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Fostering Sustainability Through Education

The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) supports Singapore’s bid to promote sustainable development across industries.

In recent years, sustainable development and sustainability have become increasingly significant components in universities’ degree programmes and curricula. With the impacts of accelerating climate change and the move to advance the 17 United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the year 2030, our educational landscape has set the trajectory for our young people to take the lead in co-creating solutions for a better world.

With the push of the Singapore Green Plan 2030 and various industry regulations, such as the increasing carbon tax, there is a greater demand for knowledge and skill sets in environmental sustainability within the workforce. Southeast Asia could have as many as 30 million sustainability-linked jobs by 2030, with the region’s green economy projected to provide up to US$1 trillion (S$1.36 trillion) in annual economic opportunities. However, the challenge is getting the right talent for these green jobs, given the fledgling nature of the environmental impact, social issues, and corporate governance (ESG) industry in Singapore.

The number of job seekers who aspire to enter the green economy has grown disproportionately, resulting in a significant skill shortage. Therefore, it is crucial to develop a comprehensive approach, especially in education, tracking, and standardisation, to address environmental sustainability needs.

To equip students and the existing workforce with relevant skills for the green economy, educational institutions are increasingly integrating sustainability principles into their curricula, utilising experiential learning and digital platforms, and collaborating with institutions and businesses to develop practical training programmes.

Driving sustainable development with SIT

The Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) catalyses sustainable development in Singapore and beyond by producing skilled professionals equipped to tackle contemporary sustainability challenges. Its mission revolves around integrating academia with industry, fostering applied learning, and cultivating a sustainability mindset. With this ethos in mind, SIT embraces transformative education and empowers students to contribute to sustainable solutions.

Baseline sustainability education is compulsory for all undergraduates in SIT and joint degree programmes. This micro-module introduces students to key sustainability concepts, including the definition, importance, multi-disciplinary nature and actions of sustainable development.  Students learn about the key challenges in Singapore and hear from industry insiders sharing their experiences and industry needs on sustainability.

“The roles of education, apart from delivering it, include the curation of a structure of knowledge and skill sets that can be segmented and packaged to accurately meet the different areas and levels of needs on the ground,” shared Associate Professor Ethan Chong, Head of Sustainability for Education and Research at SIT.

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A/Prof Chong added, “SIT is working on this, and developing courses based on a structure. Academia plays the role of connecting research and practice, and this connection is important in developing the structure. The outcome is ideally a set of sustainability curriculum that is rigorous and practical.”

To allow students to gain hands-on experience, SIT works with partners such as ENGIE and Singapore Power to train sustainability talents. For instance, the district cooling system facility within SIT’s new Punggol Campus, designed and built by ENGIE, will be a teaching and training ground for students to learn about the district cooling system and aspects of maintenance and energy efficiency in real-world conditions.

Through SIT’s collaboration with Singapore Power, faculty from the Electrical Power Engineering programme will train students on smart grid technologies by leveraging the Multi-Energy Microgrid. They can pick up much-needed skill sets such as data-driven optimisation, district cooling system decarbonisation and predictive maintenance learning, and conceptualisation of distributed energy systems.

“More than before, companies need to consider new sustainability-related factors in making decisions and choices. Sustainable development education and training should not only be about the teaching of theories and case examples. It should also cover the application aspects.  SIT aims to bridge the gap between classroom and industry so that learners may find what they have learned useful for their workplace,” explained A/Prof Chong.

Enhancing sustainability-focused education

To help tackle sustainability competency issues, SIT offers several programmes. These include the Specialist Certificate in Environmental Sustainability Measurement and Management, a Continuing Education and Training (CET) course for working professionals. The 12-month course covers measuring, managing and reporting techniques and guides learners in their respective sustainability-related tasks at work.

Climate change currently affects many aspects of people’s lives and offers many challenges as well as professional opportunities. To develop sustainably, an articulation of the definition and measurement of sustainability is required to track and implement solutions. Hence, this certification course introduces the quantification of sustainable development with an emphasis on environmental sustainability.

Measurement methods including carbon accounting, life cycle assessment, and management approaches such as circular economy modelling are covered. Since greenwashing is a potential reputational risk for many organisations, the programme helps organisations articulate and report credibly, meeting sustainability reporting standards and frameworks and measuring progress to manage sustainability initiatives.

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A/Prof Chong said, “In our CET courses, we often use learners’ actual work problems and cases. This is so they can almost immediately apply their sustainability knowledge and skill sets learned during the courses.”

Learners who use these skill sets over time in the industry can develop into sustainability professionals in their respective sectors and progress in their careers. The inaugural intake of the Specialist Certificate starts in May 2024.

Industry-focused sustainability education

In anticipation of the transformation in the agri-food sector and the growing global demand for green talent, SIT is also launching an Agritech and Aquaculture Specialisation in its Sustainable Built Environment (SBE) degree programme in the academic year 2024.

With growing emphasis on food security, farms in Singapore are increasingly focused on technological improvements to sustainably boost productivity in urban farming and aquaculture. The new specialisation will cover a wide range of topics, including agritech systems and aquaculture economics, aiming to train learners in this field of study holistically. Graduates can expect employment opportunities across various sectors, including agri-food, aquaculture, marine research, and government sectors.

Associate Professor An Hui, Programme Leader for the SBE degree programme, shared, “The Agritech and Aquaculture industries play crucial roles in addressing global challenges related to environmental sustainability and food security. Smart farming technologies enable better management of resources, leading to increased efficiency in land use, water consumption, and energy use. This contributes to sustainability by minimising waste and environmental degradation.”

With this new specialisation, the SBE degree programme will have three distinct specialisation baskets — Integrated Facilities Management, Green Building Design, and Agritech and Aquaculture. The SBE programme focuses on nurturing mechanical engineers to be competent in solving complex engineering issues in the Built Environment with critical thinking and skill sets in Sustainability and Integrated Digital Technologies.

“As the world and Singapore focus on achieving the target of the sustainability movement, the new specialisation in Agritech and Aquaculture, the emphasis on sustainable practices, technological innovation, and responsible resource management aligns with the broader goals of the SDGs. These specialisations contribute to developing resilient and sustainable food systems while addressing environmental, social, and economic dimensions of global development,” A/Prof An added.

The increasingly important role of education in sustainable development

The role of education, exemplified by SIT, is pivotal in shaping a sustainable future. As we navigate intricate environmental challenges, education serves as the cornerstone for fostering awareness, innovation, and a collective commitment to sustainability. SIT’s dedication to instilling a sustainability ethos and promoting applied learning underscores the transformative power of education in creating a sustainable future.

“Education of sustainable development is evolving and maturing as we speak. We must be agile to account for new scientific findings, policies, technologies, and the changing job landscape. It is also important to learn and collaborate across national and institutional boundaries. Singapore values collaboration, and I believe that we can do more together,” shared A/Prof Chong.

Source: e27

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