ENVISION a world where autonomous vehicles ply the road. To save manpower costs, drones are
deployed to survey long tunnels. Trains monitor track conditions automatically and roads are able to send signals to vehicles.

In short, it will be a world where people are able to commute safely and efficiently — and Ms Yolanda Zhang, a manager in the Industry Development department at Land Transport Authority (LTA), is involved in turning this into reality in Singapore.

Her department in the LTA, Industry Development, was instrumental in coming up with the Land Transport Industry Transformation Map (LT ITM), which was launched in February.

The map marks a point of transition for the LTA — instead of its traditional role of planner and regulator, it is now developing the industry.

Drawing up the blueprint

To gain insights on international practices in transport and manpower development when formulating the LT ITM, Ms Zhang, 33, visited Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and other countries.

In South Korea, she learnt about how government-led initiatives and reforms improved service quality and ridership. In Japan, she witnessed how the government worked together with operators to provide safe and comfortable transport for commuters by using technology.

At the same time, Ms Zhang and her team ensured local relevance by consulting and seeking feedback from internal and external industry players in Singapore. This was to ensure that they shared the common vision outlined in the LT ITM.

Says Ms Zhang: “Real transformation should not just be initiated by the Government — it involves
the entire ecosystem, especially the relevant companies.

“They have to change their business models to adopt technology in order to optimise manpower. We are very grateful for the strong support.”

The LT ITM aims to make Singapore’s land transport system smarter, drive productivity growth, deliver better service to commuters and future-proof the workforce through comprehensive up-skilling and re-skilling programmes.

So far, hefty investments have been made — including a $25 million Land Transport Innovation Fund, which will be used to kick-start mobility-related research and trials for the industry.

Finding the right people

A large part of Ms Zhang’s work involves attracting suitable talents or training existing personnel in preparation for the industry’s transformation.

To ensure that the industry’s current workforce keeps pace with technological advancements, Ms Zhang’s team works with divisions in the LTA, government agencies, institutes of higher learning and other industry stakeholders to develop comprehensive programmes for up-skilling and re-skilling.

One such scheme is the Public Transport Manpower Development Fund (PTMDF), which is also used to develop industry-relevant programmes based on the Public Transport Skills Framework (PTSF), slated to be launched in May.

Jointly developed by the LTA, Skills Future Singapore and industry partners, the PTSF provides key employment and career information on the public transport sector and sponsors study awards and training grants.

Currently, the industry employs over 21,000 people in the bus and rail sectors.

By 2030, the planned changes in the land transport industry will potentially create 8,000 new jobs. In particular, professionals, managers, executives and technicians will be in high demand.

Opportunities abound

Yet, despite a tight work schedule and project timelines, Ms Zhang makes it a point to go for training and upgrading opportunities. In August 2016, she attended a week-long City Executive Leaders EXCEL) programme that provided a cross-sectoral understanding of Singapore’s whole-of-government approach in urban development and governance.

Ms Zhang, who has been working in the LTA for nine years, is excited by the future of the trans-
port industry.

“My job is rewarding as it touches the lives of millions of commuters. The work that we do is cutting-edge, challenging and progressive,” she says.

“Though industry development is a fairly new role for the LTA, we are confident that progressively, we will build up our capabilities to lead, facilitate and support industry growth and sustainability.”

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