S ingapore’s demographic and socio-economic landscape has changed substantially in the last 10 years. Residential population has increased to more than 5.3 million in 2015, and with Singapore’s land space of 716 square kilometres, transportation has had to compete for land use against other essential needs such as housing, economic infrastructure and recreational uses.
Striving to balance between meeting space constraint challenges and fulfilling the needs of passengers, LTA has involved itself in various projects. These include the fleet expansion of trains for the North-South and East-West lines to improve efficiency, as well as tunneling works for the Thomson-East Coast line.
The demand for engineers in the organisation is rapidly growing, in tandem with the increased number of engineering projects it undertakes. In order to maximise each engineer’s potential, LTA promises a diverse range of career options for fresh graduates and LTA scholars.
Project Engineer, Rail Department, Rolling Stock
LTA Overseas Scholar Jonathan Lee tells us about the opportunities he has received with LTA. As a Project Engineer, he shares, “In my line of work, I learn about the subsystems – such as the brakes, traction, suspension, air conditioning – of a subway train and also apply my engineering knowledge to tackle problems with the trains”.
Not many would know that being a Project Engineer involves multiple roles. These include testing and commissioning new trains, meeting with contractors and rail operators, tracking new train faults and conducting train inspections. To witness Jonathan and his project team’s latest efforts come to fruition, just watch out for the 24 new trains along the Circle Line and 18 new trains along the North East line!
The Huge Pull
Jonathan decided to pursue the LTA scholarship because transport issues are of a prime concern in highly-connected Singapore. This is in spite of the fact that the transport system is already highly efficient. The prospect of approaching a nationwide concern greatly appealed to Jonathan.
He was also given the opportunity to pursue Mechanical Engineering in the prestigious Cambridge University in the UK. Not surprisingly, he chose to study in Cambridge because it ranked among the best in the UK and gave him the opportunity to meet brilliant minds from around the world. For those who are aiming for an overseas education, he shares that the experience of studying overseas is invaluable as it allows one to gain the independence that comes with living abroad, and provides one with the experience of being immersed in a foreign culture.
While he was an undergraduate, Jonathan had the opportunity to come back to LTA during his summer holidays for an internship. He was attached to the civil engineering project team in charge of the construction of the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE).
Highlighting the sheer enormity of the project, he explains, “MCE was the widest underground expressway on our island, with a breadth of five lanes in each direction, and it went beneath the Marina Barrage. As the tunnel went beneath a water body, this meant that the soil surrounding the tunnel was very wet, and the waterproofing of the tunnel was tested to its limits. Water seepage into the tunnel proved to be one of the biggest challenges of the project.”
For this particular project, the tunnel was divided into many sections, with each section under the care of a different project team and contractor. It was then that he realised how important it was for individual parts to work together, in order to achieve a desired outcome. He carries this lesson over to his job today and adopts a collaborative mindset to his engineering projects.
Today, Jonathan fulfils his Project Engineer duties in Rolling Stock under the Rail department. He admits that he had to mount a steep learning curve, given the necessity to get up to speed with technical train issues as well as operational knowledge. To counter challenges in LTA’s fast-paced environment, he remains open to new experiences and asks questions when in doubt. Hardly desk-bound, Jonathan also points out that his work is largely based at the project site of MRT depots, and as such, being adaptable is key.
Challenges aside, there are also unforgettable memories with LTA that Jonathan holds dear. Once, he witnessed massive cranes in action when he was on an overseas stint in China – they were being used to hoist train carriages from a ship that arrived from Shanghai! Another experience had him conducting an inspection of train manufacturing in Shanghai. He looks back on this and recalls how enlightening it was to observe the way trains were manufactured and assembled. Needless to say, Jonathan shares that “the experience of living overseas and dealing with the foreign contractors was also invaluable.”
Certainly, LTA is conscious of the importance of employee engagement. This is all in a bid to retain its young talents. Within the project team, the transfer of knowledge and experience is prioritised, and seniors are open to imparting knowledge to the younger officers. In addition, special events are regularly held with guest speakers and LTA’s senior management, which aim at creating an avenue for scholars to chart their career progression plans.
As for advice to aspiring scholars, Jonathan shares that it is important to deliberate over various scholarship options before deciding on a scholarship. Although it is impossible to predict how your future would pan out in the next decade, it is wise to envision what it would be like to work for your sponsoring organisation. According to Jonathan, the good thing about LTA is that it offers a diverse range of career opportunities, which “ranges from massive engineering projects to policy planning”. Sometimes, trying out different portfolios can serve as avenues to discover your strengths – ultimately helping you determine where you best fit.