Among news like a monk and an infidel GP doctor making six-figure income, there’s an interesting piece in ST two days ago – ex-top civil servant Ngiam Tong Dow worries that Singapore is becoming “high cost, low tech”.
“The United States has overtaken Britain because while some of their best went to Wall Street, their best still go into engineering.”
His concern is valid.
In Singapore, the best JC students are attracted by glitzy ads and employment survey reports (see example) glamorizing the banking and finance industry and repeatedly highlighting that top dollars are made there.
For engineers and techies, they only get to hear things like “with a basic degree, you get to wash test tubes”.
Or that engineering and tech talent are a dime a dozen from China and India.
It is no wonder that students die to get into the in-demand courses like business, finance and accounting, while engineering and technology-related courses are dumping grounds.
We all know that techies are undervalued in sunny Singapore. You’re a techie, you make 5k and be happy. Stay happy. Else get out and go to countries like USA, Japan, or even China and Taiwan where tech talent are much more highly valued than over here. Or, get into banking or do a sales job.
So Mr Ngiam worries about the lack of local high-tech talent.
There’s always a simple solution (right?): Start paying top dollars for engineers.
Start with tech-related ministries and agencies like Mindef and MDA. Then, move to tech-related GLCs like Singapore Technologies and JTC.
Pay millions for, say, the Chief Innovator in DSTA and ask the media to cover this ad nauseum (much like the way life sciences were glamorized in the not too distant past).
Hopefully we get to confuse the students again.