Tech and Tech Bill

Disclaimer: I am a registered Chartered Engineer, a lecturer at a local university, and a law student.

There’s another new bill currently in drafting mode titled “Technologists and Technicians Bill”. Some quarters are seeing this as a reincarnation of the Computing Professionals Bill but I don’t.

The reason is because I also know that there is an effort in at the tertiary education level to split the current engineering courses into B.Eng and B.Tech courses, catering to different market segments and that this bill is a natural culmination of the act.

But before we proceed, we’ve got to first look at the future segregation of the engineering world into B.Eng and B.Tech people. The argument is that there are two different market segments to address. Where I teach, the faculty has even been renamed this year to include “Technology” in addition to Engineering.

On the one hand, our local industries need to have a huge work-force to get shit done. This is where the B.Tech is supposed to come in. Ideally, these people are supposed to be more practical oriented with their education more heavily biased towards addressing direct industry requirements.

We already have certain Bachelors degree at certain local universities that were designed with direct input from certain industry partners and where most of the graduates end up heading to those industry partners for jobs later. So, that’s the idea behind a B.Tech – to address an immediate market need.

On the other hand, we still need people to dream up new ideas and to solve more abstract stuff. This is where the B.Eng is supposed to come in. Ideally, these people are supposed to be equipped with abstract problem solving skills and their syllabus is biased at something like a 80/20 level with more theory and less practical.

So, these people are supposed to dream up the next big thing and to design future technology. This group of people are supposed to fill up the market need for say, research, development and design work – stuff where you end up sitting in front of a PC for most of the day instead of getting your hands dirty on the line.

In terms of professional registration, the second group of people need to be registered as is already done under the law. However, the issue is whether the first group of people should also fall under the BEM is something arguable. At the moment, they do fall under BEM if their degrees are accredited by the EAC.

So, what happens to the B.Tech people when we split the engineering courses up. They were previously under the BEM and so, the natural idea is to extend this to include a new board that caters to the registration of these B.Tech people.

Anyway, a lot of people will disagree with what I’ve said because I also thought it weird at first, but that’s generally the idea that I caught onto last year. We cannot deny that there is a disconnect between what our universities supply and industry needs. This is one of the ways to plug the gap.

Now, back to the actual text of the Bill itself.

The definitions:

“technologist” means a person who applies knowledge of mathematics, science and technology specialisation to defined procedures, processes, systems or methodologies;

One can even argue that medicine is covered by this, which I think is the intent of the bill – to include medical technologists. There is a growing demand for medical technologists – i.e. people who can maintain modern medical equipment – as the number of hospitals in this country is also growing.

I think that this is the idea that we can imply from the definitions:

“technical services” means services provided in connection with any operation, product testing, product commissioning and product maintenance and includes any other technical services approved by the Board;

“technology services” means services in connection with product development, manufacturing, operation, product testing, product commissioning and product maintenance and include any other technology services approved by the Board;

I think the issue that most people will take with the bill, particularly the IT people, are S.20 and S.21 of the bill that provides for the registration of these professionals. Any recognised degree in “Technology” is mentioned explicitly. So, if someone graduated with an IT degree, they might fall under this category but I think that the intent is to capture the B.Tech people.

The rest of the bill seems to be quite boiler plate.

So, I think that the bill is rather innocuous as it is. Unlike the CPB, which sought to limit the ability of people to work within the computing field and to limit the ability of someone to sell their services to the CNII industries, this one doesn’t.

As of this moment, this bill just just for the purpose of registration. I think that whomever are behind this bill probably learned a lesson from the CPB2011 mismanagement and will hopefully keep this bill as innocuous as it presently stands.

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Shawn Tan

Chip Doctor, Chartered Engineer, Entrepreneur, Law Graduate.

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