Growing EV industry opens new career options in Singapore

SINGAPORE: A sense of mission infuses Dave Wong’s work at electric mobility firm EVCo.

He uses data analytics and a customised dashboard to help customers understand the potential impact of switching from internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles to electric vehicles (EVs) in terms of cost savings, fleet optimisation and reduced emissions.

The sustainability and digital systems analyst, 27, describes it as purposeful work that drove him to switch to the field in July 2022.

“My goal is to create quantifiable impacts, so that our customers know what their climate impact is, and we know our company is making a difference through them,” said Wong, who used to work as a business analyst in security technology.

His colleague Muhammad Hanafi Omar, who joined EVCo in September as a mobility engineer, also finds the sustainability aspect of the EV industry appealing.

“It’s a growing industry, and also, it’s good for the earth; it’s greener,” said the 37-year-old, who works with electric vans and uses diagnostic tools to maintain and inspect them before they are sent to customers.

Hanafi, who is still undergoing training, spent the first 14 years of his career inspecting vehicles in the traditional automotive line, where he often found himself specked in diesel oil or petrol at the end of a work day.

New skills

So although his pay is about the same as before, he said he was attracted to the job by the cleaner work environment, new types of vehicles and the opportunity to learn new skills.

New jobs and skills like Hanafi’s and Wong’s are emerging in Singapore’s automotive industry as demand for EVs grows.

The number of electric cars on the road here as at the end of November was 68.2% higher than at the end of 2022.

While the November figure of 10,983 is still just 1.7% of Singapore’s car population, the move to EVs is inevitable.

Under the Singapore Green Plan 2030, all new car and taxi registrations from 2030 will have to be of cleaner-energy models such as electric, hybrid or hydrogen fuel cell cars.

According to the national Jobs Transformation Map for the land transport sector, the shift towards EVs will be a gradual process over the next five to 20 years, said Safrah Eusoof, director for healthcare, social and business services at government agency Workforce Singapore.

She noted that general servicing skill sets for ICE vehicles, such as for body works, tyres and brake systems, will remain relevant for EV repair and maintenance.

But other skills will decline in relevance, such as inventory management, maintenance scheduling and maintenance of car drivetrain systems, which are parts of a car that work with the engine to move the wheels.


New skills that will be increasingly important are in areas such as EV dashboard diagnostics, car high-voltage system maintenance and replacement of electrical-based components such as batteries, she said.

A key difference between EVs and ICE vehicles is that EVs do not have engines and do not need periodic oil changes or replacement of worn-out parts such as spark plugs.

EVs run on battery-powered motors and have more complex electrical and electronics systems.

Singapore Motor Workshop Association (SMWA) president Francis Lim stressed that safety knowledge is very important for technicians dealing with EVs.

“It is a matter of life and death meddling with high-voltage vehicles,” he said.

Several industry players told The Straits Times they are on the lookout for new talent and skill sets.

Hyundai distributor Komoco Motors is planning to hire an average of six to eight EV specialists each year for five years through a two-and-a-half year work-study diploma programme it offers to graduates of the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), said a spokesman for Komoco After-Sales.

The company opened its EV service centre in Alexandra Road in September 2022.

EVCo, which has about 30 staff now, is actively hiring people in the areas of automotive, technology and business development, said its chief executive Fuji Foo.

Although the firm does not have a ready pool of people to hire from with the exact skills needed, such as marketing together with sustainability, employees receive on-the-job training or attend courses with suppliers or partners, he said.

Wong, for example, is currently participating in a career conversion programme for sustainability professionals.

Said Foo: “The people that we are trying to recruit have to be able to really be open-minded about embracing all these new skill sets and new technology.”

Taxi operator ComfortDelGro is upskilling its existing staff and aims to train all its technicians to handle high-voltage vehicles by 2025.

Its spokesman did not provide the current number of technicians, but said 20% of them have already been trained, as the company operates a fleet of about 170 electric taxis here.

“We do not foresee any reduction in our overall workforce,” added the spokesman.

Over time, however, some jobs may be lost in traditional motor workshops as the use of EVs grows.

SMWA’s Lim noted that EVs need less maintenance and wear-and-tear-replacement, compared with ICE vehicles.

Also, EV purchases now generally come with a factory warranty period ranging from eight to 10 years, which means owners do not need to patronise an independent workshop for repairs.

“We are expecting a natural consolidation of independent workshops when the population of EVs increases over time and, yes, jobs will be lost,” said Lim.

There are an estimated 2,000 workshops and 8,000 auto technicians here, and they can earn around S$2,000 to S$5,000 a month depending on their experience and skill set, he said. The association represents about 520 members, of which 5% cater to EVs.

Manpower requirements

Still, it is pressing on with efforts to train up an EV workforce. In 2022, the SMWA Training Academy set out to train at least 1,000 automotive workshop technicians over three years to maintain EVs.

Lim said it has trained about 200 technicians so far.

It is one of about 20 organisations that agreed in May 2022 to develop training opportunities for automotive technicians, including on safe handling of high-voltage systems, as well as electrical troubleshooting and diagnostics.

Others include ComfortDelGro Engineering, Komoco and electric-car makers BYD Singapore and Tesla Motors Singapore.

People who want to work safely with EVs can tap the National EV Specialist Safety (Ness) certification launched in 2022. It teaches entry-level skills and knowledge in areas such as high-voltage systems safety, along with a basic introduction to EVs.

ITE has trained more than 250 people since it began offering the Ness course to the public in November 2022, said Seng Chin Chye, director of ITE College West’s school of engineering, who described the sign-up rate as “very encouraging”.

Another 260 have been trained at ComfortDelGro Engineering Academy since November 2022.

They are from a diverse range of backgrounds such as automotive technicians, workshop managers, engineers, customer service officers, EV enthusiasts and owners, and vehicle sales personnel, said ComfortDelGro’s spokesman.
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