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BUILDING & ENGINEERING | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Singapore's 20 largest engineering firms 2015

Engineering sector losing its glam as a “cool” career

When Singapore began launching several public sector projects this 2015, demand for skilled professionals sharply increased, especially in the fields of construction and design. As public transportation continues to develop in Singapore, so does its demand for the highly trained professionals capable of carrying out the job.

“In terms of skills in demand for the October to December 2015 quarter, we are also seeing high demand for Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) candidates, systems engineers and rail/road alignment designers,” says Lynne Roeder, managing director of Hays Singapore.

However, it is becoming more and more difficult for employers to secure the talent required to complete these projects, for civil engineers in particular. While it is certainly a factor that most, if not all companies prefer to hire experienced local talent for permanent positions, the pool of engineers remains far smaller than the number of vacancies on the market.

Losing attractiveness

“Engineering on the whole has been steadily losing its attractiveness as a career option, especially in the eyes of the young, for years now. As with most sectors in Singapore, there is a manpower shortage; however engineering is one of the areas where the crunch is more acute,” says Ronald Lee, managing director of PrimeStaff, emphasizing that the practical basics of the engineering occupation need to be rethought in terms of the pay scale as well as overall career progression. “The perception of engineering needs to be changed. It is now seen as unglamorous so perhaps the relevant trade associations should work with the authorities to come up with a branding campaign and paint such jobs as “cool” and interesting to encourage students to consider it as a career path as well as attract younger workers and get them to stay in the field,” he adds.

In order to create appealing opportunities for candidates, companies in Singapore need to provide them with a workplace where their talents can be fully utilised and nurtured. With the abundance of jobs in Singapore, engineers have the rare opportunity of choosing between their best options.

“It can sometimes be difficult to source civil engineers, especially those with more than 10 years of experience. More pressure is added to the tight talent market to produce highly-skilled local professionals that employers require,” says Femke Hellemons, Adecco Singapore’s country manager, on the difficulty of recruiting skilled engineers. 

“As we shift towards a Productivity Paradigm Change, talent shortages can be an issue as they can hinder the effectiveness of operations.”

Who made it to the SBR’s list?

In its third year of ranking engineering firms based on total number of registered engineers, Singapore Business Review expanded the list to top 20.

Surbana Jurong, the result of the merger between Surbana International and Jurong Holdings emerged as this year’s largest with a headcount of 81. The list welcomes 3 new entries in the top 15, namely KTP International, Black & Veatch, and Fong Consult. In total, the new firm has over 3000 staff consisting of planners, architects, engineers and project managers. Second in the list is AECOM Singapore with 37 engineers.

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