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Remarks by Senior Minister of State for Transport Mr Chee Hong Tat at the Inaugural Singapore BusTech Grand Challenge

15 Nov 2021 Speeches

Ladies and Gentlemen, 

Brothers and Sisters,

1.     A very good afternoon to everyone. I am glad to join you here today at the inaugural Singapore BusTech Grand Challenge, organised by the Singapore Bus Academy (SGBA) and Employment and Employability Institute (e2i).

2.     As many Singaporeans depend on public transport for our commuting needs, and we hope that public transport modal share will increase over time, a key goal for the Government is to ensure that our public transport system, including our bus services, need to be safe, reliable and sustainable. We have made good progress over the years. Bus service standards have gone up, and we have seen higher satisfaction ratings in our Public Transport Customer Satisfaction Survey.

3.     This would not have been possible without the hard work of our public transport staff – all our public transport workers, including many of you who are here today. You have worked tirelessly both at the front lines and also behind the scenes. I just want to take this opportunity, on behalf of all our commuters to thank our public transport workers.

4.     One group of public transport workers are our technicians. Our technicians are unsung heroes, because you keep our buses in tip- top condition, so that commuters can enjoy safe and reliable services. As the saying goes, “the workshop never sleeps” and our technicians work day and night to keep our buses running. Many hours are spent assessing various components such as gears, engines, tyres, air con systems and many others. And these are all part of the maintenance regime for our buses, to keep our buses in tip-top conditions. Technicians also carry out troubleshooting and repair work, and to ensure that commuters enjoy smooth and comfortable journeys.

A Rewarding Career

5.     The Government, together with our operators and our unions, have taken steps to ensure a rewarding, long term career for our bus technicians. 

6.     LTA, public transport operators, and NTWU have collaborated with SkillsFuture Singapore and Workforce Singapore to develop the Skills Framework for Public Transport. The framework allows bus technicians who are aiming for more advanced roles to identify the necessary skills and also suitable courses that they need to rise up the career ladder.

7.     Someone who has benefitted from this framework is Mr. Tan Teng Ping. Mr Tan started off his career as an electrical technician doing repairs and maintenance work. But his passion for his job spurred him to upgrade himself. He has actively taken up courses to strengthen his skills required for the maintenance of buses as well as to better understand how to ensure workplace safety and health. This has equipped Mr Tan with the skills to take on more senior and supervisory roles. Today, Mr Tan supervises a team of three automotive technical officers to ensure that buses are regularly checked so that they are kept in good condition and meet operational requirements.

8.     To acknowledge the range of technical skills and know-how of our bus technicians, LTA and the Institution of Engineers Singapore have launched several professional certifications for bus technicians. They include the Certificate for Technical Specialist (Bus), the Certificate for Chartered Technicians and the Certificate for Chartered Technologists. Different certificate for different areas but all with the same aim – to provide a skills upgrading pathway for our technicians.
Beyond providing industry-recognised benchmarks to assess technicians’ skills and expertise, these certifications serve as recognition of the professionalism of our bus technicians, while ensuring that their skills are transferrable within the industry. To date, over 200 technicians have received at least one form of certification and I am sure this number will continue to grow over time. 

Upskilling our Bus Workforce

9.     Even though we have achieved high standards for our bus services, we must continue to look for areas where we can further improve and further invest in our people. One important target for the public bus sector is the greening of our bus fleets. We will continue to invest in cleaner energy buses. We are also committed to support our workforce in this transition. Earlier I was having a conversation with one of the teams and they were saying that this transition will not happen overnight, it will take time. So we have time to prepare but we also need to be mindful that the changes will require all of us to actually be able to learn new skills, to keep up with the changes and technologies. We have time, and we will invest in training and skills upgrading, and bring our workers, bring our workforce along with us on this journey.


10.    Some people worry that when technology advances, does it mean that human technicians and maintenance crew will no longer be required. I do not believe that will be the case. With technology presenting more complex systems, we in fact will require technicians who are better skilled, who are able to make good use of the technology to augment their work, so it is a combination of technology and human beings. And this is needed so that we can keep our buses in optimal condition and maintain high service standards.

11.    The Government, our unions and our PTOs will continue to support our bus technicians to acquire the necessary skills to be future-ready.

