SPEECH BY ER DR LEE BEE WAH, MP FOR NEE SOON GRC, AT THE SECOND READING OF THE PROFESSIONAL ENGINEERS (AMENDMENT) BILL
1. I rise in support of the Bill. May I begin by declaring my interest as a professional engineer and also that I am serving on the Professional Engineers Board as a member.
I am pleased that the Bill will expand the functions of the Board to allow it to promote the development of professional engineering in Singapore. This is a progressive move.
We are moving into an era where engineering is once again leading the charge – be it in driverless motor vehicles, smart homes, or even environmental protection. But so often, we hear of the waste of talent when those who are trained in engineering choose to go into other sectors like the financial industry, or into corporate work.
2. I have spoken about the pay and career progression on engineers. The government has started to remedy that, which will have a knock-on effect on the private sector. But we also need to improve the “image” of engineering. I’ll highlight two ways we can do so.
First, scholarships. As PM pointed out, the trend among top scholarship holders has shifted to economics and liberal arts. I hope the government will recalibrate the compass and point more students to take up subjects that support its Smart Nation projects. This will send a message to all students that engineering is an attractive and interesting career.
The Institution of Engineers Singapore and myself have been making calls publicly for more top students to be channelled into engineering.
But when we saw this year’s President’s Scholars, our hopes were dashed again. None of the five will study engineering.
I would like to to ask, for the past 10 years, how many President’s Scholars studied engineering? A word of caution, when looking at the Scholars’ vocations, we can’t lump engineering and science together. They are “same same but different”. Since engineering is important and the President’s Scholarship is the most prestigious scholarship on the island, I look forward to see the change in the next round of scholarship awards.
Second, media coverage. We often read in the media about local medical discoveries and scientific breakthroughs. However, we hardly read about engineering breakthroughs. For example, we get excited about driverless vehicles but not much is said about the persons working behind the project. We talk about tech start-ups but the focus is often on the founder, not the engineers and coders.
Did we miss out on something here? Is this because our research work carried out in the universities here is not getting the recognition, or is it because they are not courting the media to get exposure on their work? Is engineering too dry, too technical or difficult to write interesting articles about?
Perhaps, we need a concerted effort to build up the image and correct any wrong perception of the engineering profession. We need to promote the profession as one that offers a career, with rewards comensurate with responsibilities, and opportunities to move up the ladder. The Smart Nation project should be an awakening to parents, students and others.
Another point I would like to make is, in the interest of upskilling, I hope the institutions of higher learning and others look into more specialised courses on a part-time basis. It’ll be even better if they can collaborate with the various engineering bodies on this and the SkillsFuture fund can be used to pursue those specialised courses module by module.
Mr Speaker, Chinese please.
为了力挽狂澜，政府应该回到过去的做法，把更多奖学金颁给要修读工程科的学生, 像我们建国初期，许多奖学金得主，都是念工程， 也为我国的建国历史立下许多汗马功劳。 这个问题讲了这么久，今年的总统奖学金得主还是没有一个念工科的，期待明年会有转机。
谢谢。 Thank you.