Speech by 2M Desmond Lee at the BCA-Industry Built Environment ITE Scholarship and Sponsorship Award Ceremony

Monday, 29 January 2018

Let me begin by extending a warm welcome to all our 134 scholarship and sponsorship recipients and your families. Welcome not just to today’s ceremony, but also to the Built Environment (BE) sector, which you will soon be a part of.  

You have worked hard to earn your scholarships and sponsorships. We and our industry partners are happy to support you. I hope to see many of you prominently featured in this sector in the years to come.      

This is an exciting time to be part of the BE sector. Our forefathers worked very hard for many years to turn Singapore into a global metropolis. But the challenge does not stop there. 

Our city will need more solutions and more effort as we continue to grow, transform and evolve. For example, there are massive projects like the Tuas Port and Changi Airport Terminal 5.  These will help keep our economy vibrant, and create good job opportunities for our people.  

There are also watershed projects like the Jurong Lake District and Punggol Digital District.  These will refresh our landscape and provide Singaporeans with more options to work, live, and play in. All these projects need to be conceptualised, designed, built and maintained. These will come from the men and women in our built environment sector, which will be our award winners, their peers and their seniors. So to the family members, the future of Singapore will be built by our children.  

Equally important is the need to renew and maintain.  It is one thing to build beautiful and functional infrastructure with very imaginative designs, but they need to be maintained and kept functioning in tip top condition for the entire life cycle. Some of our infrastructure, over the years, is ageing, and climate change will also demand more resilient buildings and adaptation systems. 

It is also an exciting time for you to join this sector because you will be entering the sector when it is right in the midst of a very major transformation. The old ways of design and construction are being rapidly superseded and improved on by new technologies and new ways of building. These new methods allow us to work faster, cleaner, smarter and better.  

For example, there is this concept known as Design for Manufacturing and Assembly (DfMA). This means that building components can now be pre-fabricated in plants before being assembled onsite. In the traditional way of building, we will design and then bring all the materials on-site and build on-site with a lot of scaffolding, level by level. But increasingly, with digital technology and good design, you can build many of the building components offsite in enclosed factories using machines and automation, bring it onto the worksite and then build them up. It’s like fitting giant Lego pieces together! The result is a construction process that is more systematic, more streamlined, and much faster.  

Another example is Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD). IDD uses cloud and digital technology to connect stakeholders across the building value chain. It is a simple sentence that I just said, but actually it is a complex sequence of events that are happening. In the past, they will have 2D drawings and everyone would have their own plans. A building is a complex structure, with many disciplines participating in the design. But when you bring everything together in IDD, you have a building information model which is literally a detailed 3D map of the entire building, and you can even zoom in right down to the nuts and bolts and see everything. That brings all the disciplines – architects, various engineers and other consultants – together to design right down to the finest detail for every aspect of the building. 

Using technology allows the future of building design to be present today. And for the young people – our scholars and award winners – technology is like fish in water and this is right up your alley. Please seize this opportunity and create this edge for yourselves and for Singapore. 

At the design and construction stage, IDD allows professionals to plan and build together in virtual space before you actually even start building on-site. This helps to iron out conflicts early on, and reduces abortive work downstream. In the traditional way of building, often you have clashes, i.e. when you build something only to realise that it clashes with another plan in another drawing and you have to try to repair and rebuild. That is wasteful. But with technology, you can iron out all the kinks before you even start work.  

At the building operation and maintenance phase, IDD enables smart facilities management. For instance, if you can have sensors at the right places, maintenance personnel can refer to the building information model and work out the exact location of a pipe leakage, or a breakdown in M&E. This means less time spent on technical work on-site, and a more pleasant experience for building occupants as well.

These new technologies and construction methods will make a huge difference in how you design, build, and maintain the Singapore of tomorrow.  But they will only work if we have passionate, skilled people. So building a skilled workforce is at the heart and soul of the transformation efforts we are undergoing. We aim to train 80,000 professionals in these technologies, as well as in green building design and construction, by 2025. This is a fast-paced growth area.  It is going to be a sector that generates interesting, varied, and good jobs. This is where all of you come in.  

Scholarship and sponsorship programmes have been an important way to bring in new talent, and to help people who are already working in the industry to upgrade and improve their skills. Since the launch of the ITE Scholarship programme in 2013, more than 580 of our students have benefitted. 
It is not just the Government that is extending support. Our industry partners are equally important. In fact, 21 scholarship recipients have been co-sponsored by industry firms this year, up from 19 last year.

I would like to make special reference to Chevalier, which co-sponsored 7 scholarships this year. Two have gone to Muhammed Haidil bin Kamali and Ajit Kumar s/o Thiyaga Raju – graduates of the Nitec in Facility Technology. Haidil specialised in Vertical Transportation while Ajit specialised in Mechanical & Electrical Services. I understand that both of our scholars have been offered technical supervisory positions with Chevalier.  Well done and congratulations to both of them!

Today, we are also presenting the Building Specialist Sponsorship (BSS) awards for the very first time. This scheme helps current employees who are working in the BE sector to upgrade their capabilities and skills. 

I am happy to announce that Chevalier, Schindler Lifts, and Hitachi Elevator will be awarding 11 of such awards to their in-service personnel.  The recipients will be taking up part-time Nitec courses in Facility Technology (Vertical Transportation) to develop themselves for future supervisory roles.  Thank you all our industry partners for investing in your staff and colleagues, and supporting the entire sector.  I hope that more firms will come on board. 

These BSS awards are essentially about continuing education and training (CET). This is an important point that I need to highlight. While our schools provide a strong technical foundation for our students, regular updating and upgrading in this day and age is also very important. This helps us to keep pace with technology as they change and evolving work environments, and prepares all of us to take up more senior positions in future.

To enhance these training options, we work closely with our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) and our industry to regularly roll out new CET courses.  This includes ITE’s new Work-Learn Technical Diploma in Mechanical & Electrical (M&E) Services Supervision, which will commence this April. 

As the name suggests, learning for this course will take place both on campus, but more importantly, at the work place itself. There will be classroom components to sharpen technical knowledge, and practical elements to provide the important hands-on experience. In line with our focus on IDD, students will also learn to use BIM software to interpret, extract, and update information on a building’s M&E systems. This course is targeted at ITE graduates. I encourage those of you working in related areas to consider taking this up as part of your future development, especially if you are thinking of becoming an M&E coordinator, or resident technical officer. 

Let me end off by congratulating our scholarship and sponsorship recipients once again. I wish you well in your careers in the Built Environment sector and I thank you for deciding to join us.  

It is meaningful and satisfying work to build up and continue to renew Singapore. Your pioneers and predecessors built and maintained all of these. The future of Singapore, our built environment, our homes, our offices, our work places, places where we live, work and play – these are important places and we will rely on the future generations to keep Singapore and our built environment going strong. 

It is an area where there are good careers. Whether we do well, stagnate or progress depends on our daring do. When we rolled out the Construction ITM, and Built Environment ITMs, there are many firms which are excited about the opportunities that this transformation can provide – not only to the companies – but also to their workers and colleagues. They also saw that this will be the way in which Singapore’s economy continues to be strong. “Transform, take the plunge, take some risks, make it happen” – I think that was the spirit of Singapore in the early days of development. I think our younger generation can embody that daring spirit. 

With that, let me offer my congratulations to you and all parents. Thank you and have a wonderful day ahead.

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