S$72m fund set up to boost skills in Singapore construction sector


A S$72 million training fund has been set up to help the building industry move away from labour-intensive methods to more "smart" processes.

The funds will go towards boosting skills in the building sector, including financing existing scholarship and sponsorship programmes for students and adults, said National Development Minister Lawrence Wong on Tuesday.

The funds, which have been earmarked from June last year to May 2020, could benefit the 118,000 locals working in the construction industry as well as architects and facility managers.

"The construction industry is rapidly changing, and it is changing all over the world, including in Singapore," said Mr Wong, adding that these changes are still behind the pace seen in sectors like transport and finance.

He noted that venture funding in building technology is growing and traditional firms are starting to do more to transform how they build, picking up new capabilities in automation, prefabrication and digital building and design methods. "To make all these happen, our people are at the heart of this transformation journey. How far we go depends on the quality of the people we have," added Mr Wong, who was speaking at an iBuildSG scholarship ceremony at the National University of Singapore.

The S$72 million fund will support an enhanced iBuildSG Scholarship and Sponsorship programme for those seeking academic qualifications in a full-time undergraduate, diploma or Institute of Technical Education track.

The programme partners students with industry firms so they will have a job in the sponsoring company on graduation.

The firm will also provide on-the-job training programmes and part-time upgrading courses. Previously, this sponsorship programme was only open to polytechnic and ITE graduates; university graduates are now eligible as well.

Mr Wong said that no matter if a person is a degree or diploma holder, graduation is the starting point for lifelong learning and not the end of a person's education.

All those awarded scholarships and sponsorship will now receive a S$3,000 training grant to boost their skills and competencies through courses. They will also be encouraged to stay on in the industry with a S$7,000 retention incentive one year after their bond ends.

The existing Building Specialist Sponsorship programme, which supports the training of technical personnel, will also be extended from two to three years. This allows students to attend longer courses such as part-time Nitec, higher Nitec and post-ITE development courses, said Mr Wong.

In addition, a new iBuildSG Tripartite Committee, comprising industry stakeholders from the unions, institutes of higher learning, and trade associations and chambers, will find opportunities in attracting and developing talent.

The Building and Construction Authority (BCA) will also launch an iBuildSG Club in April to entice secondary school and tertiary institution students to the built environment sector, helping them figure out the courses they can take if they wish to pursue a career.

BCA chief executive Hugh Lim said the transformation of the construction sector is powered by having talented and committed people, which is why the authority has been upgrading its programmes and created new touch points for individuals to be interested in the industry.

"Students are a natural starting point and by reaching out to them at an early stage through the iBuildSG Club, they can be better advised on how to prepare themselves to seize new career opportunities in the sector," he added.