Speech by Guest-Of-Honour, Mr Chee Hong Tat Senior Minister of State For Ministry of Education, at the Launch of the Energy and Chemicals Training Centre, at Singapore Polytechnic

Published Date: 31 July 2019 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Ng Cher Pong, Chief Executive, SkillsFuture Singapore

Mr Soh Wai Wah, Principal of Singapore Polytechnic

Mr Kenneth Tan, Vice President of Emerson Automation Solutions

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to be here today at the opening of the Energy & Chemicals Training Centre (ECTC) at Singapore Polytechnic.

2. The Energy & Chemicals (E&C) industry is an important pillar of Singapore’s economy, accounting for 3.3% of our GDP and employing approximately 27,500 people1. Together with Electronics, Biomedical Sciences, and Engineering which includes Precision Engineering & Transport Engineering, it forms one of the four pillars in Singapore’s manufacturing sector. The E&C sector also provides high paying jobs with good career progression for Singaporeans – E&C has the highest salary per worker and hires the highest percentage of locals amongst all manufacturing sectors. The E&C sector also creates significant spin-offs to the rest of the economy in areas such as oil trading and terminalling, which signals Singapore’s position as an oil trading hub. Just earlier this week, I was at Jurong Port where we launched the Jurong Port Tank Terminals (JPTT), and this is also an important investment in our infrastructure to grow the E&C sector.

3. Singapore’s continued investments in the E&C sector over the years have helped to build a strong pool of talent, world-class infrastructure and a highly integrated chemical value chain – ranging from upstream refining to downstream petrochemicals production and specialty chemicals manufacturing. And this has made Singapore the world’s fifth largest refinery export hub2 and among the top ten chemical export hubs by volume3, even though we do not produce a single drop of oil. Of course, there are challenges going forward for the E&C sector, but what remains evergreen is the need to focus on providing a good business environment and a skilled workforce.

Growing the Energy and Chemicals Industry

4. So how did we grow the E&C sector and more importantly, what must we do to retain our competitiveness in this area? I would like to suggest that there are three important factors: (i) be a trusted location for investors, (ii) preserve and grow our strong tripartite partnership, and (iii) adopt innovative technologies.

5. First, we have to remain a trusted location for investors. In capital intensive sectors like E&C, investors need to commit to projects with long time horizons, and they are looking for locations that can provide long-term stability in a world of uncertainty. Singapore provides such long-term stability, and we have accomplished this by having trust and collaboration between the Government, the economic agencies, the companies, and the labour movement. This is what gives confidence to investors when they put their capital and investments in Singapore.

6. During the oil crisis in the 1970s, Singapore made a very important decision that differentiated us from many countries around the world. We did not take over or nationalise oil that was stored in Singapore. The assets continued to belong to the investors, unlike in some other countries. We respected the property rights, and the contracts that we had. And that was an important signal that in good times or in bad times, this is a government that focuses on preserving trust, building confidence and giving investors that certainty.

7. Second, we must maintain our strong tripartite partnerships. In Singapore, we have a unique system where the government, businesses and labour movement work very closely together to provide an operating environment that is both pro-business and pro-worker. As the economy continues to transform, we are committed to investing in training and upskilling our workers. We firmly believe that workers must remain at the core of our economic and enterprise transformation efforts. We must remain people-centric.

8. Third, we plan to transform the existing base of chemical manufacturing through the adoption of innovative technologies. And this has to be done in close collaboration with the industry. These would include Advanced Manufacturing technologies such as robotics and Internet of Things, which are already changing the way we manufacture products, how supply chains are managed and how energy needs are optimised. These innovations will allow companies here to be more competitive and raise their productivity by overcoming not just land and labour constraints, but increasingly, also carbon constraints. This is done by becoming more energy-efficient, by improving and optimising our production processes and also looking at where we can move up the value chain, to create higher value-added products.

Upskilling the Workforce

9. So all these efforts to develop the E&C industry depend on a critical factor – which is the skills of our workers and that’s why we are all here today for the launch of the ECTC. Our workforce must be equipped with the necessary skills to adapt to new job roles as we grow and transform the E&C industry.

10. We have launched the Skills Framework for the E&C industry, which provides valuable information about career pathways, occupations and job roles for this industry. Developed by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), Workforce Singapore (WSG) and EDB together with industry stakeholders, training providers, and the unions, the Skills Framework highlights emerging skills such as Internet of Things Management, Robotic and Automation Technology Application, and Applied Research and Development, to support industry needs in digitalisation, energy management, and product development and innovation.

11. The Energy & Chemicals Training Centre (ECTC), developed by Singapore Polytechnic and supported by SSG, will provide more opportunities for Singaporeans to undergo industry-relevant training at all stages of their careers. This include not just polytechnic students, but also existing workers who are coming back to upskill and reskill. With the latest digital capabilities put together by Emerson and SP, it provides an authentic learning experience with the use of advanced manufacturing technologies.

12. The team of facilitators will use the Centre’s state-of-the-art facilities to deliver training programmes, such as Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR and VR) to deliver training that could not be done in a conventional training environment, sometimes due to safety reasons. For example, by using AR and VR, a chemical spill can be simulated in the virtual space where the learner will learn how to perform a chemical clean-up without putting the student, the trainer and others in a hazardous situation.

13. The ECTC will benefit a range of SP’s existing training programmes, ranging from the Diploma in Chemical Engineering targeted at secondary school leavers, to work-study programmes such as the Advanced Diploma in Chemical Engineering, which is a SkillsFuture Work-Study Post-Diploma Programme (or previously known as the Earn and Learn Programme) designed to help fresh polytechnic graduates deepen their skills and gain a head-start in the E&C sector. The first few batches of these graduates have shown very encouraging results. Students are able to get a good salary after they finish their programme and employers value their skills, and I think this is a very encouraging start. With the launch of the ECTC, students in these courses can expect to benefit from stronger workplace learning, including mentorship opportunities and facilitated learning with companies.

Conclusion

14. I am heartened by the collaboration between SP and Emerson, and hope that more industry players can work with our Institutes of Higher Learning to upskill their workers. Through such programmes, employers can groom and retain talent with the relevant skills to meet evolving industry needs. It is a win-win outcome, good for companies and good for workers.

15. Let me end with a quick summary of the three key messages that I touched on this morning. The first is that the E&C sector remains a very important part of the economy which provides good jobs for our people. Next, I want to reinforce the evolving role of our IHLs to move into lifelong learning. And this is not easy, as it is also part of transforming the role of our IHLs, and I want to take this opportunity to thank the management and the staff of our IHLs for the effort that they are putting in, for this very important initiative. Lastly, I would like to encourage more collaboration and partnerships between our education institutions and industry. I believe this is the way forward, as it is more authentic and industry relevant.

16. Let me end by congratulating SP once again on the opening of your centre, and thank Emerson for being a long-standing key partner for our E&C sector.

17. Thank you.


Footnotes
  1. 2017 GDP and Employment data (Source: MTI-ECD)

  2. Singapore is the world’s 5th largest petroleum product export country in 2017. (Source: BP World Statistical Review 2018)

  3. Singapore is the world’s 7th largest chemicals export country in 2017. (World Trade Statistical Review 2018)

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