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BUILDING & ENGINEERING | Alpha Bierneza, Singapore
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Singapore's 27 largest engineering firms in 2016

Engineers are tunnelling their way into overseas projects.

An increasing number of companies are trying to acquire new projects in Southeast Asia amidst sluggishness in the local market.

Changi Airport’s Terminal 5, Jewel Changi Airport, and the Tusa seaport are just some of the infrastructures due to be built less than five years from now.

The Hays Quarterly Report for the fourth quarter of 2016 notes an obvious increase in the demand for engineers who are skilled in civil and structural design, electrical design, and mechanical design related to rail. This is amidst government plans to spend $26b on transport infrastructure by 2020.

Hays says aside from those with rail experience, tunnelling engineers will also find their services in demand. The healthcare sector, according to Hays, is also a strong market with the new build/extension and upgrade of existing hospitals creating demand for candidates with mechanical design experience.

“As a result of this planned work, many employers have moved their staff internally from buildings teams to healthcare/rail/infrastructure works to ensure they can cope,” notes Hays. Randstad concurs, saying the healthcare segment is boosted by the Ministry of Health’s 2025 plan to prepare the country for the ageing population. “Following a regional trend, initiatives and projects have been set in place to decentralise the healthcare system and improve accessibility to healthcare services,” comments Randstad.

In terms of hiring preferences, Hays says employers have a desire for permanent hires only, given that most of the projects have a deadline of completion by 2020. “A preference at the moment is to employ local permanent staff. However, contract work will be offered for niche skill set roles where the need is project related,” it adds.

Consultancies are said to be setting their sights on overseas projects, amidst sluggishness in the residential and retail markets. Hays says there’s demand for candidates who have had experience working in the wider Southeast Asia region, citing an increasing number of companies trying to acquire new projects in Southeast Asia.

“As government cooling measures are still in place, residential and retail markets remain sluggish with little or no new developments in the local market. As a result, consultancies are starting to focus their attention on overseas projects. With the private sector also quiet, the focus is on government funded public works focussing mainly on railway and infrastructure,” reports Hays.

Surbana Jurong, for instance, was recently awarded the contract to design the masterplan for the Hyderabad Pharma City in India’s newest state of Telangana. In 2016 Surbana Jurong also acquired Australia-based SMEC Holdings Ltd. Meanwhile, Randstad says professionals and organisations with transportation infrastructure experience in Singapore are gaining regional recognition and are increasingly sought after for overseas projects.

In terms of innovation, BMI Research notes tirst movers in adapting 3D printing to the construction space are likely to achieve significant advantages in terms of precision and waste reduction over market participants relying on conventional construction methods.

Surbana Jurong keeps top spot

Still the largest engineering firm in Singapore following a merger in 2015, Surbana Jurong tops Singapore Business Review’s 2016 list, followed by AECOM Singapore and Parsons Brinckerhoff.

Meanwhile, Surbana Jurong Chairman Liew Mun Leong was conferred the Distinguished Professional Engineer Award 2016 by the national Professional Engineers Board in November.

Surbana Jurong has also acquired 100% shareholdings in AETOS from Temasek, expanding its overall service offerings to include safety and security capabilities.

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