IES Singapore appoints Edwin Khew as new president

He introduces “softer” aspects in the organization.

The Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES) recently announced that Engineer (Er.) Edwin Khew, will be taking over the reins of IES Presidency from Er. Chong Kee Sen.

IES was formally established in July 1966 as the national society of engineers in Singapore. It is called upon by the Government to provide feedback on professional engineering matters.

For his new appointment, Er. Khew has set three key thrusts in collaboration with the IES Council: to deliver greater value and relevance to IES members, to raise the profile of engineering as the profession of choice and to steer IES towards becoming the focal point and strategic partner for all present and future engineering initiatives in Singapore.

Er. Khew has made significant contributions to Singapore’s Cleantech, sustainable energy and manufacturing industries. He played a leading role in the establishment of the first Cleantech Incubator/Accelerator for Singapore start-ups and foreign companies in 2013. He was also the former President of the Singapore Manufacturers’ Federation, the current Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS) and Chairman of the Singapore Standards Council. Er Khew served as a Nominated Member of Parliament between 2006 and 2008 and was awarded the Public Service Medal (PBM) by the President of Singapore during Singapore’s National Day in 2014.

Singapore Business Review caught up with Edwin to talk about his new appointment. Here’s a transcript of the interview.

1. What makes you excited about your new position?
As the national society of engineers in Singapore, The Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES) has played a pivotal role in enabling Singapore’s transformation through engineering over the past 50 years. I am both excited and humbled to be elected as the President of IES as it celebrates its 50th anniversary and as Singapore moves into its symbolic 51st year of growth.
Knowing how I lead IES over the next two years could influence Singapore’s future economic development and the quality of life for Singaporeans, whereby engineering will continue to play a key role, bequeaths a huge sense of responsibility upon my shoulders. But I am confident that with the support of the IES Council and IES Secretariat, as well as our valuable partners across the industry, academia and government, I will be able to lead IES to harness the ingenuity, innovation and passion of the engineering community, for the well-being of our economy and people of Singapore.

2. What three goals are you focused on?
At its 50-year mark, it is critical for IES to integrate the essence of achievements made by our predecessors with our understanding of the evolving landscape into a future-ready blueprint that will take us into the next 50 years. With this as the context, I have identified the following three key strategic areas of focus for the next 10 years, in consultation with the IES Council:
Firstly, we aim to expand our membership, not just in terms of numbers but in diversity of composition. As the practice of engineering is becoming increasingly multi-disciplinary, we strive to acquire engineers from a wide spectrum of industry sectors and engineering disciplines representing different age groups, genders, and professional status so as to enhance opportunities for collaboration and cross-sharing of ideas amongst the engineering community.
Secondly, establishing engineering as a profession of choice is the other top priority. Engineering is a profession with great career prospects, job satisfaction, and remuneration. But somehow these unique attributes have become lost in translation over time. IES wants to fortify our efforts in enthusing students about engineering from a young age through programmes, competitions and hobbies around STEM in schools; and in engaging engineering students and young engineers in making engineering their long-term profession. We will continue to raise the appreciation of the contributions and achievements of engineers amongst the public so that everyone wants to become an engineer!
Our third goal is to entrench IES as a preferred partner on all engineering matters. We want to increase our support and value-add to government agencies for policy development; and grow our standing as the focal point of engineering solutions for all local engineering issues including being a regional centre to discuss urban engineering solutions in resilience to adapt to climate change. We will also look at raising the level of recognition of IES and our chartered engineering certification scheme across various engineering industries sectors through global mutual recognition agreements (MRAs) and positive exposure in the local and regional media. Essentially, we want IES to be synonymous with all things engineering locally and globally.

3. What will you do differently in this position?
IES has become the exceptional organisation it is today because the previous 25 Presidents of IES over the past five decades have been united in a common vision to be “the heart and voice of engineers and the national body and home for engineers in Singapore”. While this is so, these past Presidents have also not been afraid to challenge the norms and dare to be different to stay relevant with the evolving landscape.
I will also endeavour to stay true to the mission, vision and core values of IES, but will also be innovative in bringing the organisation forward and remain relevant to the many changes in technology to ensure IES is future-ready. Apart from the three ‘hard’ goals, I feel that it is equally important to introduce ‘softer’ aspects into the equation to break new grounds for all IES members. For example, we will direct special attention on a pro-bono basis to advice on engineering matters in homes, communities housing and to the needy and disabled thereby making their lives better; and to promote environmental and safety consciousness amongst our members. This will be very much in line with the mission of IES which is “to enhance the well-being of mankind through engineering”.

4. What changes are you planning for?
For IES to be effective in its work, I think it is important to strengthen our engineering expertise and be the reference points for all engineering matters. To do that IES needs to put itself at the forefront of engineering advancements. We have put in place plans to develop strong and active technical committees (TCs) covering all sectors of engineering where we attract the best from our industries, academia and government to be in these TCs and therefore be the leading authorities and subject matter experts of engineering in Singapore. Only then can IES be the “voice” of engineers.

5. What are your key business philosophies?
My philosophy as a businessman and technopreneur is to provide my clients with the most appropriate solution to solve their technical problems at the fairest costings to them. My goal has always been to build long-term relationships with my customers by providing a win-win solution to both parties. Whether it is for my own business or for the professional appointments I hold such as the IES Presidency, I always focus on building trust as I believe it is the foundation of any partnership yesterday, today and in the future.
If one cannot uphold honesty as a businessman and as an engineer, then business will not flourish under his or her watch.

6. What previous positions prepared you for this one and how?
Looking back, my various appointments as Chairman of the Sustainable Energy Association of Singapore (SEAS), President of the Singapore Manufacturers Federation (SMa) and Chairman of the Singapore Standards Council combined with my exposure as a Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP), have helped to prepare me for my new appointment as the IES President. These appointments have taught me to manage large Councils and Secretariats and how to have them work and collaborate together to benefit the organisation that they serve positively. As chairman or president of an organisation, one has to facilitate and ensure that the Council/Board and the Secretariat/Management work together towards common goals and objectives which will benefit members/shareholders/stakeholders. I will be faced with the same challenges in IES but with an additional demand which will have national impact to Singapore and that is to make engineering attractive and a profession of choice for our young in school today.
I am also fortunate to be tasked to oversee functions of strategic importance since joining IES in 2006. I have served as a Vice President in the IES Council from 2008 to 2015 and also made contributions as the head of several groups (Manufacturing, Environment, and PR and External Relations) and just recently as the chair of the Chemical and Process Engineering Technical Committee (CAPE TC) which required me to chair and be President of the Asia Pacific Conference of Chemical Engineering Congress (APCChE), which was held in Singapore in 2012 for the second time after 25 years. This has provided me a regional role sitting on the Exco of APCChE has also given me an opportunity to lead and be part of big-scale regional engineering event in Singapore.

7. Anything else you'd like to add?
Some say that engineering is the building block of our modern world, the enabler of societal development and even the lifeline for every business. To me, engineering is a high tech ship carrying the most brilliant people with a singular focus to dock the engineers on board at each port it comes across to make each port and the world a better place to live in. It is my hope that during my term as the IES President, I would be able to build an IES super liner that is technically sophisticated and attractive so that the best of our young will want to board this liner and that they can have a great journey riding the waves of technological changes towards a bright future. It will not be smooth sailing all the way but I am fully committed to work with all our stakeholders to make it happen.

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