February 21, 2012

Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the ST Aerospace Groundbreaking Ceremony on Tuesday, 21 February 2012, at 7.30pm

Mr Chang Cheow Teck,
President, ST Aerospace

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,


Good evening. It gives me great pleasure to join you today at the groundbreaking ceremony for ST Aerospace’s new general aviation hangar and pilot simulator training facility here at Seletar Aerospace Park. I congratulate Mr Chang and his team on this important milestone.

Singapore’s Economy and the Aerospace Industry

In recent years, the global economy has been characterized by volatility and uncertainty. Economic cycles have shortened and markets have become more integrated globally, making macro-economic management all the more challenging. Notwithstanding the economic uncertainties, new technologies and the growth of emerging economies, especially in Asia, will generate significant economic opportunities for Singapore. As a small and open economy, we must stay nimble and be proactive in seizing opportunities to secure our economic future.

Since the report of the Economic Strategies Committee in 2010, we have been repositioning our economy so as to create more high-value jobs for Singaporeans. We have also been working with companies to upgrade processes and improve productivity, to enable our workers to earn more and to be more competitive.

A good example is the aerospace industry. Last week’s highly successful Singapore Airshow underscores the growth of Singapore’s aerospace industry, not only in volume but more importantly in increasing sophistication. Over the past two decades, the industry registered a compound annual growth rate of over 10%. In 2011, Singapore’s aerospace industry achieved a record $7.9 billion in output and employed over 19,000 people; of which 80% are locals. Today, Singapore enjoys a strong leadership position in Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (or, MRO), with over 100 companies offering the full suite of capabilities from nose-to-tail.

ST Aerospace’s investment in the pilot simulator training facility is also timely, as we look beyond MRO to grow supporting services such as pilot training. The expanding global aircraft fleet calls for additional pilots. The global demand for pilots is projected to double—from 237,400 in 2011 to 470,400 by 2030. Asia-Pacific will account for about 40% of this, driven by the strong demand for aircraft in this region. Moreover, as airlines focus on their core business of transporting passengers, there is a growing demand for turnkey aftermarket solutions. Pilot training will add to the suite of aftermarket services that global companies, such as ST Aerospace, provide to the airlines.

Building a Strong Singapore Core

Singapore companies, such as ST Aerospace, have built on Singapore’s strategic location, connectivity, efficiency and reputation to carve out competitive niches. As global competition intensifies, our companies are moving up the value chain and competing on the basis of skills, productivity and innovation. To further assist and incentivise our companies and our workers to sharpen their competitive edge, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam presented several important measures at Budget 2012.

It is critical for our people to acquire deep skills. Companies today are highly mobile—they invest where there are big markets, abundant labour and a deep talent pool. Singapore has none of these. To continue to create good jobs for all Singaporeans, we must deepen our talent pool in Singapore at every level. We must take workers’ training and continual upgrading seriously, and tap their creative potential.

We must also develop a core of Singaporean leaders and professionals in every sector, who not only have deep knowledge of their sectors, but also the leadership and business skills to succeed in a more complex and competitive world. We must invest in building our future Singaporean leaders and innovators.

With this in mind, in August last year, I announced the formation of a taskforce to offer more scholarships to Singaporeans in key economic and social sectors. The taskforce, co-led by MOE and EDB, has completed its work to design a new scholarship scheme to build a core of local talent for Singapore’s key and emerging industries.

I am pleased to announce a partnership between the Government and enterprises to launch the Singapore-Industry Scholarship (or SgIS). For a start, the Government will be partnering 28 enterprises in key economic & social sectors to offer about 100 new scholarships to Singaporeans in 2012. I am happy that the scholarships will be tenable at any of our local universities, which have in recent years, moved up the global ranking to be among the best in the world.

This Singapore-Industry Scholarship underscores the commitment of our Government to developing Singaporean talent. It also reflects the commitment of our top industry leaders to developing talent. This is an important development. Successful human resources management is not just about good personnel administration or the meeting of recruitment targets. Rather, enterprises need to excel in both recruiting the right people and in developing them systemically over many years. In short, enterprises need to take a long-term, strategic view of developing talent that is consistent with their business directions. Continual learning and development has to be a part of this approach. The enterprises participating in SgIS have been carefully chosen for their good HR capabilities and focus on developing talent.

I am happy to announce that ST Engineering, which ST Aerospace is a part of, will be one of these partner enterprises. Other industry partners include companies such as Singapore Airlines, BHP Billiton, Siemens, Hitachi Asia; social sector enterprises such as the public healthcare clusters, as well as prominent Singapore-based enterprises such as Charles and Keith, YCH Group and Sakae Holdings.

These enterprises are committed to developing the scholars through various programmes. During their undergraduate studies, scholars can look forward to overseas exchange programmes, as well as valuable internship and developmental opportunities with their chosen organisations.

For example, an SgIS scholar with ST Engineering can look forward to internship opportunities at its state-of-the-art facilities during his or her undergraduate studies. Upon graduation, he or she would join ST Engineering and eventually progress onto management or specialist career tracks. The new SgIS will offer promising young Singaporeans rich opportunities to pursue exciting careers in leading enterprises, many of which have growing businesses that will tap into the exciting growth potential that Asia offers.

I encourage our young Singaporeans to consider these scholarships, not for the prestige as such, but for the development opportunities. A good education provides a firm foundation for your future endeavours. But by itself, it is not sufficient. To succeed, we need to venture out of our comfort zone, persevere and build deep domain knowledge. Learning on-the-job and acquiring the habit of being a reflective learner will accelerate our learning. I believe these enterprises will provide rich exposure and good development opportunities.

The Singapore Government will expand the number of participating enterprises and scholarships over time. I encourage more industry partners to come on board and work with the Government to build up their human capital and nurture a strong Singaporean talent core.


In closing, it gives me great pleasure once again to congratulate the management and staff of ST Aerospace on the groundbreaking of its new general aviation hangar and pilot simulator training facility. I wish you continued success in the years ahead.

Thank you.