Speech by 2M Desmond Lee at the iBuildSG Scholarship and Sponsorship Ceremony

Oct 24, 2019 19:21


I am delighted to join you on this special occasion. 

Being awarded a scholarship and sponsorship is big achievement. You’ve done yourselves and your families proud. So first and foremost, congratulations to all our recipients.

I know that at your age, you will ask yourselves what kind of pathway you would want to take? What kind of career do you want to pursue? And many of you would have taken on internships, ask other people, family and friends about which sector you should go into. Take it from all of us here. You are embarking on a meaningful and fulfilling career with many opportunities for you to make your mark in this Built Environment sector. Just take a look at the skyline around us. The skyline is distinctive, because it is the result of the collective efforts of many generations, from pioneers all the way to our generation in the Built Environment sector. But we’re not done building Singapore and reimagining what Singapore will be in the future.

We are continuously transforming and reimagining our landscape to meet the changing needs of present and future generations and to meet challenges of both today and tomorrow. All of you here today will play a crucial part in shaping the future of Singapore – how it looks like, how we live, how we work, how we play and how we interact. 

Transformation of the Built Environment Sector

It’s an exciting time for the Built Environment sector as we transform and take the sector to new heights. For example, not too long ago, all building plans had to be hand drawn on paper. As a result, plans across different disciplines sometimes came across as uncoordinated, resulting in many inefficiencies, because each specialist and professional came up with their own drawings. And for a complex development, there will be these instances of lack of coordination. Construction then was also low-tech and relied heavily on labour.

And so we have set out to change this, to become more productive and to create new niche areas, as well as good jobs for Singaporeans. We brought together industry leaders, trade associations, professional bodies, unions and Institutes of Higher Learning to develop major blueprints to transform the industries within our Built Environment sector – construction, real estate, security, environmental services, landscaping – all the industries that impact upon the built environment.

These plans which we call ITM or Industry Transformation Maps, set out the plans for each respective industry in order for the industry to upskill to adopt new productive processes and develop cutting edge products and services. It’s a plan put together by industry, unions, academics and the government, all coming together to look at the status today – what we are happy with, what we are not happy with, and what are the opportunities we can grasp. And we found that these opportunities cannot be grasped unless we come together and work together. By coming up with these plans, it allows us to do things differently, and to remain competitive both here in Singapore and abroad.

For example, some of you might have heard of what Integrated Digital Delivery, or IDD, sets up to achieve. With this, developers, consultants, builders, and even facility managers, and not just people involved in designing and building a development, but those who will look after it for a long time, will now be able to collaborate seamlessly on the same 3D BIM model. With technology, we are able to design a building, not only architecturally, but in terms of MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) and  operations, in a 3D model, which can be the foundation for all the sectors to integrate in the construction process, and then to be able to use the model to manage the building throughout this lifecycle. This reduces the time and the need for manual documents and results in less abortive work downstream when we start the construction process.

Another example is the use of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, or DfMA. We are moving construction from the open work site, what many of you might perceive as construction of the past – very wet, muddy, dusty, dirty, challenging, and even risky, into the controlled environment, such as a manufacturing factory to prefabricate building components – both  two-dimensional and increasingly three-dimensional, for on-site assembly. Mimicking the processes you see in manufacturing, including in some instances the use of robotics and technology, and using that in the construction process, so that you do as much work possible off-site in an enclosed environment.

Third, innovative building technologies, incorporating 3D printing, drone-based photogrammetry, machine learning and robotics. They are out on the horizon. All these sound very high-tech, but the future has begun to appear today. 

Building a Pipeline of Talented Individuals

This can only be possible if we have a strong pool of professionals with the relevant skills and the willingness and culture to collaborate with one another. That is why we have partnered the industry to provide scholarships and sponsorships to bring talented individuals like yourself into our sector. 

We are very happy to see so many of you receiving awards today. Take for example, Mr Muhammad Asyraf Bin Chumino. Not only did he excel in his studies at ITE, graduating with a near perfect GPA, he was also Chairman for the ITE Civil Defence Lionhearter Club. Taking up the iBuildSG ITE scholarship solidified his passion for the built environment. He subsequently pursued Hotel and Leisure Facilities Management in Singapore Polytechnic, and was also awarded the BCA-EM Services iBuildSG Diploma Sponsorship. In his current role as a property officer at Pasir Ris-Punggol Town Council with EM Services, Asyraf carries out maintenance checks, and takes pride in resolving residents’ issues smoothly.

