Speech for Guest-of-Honour, Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister of State, Ministry of Education & Ministry of Manpower, at the 1st Session of the 46th Graduation Ceremony of the Singapore Polytechnic at the Singapore Polytechnic Convention Centre on Tuesday, 4 July 2006 at 9.30am
Mr Leong Charn Huen
Deputy Chairman, Singapore Polytechnic Board of Governors.
Members of the Board of Governors,
Mr Low Wong Fook
Principal, Singapore Polytechnic,
Parents and Graduands,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. I am pleased to be here at the opening session of Singapore Polytechnic's 46th graduation ceremony. First, I would like to congratulate all the graduands for having successfully completed your course of study, and in particular, those who will be receiving awards and prizes today. You have done well. Your parents and loved ones will be proud of you and many of them are here today to share your joy and to celebrate your achievement.
Singapore’s Economy – the way forward
2. Last year, Singapore’s economy enjoyed a healthy growth of 6.4 per cent. The outlook for this year has been promising so far. The gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 9.1 per cent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period a year earlier, up from the 8.7-per-cent growth in the fourth quarter of last year.
3. The manufacturing industry, which is still the main driver of our economy, grew 16 per cent from the same period a year earlier, up from 14.2 per cent in the fourth quarter. This expansion was underpinned by strong performance in the electronics, biomedical and transport engineering sectors.
4. Many factors have contributed to our success in attracting foreign investors to Singapore. These include good and reliable infrastructure, highly skilled and productive manpower, a strong cluster of local and foreign suppliers, a complete value-chain of supporting industries and services, and strong intellectual property rights protection framework.
5. To sustain our growth, Singapore will need to push ahead with the transformation into an innovation-driven, knowledge based economy, competing on ability and talent. We must continue to carve out our own niche areas and develop new capabilities to stay ahead of our competition.
Electrical and Electronic Engineering continues to be bastion for Singapore’s economic growth
6. Over the years, even as our economy diversifies into other areas such as biomedical sciences and the service sector, some traditional sectors have been able to reposition themselves and remain competitive. The electronics sector, for example, is still an important contributor to Singapore’s GDP today. In 2005, Singapore attracted S$4.3 billion worth of fixed asset investment (FAI) commitments for the electronics cluster alone. This is about half of the total manufacturing commitments of $8.5 billion. Electronics is one of the existing manufacturing clusters where we will continue to strengthen our capabilities.
7. The electronics industry started out in the 1970s with consumer electronics and semiconductor assembly and test activities. We moved on to hard disk drive manufacturing in the 1980s. Since the 1990s, we have moved into wafer fabrication and IC design. In a relatively short period of thirty years, we have moved from being a low cost production base for labour-intensive electronics manufacturing, to one that leverages on intellectual capital and highly advanced technologies.
8. Our polytechnics play an important role in the electronics industry by training producing the necessary quality manpower in the related fields. I was told that of the 134,000 graduates that SP has trained since the polytechnic started some 50 years ago, more than 30,000 graduates are in the electrical and electronic engineering and related fields.
9. Job prospects in the electronics field remain bright. The electronics sector is expected to take up 8,400 or about half of the total 16,700 new jobs to be created from the $8.5 billion investment I mentioned earlier. Such investments in technologically sophisticated production, test and design facilities and plants will spin off many direct and indirect job opportunities for highly skilled manpower in the electrical and electronic engineering related fields in the years to come.
Education for Life
10. To adequately prepare our students for a knowledge-based economy where knowledge workers are expected to be versatile and able to adapt to new kinds of jobs and skills quickly, courses in the polytechnics have increasingly become more multi-disciplinary and broad-based. There is also an increasing emphasis on nurturing students to become innovative and enterprising, so that they will be entrepreneurial in outlook, imbued with a “can-do” and “dare-to-dream” spirit and yet strongly grounded on practical skills and knowledge.
11. As SP graduands, you have acquired the spirit of enterprise and you have the drive to make the best of the opportunities that may come your way. I believe that this will help you excel in work and in life, and in your own way contribute towards Singapore and our economy.
12. Just as Singapore needs to continually evolve and reposition our economy in order to remain competitive and to ride on the wave of future growth, you too will need to accept innovation as a way of life, and be willing to learn and re-learn, to ensure that the knowledge and skills that you have acquired continue to remain relevant. This is why we believe in life-long learning.
13. In your career, some of you may need to learn about new fields of work, or switch to other career fields. You may even need to learn new languages and cultures if you are going to work in an overseas environment. You will need to have a positive mindset and a willingness to adapt to new challenges.
14. My own career has been one of adapting to new challenges. I graduated with an Electrical Engineering degree and began my early career as an Administrative Service officer in the Civil Service before moving to the private sector, eventually becoming President and CEO of NatSteel. I am now back in public service as a Minister of State. I have gone through major changes in my career. I have to learn new things every time. My engineering background, which has equipped me with problem solving skills, has shaped the way I tackle the various tasks at hand.
15. The world is changing, we must change too to keep pace with the world. Change is painful and sometimes, it faces obstacles and set backs. George Pataki, a former governor of New York said “Stumbling is not a bad thing — it means that you were on the move, instead of sitting down doing nothing.” We must overcome our fear to change in order to face new challenges in the future.
16. In closing, I am confident that with the training that Singapore Polytechnic has provided you, your ‘can-do’ attitude and the support of your family and loved ones, you will achieve your goals and realise your aspirations. My heartiest congratulations once again to all the graduands here today and I wish you every success in your future endeavours.