12.    For example, the Singapore Bus Academy (SGBA), together with original equipment manufacturers and Institutes of Higher Learning, have developed structured electric bus training programmes, targeted at different levels of competencies. This includes the Republic Polytechnic’s part time diploma in Engineering programme for vehicular technology and operations.

13.    SGBA has also collaborated with ITE to introduce a 5-day bridging course in Automotive Technology under the e2i Place & Train Programme, and this is to allow new entrant technicians to join the bus industry. Do not worry too much if you do not have the necessary skills at the moment, we will train you. The more important thing is you have the passion, you have the interest to be a part of this industry.

14.    What this means is that with all these courses available, regardless of your current level of experience, there will be a suitable course for each and every one of you to help you acquire new skills as we shift to cleaner bus types over time.

15.    Apart from new types of buses, technology has also changed the way that maintenance work is done. For example, with Go-Ahead Singapore’s IBM Maximo Asset Management System, technicians no longer need to check and maintain large amounts of paper records. This is just not more environmentally friendly; we also can simplify the process of record keeping. Maintenance records are now recorded digitally through a tablet. These digital records have also enabled the technicians to conduct analysis of past trends, of faults, maintenance work done and to better plan their maintenance activities. And this is all data driven. In the past, we have paper records, very troublesome. Now with digital records, the whole process is actually made more convenient and there is much more we can do with the data. That is one example of what I meant earlier by this human and technology combination - using technology tools to augment what we do but the human being is still important because there will be instances where you need to make judgment, you need to assess what the situation is and decide which technology tool to help you solve the problem.

16.    Some of you may be asking, I am keen to learn, I am keen to enhance my knowledge, how can I do it? You can learn from the experiences of your fellow colleagues who have embarked on this journey. Take Mr Muhammad Isa Bin Ali for example. Mr Isa has worked as a bus technician for 6 years, and the majority of his career has been spent working on diesel buses. But Mr Isa did not stop learning. He was one of the first few bus technicians to go through training to maintain electric buses, and he has been successful in maintaining such buses for about 18 months now. He is also one of the first TTS-designated vehicle examiners and is qualified to perform safety inspections on electric vehicles. These are new skills which Mr Isa has picked up, building on his knowledge and expertise of maintaining diesel buses.

17.    I hope that Mr Isa’s experience will persuade more of our workers, more of our technicians to also embark on lifelong learning and upskilling because this is not only a manageable process – you will receive support from the employers, unions, e2i, it is also an enjoyable process where you see that your skills are being upgraded and you can do more. You can apply your skills to more areas. There is a great sense of satisfaction when you are able to do that. Our NTWU brothers and sisters will also be here to support you in this learning journey.

Conclusion


18.    Let me conclude by thanking everyone for being here at this inaugural BusTech Grand Challenge, and for all the hard work from our bus technicians to keep our buses safe and sound. While a large part of your work remains behind the scene and sometimes may not be so visible to commuters, and to the public. I want you to know that your contributions are instrumental in providing our bus captains and our commuters with a safe and well-functioning bus fleet. You are our unsung heroes. Through today’s event, I hope more people will come to know and appreciate the good work that you have done.

19.    I would also like to thank our organisers SGBA and e2i, as well as our various partners who have contributed to this event, including our bus operators and NTWU. The Singapore BusTech Grand Challenge would not have been possible without your strong support.

20.    Before I end, please allow me to now say a few words in Mandarin.

21.    大家下午好,今天的活动有助于推动巴士业者持续追求高技术水 准,同时也给予新加坡公共巴士技术团队应有的认可。我想借此机会 向巴士技术人员表达谢意,谢谢你们所付出的努力,让我们的巴士能 安全有效地为乘客服务。

22.    我也感谢主办方,新加坡巴士学院和全国职工总会就业与培训中 心,以及其他的合作伙伴,包括我们的巴士业者和全国交通工友联合 会。

23.    劳资政三方的合作关系是非常重要, 所以我们希望我们继续密切 合作,提供巴士技术人员所需的辅助,获取更高的技能,拥有更好的事业前程。我们也会探讨如何辅助巴士团队能更好地运营巴士车辆,提供安全和顺畅的巴士服务。谢谢大家。