The second example is Mr Benjamin Chong Mun Choen. As a student in SUTD’s Architecture & Sustainable Design programme, he took on an internship at WOHA, where he worked on the Lyf one-north project, the first co-living property in a research and innovation business hub in Singapore. While working on the project, his supportive WOHA colleagues taught him to use BIM software, even before it was taught in school. Benjamin also had the opportunity to problem-solve real life challenges when designing an actual project. This has prepared him to take on bigger challenges when he eventually starts work.

Supporting Young Sector Leaders in Career Development

Internships are indeed a key part of the students’ learning journey, especially in our Built Environment sector, where new technologies are continuously being developed and practical on-the-job skills are very important. To allow our students to get the most out of their internships, the Built Environment SkillsFuture Tripartite (BEST) Taskforce recommended the introduction of a pre-internship programme. The BE Formation Programme is a new pre-internship programme launched by BCA, facilitated by our young sector leaders. The inaugural edition with civil engineering and building services students from SIT, took place in September this year. Our participants had the opportunity to visit exemplary projects such as the Eunoia Junior College and Siemens Centre, where they learnt about the latest innovative technologies such as Mass Engineered Timber (MET), and saw first-hand the implementation of data analytics to improve building performance.

I am very encouraged to hear positive feedback from participants who took part in this pre-internship programme, and I hope that has put them in a better position, having seen what’s possible, to undertake a meaningful internship. One of the participants is here with us today – Mr Khoo Nee Kong, a third year-student in SIT’s Building Services course. For him, he was inspired by hearing the experiences of industry heavyweights in helping to transform the sector.

As you build your careers, you can look forward to a structured framework to support your career and leadership development. BCA, SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore are working closely with the industry to develop a Skills Framework. It is a framework that clearly charts out the progression pathways for key job roles in the Built Environment sector, and we aim to launch it sometime next year. It will highlight emerging skills and competencies required for career development, given how fast our sector is evolving, as well as training opportunities available for you to gain those skills. Having this framework, which is a live document in itself, will allow you to get a sense of what kinds of skills are needed to pick up emerging technologies that will be deployed quite rapidly in our sector. 

Another key initiative is the iBuildSG Leadership Engagement and Development (LEAD) Framework. We launched it in May this year to groom committed and forward-thinking leaders like you. Firms can nominate their young emerging leaders for the LEAD Horizon Programme, which consists of an Executive Development Programme jointly organised with SMU, as well as an Innovation Bootcamp co-organised with SUTD. One of the participants is Mr Ng Sin Yong, a senior architect, and he said that a key benefit of the programme so far is that it has “brought together diverse industry stakeholders in a collaborative mode, which encouraged creative and critical thinking”. 

We recognise that it is not only important to develop technical skills, but also an innovative mindset and soft skills like communication, negotiation and leadership. Today, we will be recognising four passionate role models who exemplify these qualities, for their contributions to the Young Leaders Programme, or YLP. These young leaders were nominated by their firms to join the YLP, and despite their busy schedules, they have been actively involved in policy taskforce discussions, where they help us to shape policies in transforming the Built Environment sector. They have also demonstrated great enthusiasm in inspiring students to join our sector by volunteering at our career talks. The time and effort they contributed to the Programme is a testament to their passion. One of our young leaders, Gavin, who has been an active supporter since 2016, will share more with you on his exciting journey later on.

As scholarship and sponsorship recipients, you will be welcomed into the Future Leaders Network, an exclusive platform for you to build your own networks, to seek and to receive mentorship and gain exposure to the latest developments in the Built Environment sector. And I’ve said earlier that this sector will keep moving, and technology will keep challenging the way we do things. It will create opportunities if only we know how to collaborate and maximise them. Just maintaining status quo will never be enough; you have to keep having networks that enable you to plug in to what’s latest. I encourage you to participate actively. Through these programmes, we hope to empower you to shape your own career, and to be an inspiration to others, especially your juniors who may aspire to follow in your footsteps.

I would like to close by offering my congratulations again to all of you. This is a time of growth and transformation for the sector. There will be angst; there will be those who find it challenging to adapt to new changes. We either stay where we are, or look ahead and overcome the challenges. Let’s keep our eyes on the future – the opportunities that are presented to our firms, our sector and ourselves, and then we will keep moving forward.

I wish you all of you the best in your career in our Built Environment sector.