AT THE POLYTECHNIC’S 56TH GRADUATION CEREMONY
FRIDAY 6 MAY 2016 (SESSION 4)
Mr Tan Choon Sian, Principal & CEO of Singapore Polytechnic,
Parents, Guardians and Graduands,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- It is an honour for me to be part of Singapore Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony.
Today, you, the graduands from School of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering
will reflect fondly of the times you spent in Singapore Polytechnic, and remember the
good effort that you have invested into your education, as well as the great friendship
bonds that you have developed here, to arrive at where you are now. To be a graduand
also means that you are ready to step forward in your life onto a new phase, a journey
that your lecturers and teachers have worked hard to prepare you for.
- I offer my congratulations to all of you for your achievements, and for staying true to
your commitment to better your knowledge and skills with an education at Singapore
Polytechnic. I should also quickly add that you should show your appreciation and
thanks to your parents, guardians and family members, as well as friends, who have
supported you to successfully complete your education at Singapore Polytechnic.
- I studied Engineering and had been working with aircraft. I understand that you will be
graduating with an aerospace-related engineering diploma. I think you have made a
- Firstly, I think flying machines are amazing inventions that demanded the best
engineering ideas and creativity. For a start, to fight off the pull of gravity, the flying
machine needs to be as light as possible. However, to be of any meaningful use, the
flying machine has to be strong enough to hold the pilot and the intended payloads.
Starting with wood, progressing to light-weight aluminium, to now the more exotic
titanium alloy, to the all-composite aircraft structure, engineers had been improving the
trade-offs between material strength and material weight. Their persistence have
pushed the envelope further out, allowing us to have the benefit of strong aircraft
structure that are reasonably light-weight. The innovation spectrum is still continuously
being pushed, with the advances in computing and miniaturisation driving the growing
applications of unmanned flying machines or drones. With your engineering diploma,
you have the entry ticket to embark on a career that will put you in close proximity to
these amazing machines, and in the process, hopefully, you will become amazed by
your own ability to learn and to innovate.
- The second reason for saying that you have made a good choice to pursue an
aerospace-related diploma is that you have made yourself relevant to an industry that
is growing. Globalization of trade has also brought about increase in travel and freight.
The size of the global aircraft fleet is expected to grow strongly with more new aircraft
being manufactured to meet the growth demands. Being in Singapore, we are in the
middle of the biggest aviation growth market of Asia Pacific. Singapore is an
established aviation hub of the region. Our aerospace sector contributes significantly
to our economy and provided almost 20,000 jobs, 90% of which are skilled jobs.
- The range of capabilities that Singapore offers to the global market range from
maintenance to design and manufacture of certain niche products. A good example of
the multi-faceted capabilities is the Passenger-To-Freighter conversion programs.
Such program involves first the design of the modification and followed by the physical
modification of the passenger aircraft. The modification involves the tube strip of the
aircraft, where all the seats and cabin interior are removed. Then the fuselage is cut to
integrate on the large cargo door. The floor structure has to be reinforced, and various
other systems such as the cargo loading system and the 9G barrier, are installed. The
aircraft also concurrently undergoes a bridging maintenance check. The first prototype
is then subject to a myriad of ground and flight test including a stringent smoke test to
certify the design meets airworthiness standards. Once certified, what used to be an
old passenger aircraft, is now a freighter aircraft that has a second lease of life carrying
parcels and goods for at least another fifteen years.
- Having shared with you the growth potential of the aerospace industry as well as the
many interesting and technically challenging tasks, I would like to offer a not too often
heard advice for you to consider when contemplating the next step after graduating.
- Some of you may want to pursue a degree right away and some may even want to
pursue a non-technical career. My advice is to spend three to five years working
hands-on in a technical environment first before deciding your next step. You may find
that hands-on technical work is your cup of tea after all. The aerospace industry
provides opportunities for one to engage in interesting technical jobs. The scope of
activities ranges from aircraft to engines repairs, from inspection techniques to
troubleshooting skills, from aircraft structural modifications to avionics retrofits, from
work at fixed locations to on-wing support work at interesting locations such as
Casablanca in Morocco among others. I wish to highlight that hands-on work on aircraft
is an attractive career choice that has good prospects as well. It is no secret that we
can easily find candidates with engineering degrees, but not so easy to find candidates
who have the necessary practical experience working on aircraft. An experienced
technician could easily gross ten thousand dollars a month.
- Even if later on you decided to move on to general management, your experience
working hands-on in a technical environment provides you the knowledge to better
understand the technical issues of aviation and aircraft maintenance. The three to five
years in the technical role will allow you to appreciate the tempo and challenges of the
industry, and such experience will form the strong foundation for your future endeavors.
- I would like to highlight a success story of a SP alumni working in ST Aerospace. Mr.
Stephen Lim graduated in 1979 from Singapore Polytechnic with a Certificate in
Aircraft Maintenance and worked as a technical specialist in aircraft maintenance.
Through his hard work and passion, he was granted a scholarship to pursue his degree
in Aerospace Engineering in RMIT University, and subsequently sent to Wharton
Business School for executive training. Today, Stephen, as the President of one of
our subsidiaries in the US, has close to 3000 Americans working for him. Stephen had
in his early years worked hands-on repairing aircraft. He built up his technical
competence and understanding of the aircraft, such that when he was first appointed
as a General Manager, his background and experience served him well. He was able
to relate to the work challenges that his staffs went through. Stephen’s example and
the many more examples in ST Aerospace convinced me that a strong grounding is
important for anything one does. We can do much better when we experience firsthand
how to solve problems. A degree course and general management skills can be
added on in future years after we have exposed ourselves to the rigors of aviation, and
when we have gathered enough work experience.
- With the comprehensive training you had in SP, I am sure you possess a strong
foundation in both practical skills and theoretical knowledge to contribute positively in
your future endeavours. I congratulate you on your graduation. I wish you all the best,
and a bright future ahead. Thank you.