Mentors help SIT Interns ‘Mind-the-Gap’ at SMRT


The new SIT-SMRT Buddy Up Programme pairs SIT interns with workplace mentors who are SIT graduates.


Group photo of the sharing session of the SIT-SMRT Buddy Up Programme pilot run, which was held in January 2024. WenQiang is pictured in the third row, third from the right. (Photo: Wei WenQiang)

When SIT’s Sustainable Infrastructure Engineering (Land) (renamed Engineering Systems from academic year 2023) undergraduate Wei WenQiang, 24, joined SMRT’s railway maintenance department as an intern last year, he found it easy to stay on track.

It was not just because of SMRT’s comprehensive programme for new hires or the fact that his programme at SIT has prepared him well for the working world. A key reason was that his mentor, senior engineer Shawn Pang, had graduated just three years ago, in 2021, from the same degree programme as him.

WenQiang and Shawn agree that sharing the same university and degree background facilitated a deeper understanding and natural communication between the two.

Shawn shared that their common background allowed him to provide more targeted guidance, fostering a stronger mentor-mentee relationship.

“Shawn is a supportive and insightful mentor who generously shared valuable perspectives. His guidance facilitated the development of various soft skills. Learning from his experiences, I gained a deeper understanding of effective communication, problem-solving and project management – skills that are often integral in professional settings but may not be explicitly taught in a classroom environment,” said WenQiang, who is interning at SMRT till August as part of his Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP).

He was paired up with Shawn as part of the new SIT-SMRT Buddy Up Programme, officially launched in January 2024, which ensures that SIT students doing their IWSP at SMRT are matched with an SIT alumnus mentor.


Shawn Pang (left) and Wei WenQiang (right) at the SMRT office. (Photo: Wei WenQiang)

Besides dishing out advice on company culture and standard operating procedures (SOP), Shawn, 28, gives WenQiang advice on his upcoming university capstone design project – from project management to concerns about budget. 

Staying on Track

At SMRT, WenQiang is attached to the Permanent Way (PWay) Maintenance Department, which focuses on maintaining the train tracks. He spends much of his time using AutoCAD software to design maintenance solutions for the Circle Line MRT tracks.

WenQiang shared that his education at SIT has prepared him for the IWSP. “My programme's practical approach and industry-relevant coursework ensured that I had a solid foundation in the skills needed for my role at SMRT. For example, I studied modules like PWay, Rolling Stock and Signaling, Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) and Lean Management, which were concepts that I came across during my work at SMRT. Integrating theoretical concepts with real-world applications made the transition from academic studies to the workplace seamless.”

One of the most memorable projects he led at SMRT was designing a new clamp for the third rail support bracket, which holds the track system’s third rail – the conductor rail supplying electric power to the trains. The clamp was designed to address potential issues arising from dynamic movements at the third rail support bracket weld joints. The stability of this bracket is crucial, as it can impact the geometry of the conductor rail it supports. Misalignments may lead to discontinuities in power supply, affecting revenue service. It helps prevent these issues by ensuring the secure positioning of the third rail support bracket.

“The design has been approved for trial, with one set fabricated and currently undergoing testing before receiving in-use approval. I have actively contributed to several projects focused on ensuring the safe and reliable operation of railway services. It is undoubtedly challenging, but seeing your design approved and considered for future use is truly rewarding. This has given me valuable practical knowledge,” said WenQiang.


WenQiang at the SMRT Safety Course Practical Assignment, which SMRT conducts for all employees. (Photo: Wei WenQiang)

Besides completing his duties during the day, WenQiang spent a week shadowing the maintenance team during their night shift. Once, at around 4 a.m., the team was suddenly notified of a fault. With the first test train set to run at 5 a.m., the team had only an hour to travel to the point of fault and fix the issue, he recalled.

“From the time the fault was acknowledged to the time it was rectified, it only took about 30 minutes. Witnessing the work of the technicians and system engineers was very memorable. It taught me the importance of knowing the workplace instructions and SOP by heart to react quickly to emergencies,” he said.

A Taste of Rail Life

Shawn, who admitted that he would have benefited from a similar buddy programme during his own IWSP, is glad to have joined the programme as a mentor. “I wanted to share my experiences and support juniors navigating their academic and professional journeys. The mentorship facilitated knowledge exchange, highlighting how sharing experiences and expertise contributes to a holistic learning environment. Our collaboration also fosters a sense of teamwork and community, promoting a culture of shared success.”

He describes WenQiang as an “exemplary mentee, showcasing exceptional qualities such as a strong work ethic, eagerness to learn, and a proactive attitude”.

“His ability to navigate challenges and capitalise on learning opportunities has taught me the importance of resilience and adaptability in professional growth,” Shawn added.The SIT-SMRT Buddy Up Programme builds on a long-running partnership between the two organisations. Over the past eight years, more than 140 SIT students have completed their IWSP at SMRT. At least 74 SIT graduates have also been hired under SMRT’s Engineering Management Programme.


WenQiang at the sharing session of the SIT-SMRT Buddy Up Programme pilot run, sharing about his experience as a mentee. (Photo: Wei WenQiang)

“Cultivating strong partnerships with Institutes of Higher Learning is at the heart of SMRT’s people strategy and signifies our commitment to nurturing talent and driving collaborative innovations. Our partnership with SIT on the IWSP programme exemplifies this, as it creates opportunities for students to gain real-world experiences while contributing meaningfully to our public transport system,” said Mr Lam Sheau Kai, President Rail, SMRT Trains Ltd.

Today, when WenQiang takes the Circle Line to work every morning, he feels a sense of pride knowing the hard work that goes on behind the scenes. He said that his stint has given him insight into areas such as preventive and corrective maintenance, and he remains keen to embark on a career in the railway sector one day.

“While my primary focus is on the railway sector, I am open to exploring different roles in the future,” he added. “I envision a dynamic career path that could lead me to diverse opportunities, such as project management or even transitioning into a role as a sales engineer.”

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