Speech by 2M Desmond Lee at the 24th Annual Dinner for the Society of Project Managers

Sep 21, 2019

Good evening and thank you for inviting me to your 24th annual dinner. I am delighted to be here to meet all of you. 

The Society of Project Managers (SPM) has come a long way since it was established in 1995. You have played a very important role in helping our construction industry to transform and advance; and you have done this proactively. For example, you are a member of the Construction Industry Joint Committee and participated actively in our Future Economy Council Built Environment Sub-committee. This sub-committee brings together not just government agencies; we bring together academics, union leaders, and members from professional associations and trade associations. And, we bring on board our young leaders – young professionals, architects and engineers, who represent the future of construction in Singapore. 

Having launched the first industry transformation map (ITM), we are tracking progress and keeping on top of the figures; and, we are moving on to the next phase.  I would like to thank SPM for taking an active part and participating in the work of not just one sector, but the entire construction value chain. 

There is strong potential in our construction sector for growth. No doubt, it is a cyclical sector, but in Singapore, there is a strong pipeline of major infrastructure projects.  Countries around us in Asia and the Middle East are also ramping up infrastructure capacity.  The transformation that we are currently undergoing will put us in a better position as we seek to harness these opportunities domestically and overseas. That means looking at the entire value chain – developers, architects, engineers, project managers, quantity surveyors, builders, sub-contractors and specialty trades; and going further to environmental services, facilities management (FM), security services and landscaping. Everything in the life-cycle of a building and a city – from construction all the way to maintenance, security, environmental services – we are seeing how we can build a common spine throughout them through the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM). 

BIM, is not just a 3D model, to help consultants conceptualise, conceive and build.  It enables the entire construction value chain to build efficiently, virtually, and to build on-site with as little abortive work as possible. Our facilities management professionals and landscapers can also use the digital model. 

When I spoke to developers and the facilities management sector, they told me that the maintenance cost of a $100 million building can be four times more i.e. $400 million. However, if we can build well, we can save a lot on maintenance; and building well depends a lot on you – the PMs – to orchestrate, consolidate and integrate the value chain on the construction side. We can also do it on the FM side. Think of the potential available for Singapore Inc. in the built environment sector! If all Singapore companies across the value chain can design, conceptualise, engineer, build and maintain in a particular way, what does it mean for our competitiveness locally? Compare this to those who are coming in and not able to build the same way, not able to harness the capabilities of Integrated Digital Delivery (IDD), and not able to have the same language as us. Think about the potential when you go out to the regional countries as a whole value chain – the kind of value proposition we can harness!

I know some firms are beginning to see the opportunity, and increasingly more firms - both big and small - are coming on board,. This is a very ambitious effort through which we will create better jobs for Singaporeans, which may not have existed before, and stronger firms that are more competitive. 

As project managers in SPM, you have a very important role to play in catalysing the transformation of this industry. I am very encouraged that SPM has taken it upon yourself to draw up an action plan in order to play your part in the Construction ITM. You have shared with us the challenges faced by our PMs and mapped out the steps we need to take together to bring the profession forward. Amongst the many action items that you are pursuing, the SPM accreditation framework to enhance recognition and quality assurance of the profession.  A professional training course is also being jointly developed with BCA Academy that will be jointly certified, and has so far benefited 400 PMs in Singapore.

I am encouraged that you are not stopping there. SPM is participating in the collaboration between BCA Academy and the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) to roll out graduate certificate programmes that can be counted as credits towards the Master’s programme. 

On the Government’s part, we are working on a Skills Framework for all the professions in the built environment sector, to chart out clearer progression pathways for key job roles in our industry, including project managers. This Skills Framework will highlight the kinds of skills and capabilities that are needed, and identify the type of training courses that will match the ladders that you are seeking to climb. By doing this, we hope to complement your profession’s efforts in attracting and retaining talent, and facilitate career and wage progression. I hope this Skills Framework will help bring young people into this very important integrative profession. We are targeting to launch this sometime next year. 

Coming from the Ministry for Social and Family Development, I am very encouraged that SPM is supporting the Singapore Children’s Society. The Singapore Children’s Society is a veritable  institution that has been around for a long time. Institutions like the Singapore Children’s Society provided for vulnerable people, including children, when the Government was not resourced to provide in the early days.

The children are our future. We need to invest significantly in them. Some of them might become project managers in the future! I thank you for supporting and sending the right signal by supporting the Singapore Children’s Society.

Talking about young people, there will be a climate rally tomorrow afternoon at the Speakers’ Corner in Hong Lim Park – a display of activism by young people. I have met the organisers and they are all young people – professionals, students, young working adults, lecturers and academics. One of the speakers is an 11-year-old boy. This is a product of our education system, a product of our current generation of Singaporeans investing in the next thinking generation. 

At the rally, the young people are going to emphasise the need to look after our future, the environment, and to go green. It is an encouraging sign. All of us here in the built environment sector, whether as project managers, developers, contractors or architects, have already put in a lot of effort in Green Mark, in green buildings, and in Net Zero Energy Buildings. Let us find opportunities in this sector to make the world sustainable, liveable and hospitable. The young are looking at all of us – the grown-ups and the older people – to help them set the direction, so that they can continue in the right direction.

On this note, I would like to thank SPM. I think we can work together to do many things. It is a wonderful symbiotic relationship where SPM works together with our social service agencies to invest in the next generation. Thank you, and have a good evening.