A reader forwarded me this press release from Contact Singapore, announcing that Economic Development Board and the Ministry of Manpower are hiring 250 China engineers this Saturday in Shanghai. Here’s the catch: If don’t read Chinese, too bad for you–the press release is written only in Chinese with no English translation. It is quite obvious that the ad is targeted only at China engineers, and not at Singaporeans.
My reader wondered why priority was not given to Singaporeans. I think it is a valid question to ask. Can EDB and MOM confirm that no effort was spared in recruiting locally before going to China to recruit?
Having said that, it is likely that in this case, the companies have had difficulty finding local electrical engineers with those specialised skills (RF IC Design Engineers, Digital Design Engineers). I understand that many more Singaporean students nowadays are choosing not to study engineering in favour of business and finance. (I’m partially guilty–I studied electrical and computer engineering but went straight into IT consulting after graduating, never putting into practice all that digital and circuit design I studied.)
I feel this situation warrants deeper study. Have we gotten to a point where our employers and the government don’t even bother recruiting local engineers and immediately recruit from overseas? Will this not create a vicious cycle whereby bright Singaporean students avoid studying engineering in university because they know that once they graduate they will have to compete with an onslaught of cheaper foreign engineers? Can we really build up and sustain a knowledge based economy without a core of local scientists and engineers driving it?
I do not think importing engineers is the long term solution. It is an easy way out for our government and companies. But when these engineers get better positions in the US or back in China, they will up an leave in a jiffy.
We need to make engineering an attractive career option again, just like it was in my time in school. It is an uphill battle, because careers in the financial industry are almost always going to pay better than what engineers get. Our students must be persuaded to take up engineering if they have a passion for science and technology. It’s not just about money. On the part of the Government, this aggressive recruitment of foreigners has to be tempered, to force companies to look locally before venturing abroad for talent.