SM Tharman Shanmugaratnam at Rotary Engineering's 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner

SM Tharman Shanmugaratnam | 22 July 2022

Keynote Address by Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for Social Policies Tharman Shanmugaratnam at Rotary Engineering's 50th Anniversary Gala Dinner on 22 July 2022.


Mr Roger Chia, Chairman, Rotary Engineering,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,


Let me first congratulate you on your 50 years since Rotary Engineering’s founding.

It has been a remarkable run.

With just two pickups and a few thousand dollars borrowed from a friend, Mr Chia started Rotary in 1972, with 12 staff.

From that beginning as an electrical installation sub-contractor, it has developed and expanded its capabilities to over the years to become a leading player in constructing storage tanks and distribution facilities, and now one of the first local companies to build up capabilities in cryogenic storage facilities.

Today, Rotary is a global player in storage tanks for the energy and chemical industry, employing more than 6,000 staff (3,000 staff based in Singapore), and with overseas business operations spanning Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

In Rotary’s journey we see the quintessential resolve of our early business leaders.

So tonight’s dinner is not just a celebration of Rotary’s golden jubilee, but also a celebration of local entrepreneurship that is critical to the future: building businesses that are local at heart, and global in ambition

A low-carbon energy future

It is a future with both heightened uncertainty and opportunity.

The energy and chemicals sector remains a key pillar of Singapore’s economy, but it is facing a number of headwinds.

Let me touch on two.

First, climate change and the need for energy transition.

While oil and gas will remain key energy sources in the global energy mix, the energy and chemicals sector must adapt to stay relevant.

Already, oil majors such as BP and Shell have strengthened their net-zero goals by targeting a 40% reduction in oil and gas production or investment over the next decade.

Rotary and other companies in the Process Construction and Maintenance (PCM) sector will have to develop cutting-edge  capabilities to support renewable and low-carbon energy solutions.

Rotary has in fact built up engineering capabilities in cryogenic tankage, for ammonia for example.

It is also exploring the use of solar power panel arrangements for unutilised space, for example, on the rooftop of storage tanks and bund areas.

Digital and workforce transformation

We must also prepare for the digital era, in every sector and every job.

Digital transformation of businesses has to go hand-in-hand with upskilling of our workforce.

Rotary understands this. Indeed, raising workforce productivity has been the thread running through Rotary’s progress over the last half century:

From setting up overseas training centres in Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Thailand to equip its workforce with skills needed for construction and maintenance;

To establishing six fabrication workshops, highly mechanised and automated to enhance worker productivity, across Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and the UAE;  

To adopting digital technologies, such as state-of-the-art software for 3D modelling and centralised procurement, integrated with enterprise resource planning,

Rotary has taken its technological and skilling needs seriously and sees its highly-skilled workforce as its competitive advantage.

On this note, I am glad to see that Rotary has embarked on two cornerstone projects for employee learning and development:

First, is the organisation-wide adoption of the Skills Framework for Engineering Services.

Rotary has not just referenced this skills framework but has customised learning and development plans for individual job roles and work functions, and developed a competency framework where an employee can map his skills and competencies to the current job role, and identify the training needed to progress to the next level.

As a result, Rotary staff now have a more structured development framework, can keep pace with industry needs, and have access to the requisite training opportunities to take on various job roles.

Second, Rotary has worked with the National Centre of Excellence for Workplace Learning at the Singapore Institute of Technology (NACE@SIT) to curate a customised training programme for young project engineers seeking to become project managers.

It is a good example of how our industry players can partner our institutions of higher learning to upskill our workforce.

One employee who attended the programme is Samuel Ang.

Samuel graduated with a degree in Chemical Engineering from NUS in 2017 and joined Rotary as an engineer on Jurong Island.

He then  became one of the pioneer batches of engineers who attended the Rotary Management Programme conducted by SIT.

With the benefit of structured training and mentoring, coupled with a growth mindset, Samuel has progressed to take on a senior project engineer role, where he is now a mentor to three project engineers. 

It is an approach that we are scaling up across all sectors – building collaboration between businesses, training institutions, mentor and individuals themselves.

SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG) will work with our SkillsFuture Queen Bee companies and Skills Development Partners to reach out to a wider group of workers across different sectors.

The SSG will also empower the individual to take greater ownership of his career, through advisory services and regular sharing of what skills are in demand, and how to acquire them.

Finally, SSG will continue to invest in the quality of continuous learning, improve the relevance and timeliness of the content, and make its delivery as convenient as possible for working individuals. 


In closing, let me once again congratulate Rotary on your golden jubilee.

Rotary’s story reminds us of what is possible when a company invests in its people and in innovation to grow and succeed, and increasingly, to shape a more sustainable world.

I look forward to the next chapter of your story.

* * * * *