After a trip to California’s Silicon Valley, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong called for better recognition and prospects for Singapore engineers. It was as if the government has just awoke from a deep sleep and suddenly found that local born and bred engineers have been given the raw deal all this while. With a magic wand, PM Lee magically revitalized the outlook for engineers and give this profession a steroid injection, in terms of salaries and career progression.
To be honest, I have been an engineer for 11 years and my starting pay was $2,600. It took me 5 years of working experiences to crawl to the $4,000 level. Now, fresh graduate with no working experience can command $4,000 level. Effectively, given the new salaries regime, fresh graduates have 5 years of head-start than me. The quantum increase is quite a huge jump and I wonder whether SMEs can afford to pay such premium for fresh engineering graduates.
It may be the case that the government is struggling to find local computer engineers with cyber security skills. Or maybe there is a dearth of software engineers to support the growth of local fintech industry. Whatever the real reason it may be, the sudden government’s push to groom local engineers is long overdue.
For many years, Singapore companies prefer to employ cheaper foreign talents with engineering skills. But then again, many of these so-called foreign talents graduated from foreign universities of lower standard than our local universities. Furthermore, there have been reported cases of foreigners who obtained jobs with fake degrees. How can Singaporeans remain cool and be not angry?
Look, I am not implying that local engineering graduates are more competent due to our education system but there must be a level playing field. How do you feel when someone took shortcut and cut your queue?
One local finance blogger tried to compare engineers with cleaners on the basis of subcontracting phenomenon. In my point of view, such comparison is warped because outsourcing is not limited just to engineering and cleaning services. What about other industries like customer services, healthcare and construction? Are these professions equivalent to cleaners?
Not that I look down on toilet cleaners. My mother used to work as a toilet cleaner and my mother-in-law is still working as a toilet cleaner. Their jobs are thankless and their salaries are really cut-throat low due to influx of low-skilled foreign workers in Singapore. But our society need people like them to function. They are the ones who add real value to Singapore but their contributions have largely been overlooked.
At this moment, a good engineering degree from local university is still valuable because it opens doors and empowers you to build wealth. With a respectable income, you can then grow your wealth with precious metals or equities.
It is still premature to guess whether the recent government’s push to promote engineering will yield another world-class engineer-entrepreneur like Sim Wong Hoo, founder of Creative Technologies. But I hope it will be a better tomorrow for Singapore engineers.
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SG Wealth Builder