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Singapore Polytechnic Launches New Diploma with IBM and SMRT to Strengthen Manpower in Service Industries

Published on 04 January 2013

Singapore Polytechnic (SP) is collaborating with technology giant, IBM, and local transport operator, SMRT to launch a new engineering diploma. 

Known as Diploma in Engineering Systems, this is the first-of-its-kind engineering course in Singapore.  It is a holistic, multi-disciplinary engineering programme, which combines engineering, management and social sciences modules, delivered in a studio environment. 

It will also include industry-led modules and materials jointly developed with IBM and SMRT.  The new diploma will develop graduates who can conceptualize, design and integrate engineering processes in large and complex systems related to Energy, Health Care, Logistics, Manufacturing, Telecommunication and Transportation. This will produce a well-trained workforce for the future service economy in Singapore.

Presently, rapid urbanization has resulted in many infrastructural and economic challenges including traffic congestion, water and waste management, and food and nutrition security.  Hence, there is a strong demand for specialized manpower to introduce intelligence into processes to meet these challenges and build a smarter world.

Mr Lim Peng Hun, SP’s Deputy Principal (Technology & Industry) and Senior Director of Engineering Cluster, said, “The new diploma is a major milestone for Singapore’s pioneer in Engineering education.  It signifies Singapore Polytechnic’s forward-looking mindset and philosophy to prepare our students to be future ready.” 

“Our integrated programme will offer students three-year training to design and build systems in social and economic context, and help enhance their critical thinking.  Our students will be well-placed in the fast growing engineering services industry when they graduate. ” added Mr Lim.

Creating manpower for Transportation sector 

The growth of public transportation locally and in the region is projected to be strong.

With the rail network in Singapore expected to double by 2020, including the extension of existing lines, the two local train operators are projecting a conservative increase of 1.5 times in demand for specialized technical urban transportation manpower.

In response to these landscape changes, SMRT has anticipated the need to increase its pool of technical talents.  Since 2009, SMRT Institute has been working with various government agencies and educational institutions on initiatives to ensure there are sufficient specialised rapid transit technical talents to support the long term land transport developments in our country. 

One of the initiatives is to develop a diploma-level programme that can provide a steady and adequate supply of trained technical talents to support future needs.   

“The Diploma in Engineering Systems graduates will have the option to join the rapid transit industry as they are equipped with the relevant knowledge and are better prepared for a career in this industry.  They will find themselves having an added advantage in terms of career progression. There are opportunities for career growth in the organisation, and to further their professional development with a degree programme, or becoming a professional engineer, among others,” said Mr Phan Yoke Fei, SMRT’s Vice President, Human Resources and SMRT Institute.

Creating manpower for Engineering Services sector 

Similarly, there is an increasing global emphasis on sustainable development which has heightened the need to develop more efficient and environmentally sustainable solutions for urban environments and traditional process industries. These sustainable solutions and process industries fall under the Engineering Services sector.

As of 2011, the Engineering Services sector accounts for about 1.2% of Singapore’s GDP and employs 35,000 people. This is expected to grow 5-6% annually.  Hence, there is a demand for engineers to be trained in engineering design and project management as well as control automation.

To meet this manpower demand, students studying Diploma in Engineering Systems can choose to specialize in the Intelligent Systems option at the end of their second year.

Giving an edge to SP graduates

The diploma is also enhanced with IBM’s Service Science, Management and Engineering (SSME) programmes. These programmes focus on complex service systems, such as healthcare, energy grids, and transport networks systems, which are interconnected and help make cities, and the people who live in them, smarter.

SSME will be integrated in selected modules within the Intelligent Systems option as well as various modules during the first two years of the three-year diploma.

“SSME programmes focuses on co-value creation with clients to address challenges in diverse and complex service systems such as transportation, supply chain, telecommunications, and so on. Its integration into various modules within DES will enable students to understand engineering systems from a social and economic view point. As such, DES graduates will be able to develop their professional career in a wide range of industrial sectors,” said Mr Foong Sew Bun, Chief Technologist and Distinguished Engineer, IBM ASEAN.

SSME-trained graduates will very likely enter the workforce as solution designers, consultants, engineers, scientists, and managers. After gaining practical experience across multiple industry sectors, they will then go on to be successful entrepreneurs, executives, researchers, and practitioners, with a solid grounding in theory and practice to design complex solutions.

In a world of rapid technology, business, social-organisational, and demand innovation, SSME-trained graduates will have the knowledge and skills  to work in multi-disciplinary teams on  exciting opportunities and challenges in the future economy.

Course details

Students of the new diploma will have the opportunity to learn in specially built engineering design studios instead of the normal laboratories or workshops. This is a breakthrough in terms of teaching methods for SP. 

These studios allow students more hands-on project work and interaction where learning will be livelier.  Students will get to apply textbook knowledge to solve simulated real-world problems.

The studio-based learning will prepare students for their final year capstone project.  Working in teams, students will conduct market research and analysis, develop engineering prototypes to design a new system/process or improve an existing system/process for SMRT, IBM or various industry partners.

There will be scholarships available to Diploma in Engineering Systems students from SMRT and SP.

The first batch of 40 DES students is expected to graduate in 2016.

Photos from Launch of Diploma in Engineering Systems 

Signing ceremony at launch of Diploma in Engineering Systems

(Standing from left to right: Ms Janet Ang, Managing Director, IBM Singapore, Mr Tan Choon Shian, Principal & CEO, Singapore Polytechnic and Mr Khoo Hean Siang, Executive Vice President, SMRT Trains Ltd) 

(Seated from left to right: Mr Foong Sew Bun, Chief Technologist and Distinguished Engineer, IBM ASEAN, Mr Lim Peng Hun, SP’s Deputy Principal (Technology & Industry) and Senior Director of Engineering Cluster and Mr Phan Yoke Fei, SMRT’s Vice President, Human Resources and SMRT Institute)



Group photo of representatives from Singapore Polytechnic, IBM and SMRT

For more information:


Ms Yvonne Chan

Corporate Communications Dept

Singapore Polytechnic

T: 6772 1006

M: 9111 7627


Mr Frank Chua

Corporate Communications Dept

Singapore Polytechnic

T: 6870 7043

M: 9771 7871




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