Speech by MOS Tan Kiat How at CEOs in Conversation 2020

Sep 29, 2020

Good afternoon, and a warm welcome to the CEOs in Conversation. This is the final plenary for our International Built Environment Week (IBEW) this year. I am honored to be hosting you today, and I look forward to discussing how we can chart a strong recovery for the Built Environment sector from COVID-19 together. 

Construction Restart

Friends from the industry and colleagues, these past few months have been a very difficult time for the construction sector. Firms have faced project delays and cash flow problems. Livelihoods were at stake, and we understand your anxiety. 

We recently updated the industry that construction demand this year has taken a hit, projected to be $10 billion lower than the $28 to $33 billion we had projected in January. However, we anticipate that construction demand will improve next year.

We are doing our best to help the industry restart construction work quickly and safely. For example, MND, BCA and MOM have been meeting with the trade associations regularly to understand the issues on the ground. We have introduced requirements to help the construction workforce, worksite and accommodations remain COVID-safe. We have incorporated feedback in our regulations. For example, we have exercised flexibility and moderated our requirements to help firms restart work faster. We have also allowed firms to resume work while cohorting of workers is ongoing in the dorms. 

Today, I am glad to share with everyone that almost all construction projects suspended during the Circuit Breaker period have resumed work. But it is a work in progress, and we must remain vigilant. It is important that all of us play our part and take the safe management measures seriously. This will minimise the risk of resurgence of COVID-19 infections that could bring the sector to a halt again.  

Recently, we have seen some cases of COVID-19 clusters re-emerging in dormitories. However, despite this, contractors’ adherence to safe management measures has helped minimise the impact on the progress of construction works. For example, the segregation of workers on worksites has allowed the Government to quarantine only those in the zones affected by a new COVID-positive case. We certainly can improve in many areas, and we are committed to do so together with you. At the same time, we must continue to work together to ensure that all we have done to help the sector restart safely does not go to waste.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how we can be vulnerable to such disruptions. For the construction sector to become more resilient, we need to press on with our industry transformation efforts and leverage even more innovative technologies to tackle the challenges and disruptions posed in a COVID-19 environment. Technological innovation will remain a key enabler for companies to navigate the new normal and strengthen their competitiveness.  

BE Living Lab Framework

Last year, we shared about the setting up of the Built Environment Technology Alliance, or BETA in short. BETA helps bring industry stakeholders together to catalyse industry-led innovation and commercialisation of technology solutions. This will provide opportunities for our firms to increase their competitive advantage by translating their technology and innovation investments into enterprise-level capabilities. Despite the outbreak of COVID-19, I am very heartened to see that BETA has managed to engage over 30 firms, Institutes of Higher Learning and agencies. There are promising discussions with local companies like Pan United, Certis and Sembcorp Development to collaborate on advanced construction materials and digital initiatives. We hope to kick start these projects very soon.

Today, I am happy to launch the Built Environment Living Laboratory Framework under BETA, or BE LLF in short, to facilitate test-bedding of innovative proposals in our urban spaces and living environment, such as at Punggol Town and Jurong Lake Gardens. This will open up opportunities for companies to harness and trial new and innovative technologies as we continue to develop our city for tomorrow. 

To support our built environment firms to benefit from the LLF, we will do three things. First, there will be a “one-stop” shop set up by BETA to manage all innovative test-bedding proposals submitted by built environment firms and tech solution providers. This will provide a single touchpoint for such firms to submit and process their proposals, without having to approach multiple agencies. So, a “one-stop” shop for all proposals.  

Second, good proposals with innovative solutions benefitting the built environment and ready for deployment will be accepted under the LLF and expedited for test-bedding in our living labs. This will help companies save time to test-bed their innovations.  

Lastly, we will support companies in navigating regulatory clearance processes by introducing ‘sandboxes’ to support proposals that may not be allowed under current regulations. So, ‘regulatory sandboxes’ will allow companies to text-bed innovative solutions. This will provide companies greater confidence in continuing to innovate. We encourage all BE firms to make full use of the BE LLF, and more details will be made available on BCA’s website.

Upskilling our Workforce

Transformation of the BE sector must be underpinned by a skilled workforce. Industry transformation will create new job opportunities, but will also require some existing job roles to be redesigned to keep up with evolving trends. We will help our workers to be equipped with the skills to harness these new technologies in their work.

BCA, SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) and Workforce Singapore have worked closely with the industry, trade associations and chambers (TACs), unions and education institutions to co-develop the Skills Framework for the Built Environment. This is the first for the sector.   

It provides key information on the sector, career pathways, occupations and job roles, as well as existing and emerging skills required for the BE sector. It outlines possible career pathways across or within eight career tracks, covering 49 job roles. For example, an engineer employed in a construction firm can refer to the Skills Framework on SSG’s website to identify the skills and competencies he or she needs for career advancement or progress to other job roles such as Project Manager or Digital Delivery Specialist. With the Skills Framework, individuals can now find a list of training programmes relevant to the skills needs of the different job roles. I encourage all built environment professionals to make full use of the Skills Framework to aid their career planning and upskill themselves to remain relevant to the industry’s needs. 

Firms can also take reference from the Skills Framework to support their businesses and transformation efforts. As the Skills Framework outlines emerging trends in the BE sector, companies can also use it to benchmark their internal processes. Companies can also leverage Skills Framework to develop a progressive HR model that recognises and enables the pursuit of skills mastery, in support of talent acquisition, development and management. 

The various TACs are working on accreditation schemes which will provide validation for the relevant skills and competencies to uplift the standing of our BE professions. We are working with the TACs to align the various accreditation schemes with the different job roles across the Skills Framework. 

Moving forward, we encourage industry partners to leverage the Skills Framework and accreditation schemes to better differentiate individuals with the relevant skillsets during tender evaluation, when procuring BE services. BCA will share more details on this when ready. 


In conclusion, COVID-19 has brought about challenges, but it has also presented us with unique opportunities to accelerate our transformation efforts by leveraging technology and upskilling our workforce. I encourage everyone to stay the course to build a stronger and more resilient Built Environment sector.

On that note, I hope you have found the International Built Environment Week events this year useful, insightful and rewarding. I look forward to seeing you, perhaps in person, at events next year. I wish everyone a productive discussion. 

Thank you.