Speech by 2M Desmond Lee at the Launch of the Landscape Sector Transformation Plan

May 4, 2019

Good morning and welcome to Jurong and Lakeside Garden, our latest addition to our City in a Garden.

Over 50 years ago, our founding Prime Minister, the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, envisioned Singapore as a Garden City that is verdant, lush and green. Over the years, we have made a conscious effort to prioritise the greening of Singapore despite intensive urban development. We have established many parks and gardens, and intensified our streetscape greenery wherever possible. We have protected our natural heritage through our nature reserves, and nature ways, and integrated greenery in our buildings with skyrise and vertical landscaping.  

Today, greenery is a distinctive feature of Singapore. It runs in our DNA. The extensive green network not only caters to our community, but is also sensitive to the conservation of biodiversity. This success is in large part due to our landscape sector, which has been supporting our greening movement every step of the way.

There are still plenty of exciting developments ahead. Over the next ten years, we will grow our green spaces by another 1,000 hectares. This will provide habitats for native flora and fauna, and recreational spaces for Singaporeans. 

The way we introduce these new green spaces in our city will also be improved. We want to further strengthen our natural ecosystems for our native plants and animals to thrive, and to bring nature closer to Singaporeans. We want to use technology to enhance visitor experience and improve park management.

As we press ahead, our landscape sector will need to play a bigger role within the larger Built Environment value chain that designs, builds, manages, and maintains our infrastructure.

In fact, for the Built Environment cluster, we brought together our developers, architects, engineers, project managers, quantity surveyors, builders, contractors and sub-contractors, specialist tradesmen, facilities managers, security experts, environmental services, and landscaping – while all of these sectors are diverse and distinctive, if you think about Singapore as a whole, where we live, work and play – it is all related. How we conceptualise a living or working space, engineer and build it, and maintain it for the lifespan of the facility makes life in a city bearable, sustainable, liveable, and something we look forward to. All these sectors make up the Built Environment. And if we can integrate and work together, have a common spine that links us together through and through – we can lift Singapore to a different level altogether. 

In order to have our landscape sector to rise to the next level, locally and abroad, we need to transform our landscape sector into one that is high-tech, high-value and resource-efficient.

Our landscape sector can move up the value chain. This means moving to landscape management, and building expertise in new areas such as environmental assessments and biophilic design.

Our sector can increase mechanisation and make good use of technology available to us. Today, we still rely heavily on unskilled labour, and many of our companies adopt basic technology in our operations. Technology can be a game-changer – it can improve the way we work and make landscaping jobs more attractive for our next generation of skilled landscape professionals. 
The Government will support you in this journey every step of the way. To guide our transformation of our industry, NParks has worked with many of you to develop a Landscape Sector Transformation Plan (LSTP) – a plan designed by all of us involved in the landscape sector. The LSTP is part of a suite of industry transformation maps under the Built Environment cluster. It builds on NParks’ existing initiatives to help productive and progressive landscape companies grow and thrive. Let me highlight some key areas of this plan. 

First, our landscape companies can continue to tap on the Landscape Productivity Grant (LPG) to adopt new technologies and mechanise their operations. One such company is Toh Kim Bock CE Construction Pte Ltd, which has tapped on the LPG to procure various landscape equipment, including a heavy duty wood-chipper. By being able to cut and chip branches on-site, they can save on the number of trips they have to make for disposal of wood-waste. They also do not need to burden so many of their workers to load and unload the branches onto vehicles.

Second, we will be fine-tuning the way we procure greenery maintenance work. We will place more emphasis on quality, when we assess tender bids. By doing this, we want to encourage our landscape companies to become more capable in using digital technology and sustainable landscaping techniques.  

Third, we will create more opportunities for our landscape companies to grow internationally and fly our flag around the world. Elmich Pte Ltd is a good example. The Singaporean company's skills and expertise in sustainable urban landscaping and greening solutions have allowed it to compete in the global arena. Today, Elmich competes in Australia, Germany, Switzerland, the United States and Singapore. There are many other fine examples of Singapore firms that have made us proud. We will help to facilitate more of our companies who want to export your landscaping and consultancy services through overseas development projects. 

As part of our transformation, we will work with the industry and Institutes of Higher Learning to develop a talent pipeline for the sector.  We aim to train at least 350 young professionals each year starting from 2022, in higher value skills for greenery management. We will provide comprehensive training for our budding landscape professionals, and map out their career pathways to help them plan their career and personal development all along the way. 

We have already started work on this, and I am happy to share some details with you today. Shortly after this, NParks and ITE will be signing an MOU to develop our skilled young talent who will invigorate our landscape sector and take things forward. What does this involve? 

We will strengthen the curriculum of the Nitec and Higher Nitec landscape courses. For example, our students will gain first-hand experience in using technology to manage a local park, before they even formally join our sector. In fact, in July this year, we will let our students manage and run Bedok Town Park. This will be used as a pilot site and become the first student-run park in Singapore. Let’s take a look at some of the horticulture and tree management technology that our students will be using.

This is a glimpse of the future of landscaping and management today – to use technology to help us green our city even better, which will help bring this sector to the next level. There are many interesting gadgets that our students can look forward to using. Next, we will provide opportunities for our students to gain exposure overseas, through education exchanges and capability transfers in Australia. This will help our students hone their skills and deepen their understanding of park management issues.

We are working on a new Work-Learn Technical Diploma to ensure that our students have the opportunity to continue developing their skillsets. NParks, ITE and our landscape companies have come together to plan this formal apprenticeship-based training programme. We are targeting the first intake next year and will share more details when ready.

As we attract and train the next generation of Singaporean landscape professionals, we want to help guide their career pathways. NParks has worked with Workforce Singapore (WSG) and SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) on this, and we will roll out a Skills Framework for Landscape. This framework maps out job domains and roles, and the skills and competencies required to grow in the landscape sector. For example, the skills attained by students in the training and hands-on experiences will count towards the prerequisites for professional qualifications like Certified Arborist and Certified Practising Horticulturist. For those who aspire to become landscape architects, the National University of Singapore is also proposing to start a Bachelor of Landscape Architecture degree programme. 

In closing, I hope, in particular, that the students present this morning are excited by the many opportunities ahead in the landscape sector. 

Many Singaporeans before you have played their part in greening our city. What we see today did not appear overnight. It took a lot of foresight, grit and hard work. Without our pioneers, we would not have the beautiful City in a Garden we love and cherish today. But ultimately, the future depends on whether our next generation of landscape professionals is prepared to step forward, and take up the mission of greening Singapore. 

I look forward to meeting all of you, and hearing more about your hopes and aspirations in this field. Let us infuse ourselves with the energy to make Singapore green for many decades ahead of us. Thank you, and have a good morning.