Business

Urban solutions field to add 2,000 new jobs

More potential jobs, but EDB chief fears workforce can't keep skills up

Over the next three years, projects already secured in the urban solutions field alone will add 2,000 new digital-related professional jobs to the economy here, the Economic Development Board (EDB) has estimated.

The lucrative urban solutions domain covers the likes of infrastructure, the built environment, security, water, energy and transport.

LONG-TERM TREND

There will also be potential jobs in other aspects of the digital economy, which "is going to be a very long-term trend and opportunity for Singapore and Singaporeans", EDB executive director Goh Chee Kiong told The Straits Times.

But he also fears the workforce may not be able to keep up when it comes to relevant skills.

Urban solutions and sustainability was one of four strategic technology domains identified in last year's $19 billion Research, Innovation and Enterprise 2020 master plan, with a pipeline of skilled manpower singled out as a growth pillar.

Upcoming opportunities include data analysts, solution architects, app developers, modelling specialists, cyber security experts and facilities managers.

"We expect a good mix of new hires and skills upgrades for existing workers. The latter (group) will be able to leverage the digital technologies to perform their roles more productively," said Mr Goh, who oversees clean technology and cities at EDB, as well as infrastructure and industrial solutions.

He said the Government is making a strong push to work with multinational companies and local training providers to ensure that workers here have the right skills. This could involve ensuring that global companies, "when they bring new capabilities to Singapore... are prepared to train Singaporeans to take on such new roles".

With such companies, "we do provide financial incentives" to train locals.

"We pick very bright graduates, regardless of their basic engineering course, and train them."Netatech's director of operations, Ms Elinda Gan, on how the sustainable technology company gets around the shortage of engineers and consultants

But on whether Singaporeans are ready for the digital economy, especially in urban solutions, his answer is still: "Not enough."

"Now, when it comes to digital courses, there is already a good range, so that is not a major issue for now," Mr Goh said. "But for those courses that are more specialised for urban solutions, we have determined there is a shortage (of manpower)."

Sustainable technology company Netatech is a 50-strong urban solutions enterprise that has faced a shortage of engineers and consultants, but it has worked around the problem.

"We pick very bright graduates, regardless of their basic engineering course, and train them," said its director of operations Elinda Gan.

Such training can include giving newcomers a front-row seat to in-house research and development projects, "which is itself a very healthy platform for staff learning".

National University of Singapore Associate Professor Albert Hu, who studies the economics of technological change, said: "To address the skills mismatch problem, a long-run solution would be to look into our education system and make sure that we impart the right skills and a lifelong learning desire to our students."

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