SINGAPORE – Technicians have long been key contributors to Singapore’s engineering sector – but a traditional emphasis on academic qualifications has led to limited career advancement for some.

On Saturday (July 20), a memorandum of understanding was signed to pave the way for the development of a National Engineering Career Progression Pathway for these workers, as well as those with more skills and experience who are known as technologists.

This will provide opportunities for them to gain greater recognition for their skills through training programmes. It will also aid the development of an engineering competency framework.

Announcing this new certification scheme at a National Engineers Day event at the Devan Nair Institute for Employment and Employability in Jurong East, Education Minister Ong Ye Kung said there are two viable routes for aspiring engineers who want to become chartered engineers.

One is to get an engineering degree and the other is to work in the industry, learn on the job and clock up experience.

“We have done very well in the first route, but not as well in the second,” said Mr Ong. “As our economy matures, and society values our people in different ways, we need to develop the practice route across different disciplines and industries.”

The Institution of Engineers, Singapore (IES) has formed a steering committee with 20 partners to build the pathway, which consists of three levels of certifications – chartered technicians, chartered technologists and chartered engineers.

The skill levels of chartered technicians would roughly correspond to the skill levels of workers with the relevant Institute of Technical Education (ITE) qualifications, while the skill levels of chartered technologists and engineers will correspond to those with polytechnic diplomas, and university degrees respectively. But they will also have to go for additional assessments to become accredited.

But this new pathway will also ensure that technicians and engineers can be accredited even without an academic qualification, according to IES’ former president Chong Kee Sen, who added that the starting monthly salary for engineers is currently about $1,000 more than it is for technologists.

Currently, more than half of technicians and technologists go on to take up an engineering degree.

By attending modular training programmes and gaining relevant work experience, workers can eventually progress towards acquiring chartered engineer certification, which was introduced in 2013.

The steering committee’s partners include the Public Service Division, the Land Transport Authority and SMRT Corporation.

The IES will also set up a Technologist and Technician Accreditation Board (TTAB) with stakeholders to develop the industry accreditation framework. It aims to register the first batch of chartered technologists and chartered technicians by early next year.

SMRT technician Luqman Nur Hakim, 28, who graduated from the ITE and is now working towards getting a polytechnic diploma, is supportive of the new scheme: “It can help you to upgrade your skills, which will help you to get better career progression, and this can benefit the company too.”