession, as well as
(ii) convince employers to pay them more

since they are not merely engineers but have some value-add training that makes them more valuable to companies, and therefore deserving of higher pay.