Find Great Graduate Jobs in Small Engineering Firms

Big job opportunities for engineering graduates aren’t just limited to big engineering companies! Why not check out smaller engineering employers as well?
The gradsingapore Team

Consider this: nearly 99% of all 170,000 registered businesses in Singapore today are SMEs, employing seven out of every 10 workers and contributing to half of the national GDP. By extension, this means that 70% of engineering graduates will most likely end up launching their careers with smaller engineering firms!

With so many graduates finding employment with small engineering firms, let’s take a look at how applications to such firms differ from applying to bigger companies. After all, big companies are not the only organisations with impressive opportunities – SMEs can offer very competitive prospects for graduate engineers too!

Training and salaries in SMEs

Most SMEs won’t be able to promise internationally-approved training programmes, but what they can promise is a lot of on-the-job training and involvement.

You’ll most likely be put through a variety of responsibilities right off the bat that will help you pick up a range of skills. As a result, you may find yourself developing just as fast – if not faster – than in an actual rotating graduate programme. Recognition for your work may even come faster than you expect!

Salary-wise, SMEs may not be able to offer as much as a large company. However, the gap generally isn’t so big that it deters graduates from working with them. Most will try to keep up with the market average, offering competitive remuneration through other non-monetary benefits instead.

Finding a job in an SME

Finding a job in smaller engineering firms is no longer as simple as flipping open the newspaper or logging into a job search portal. When it comes to recruiting graduate engineers, many of these firms prefer a more financially-sustainable form of advertisement: collaboration with university careers services centres.

Many of these smaller engineering firms tend to have highly-specific needs, and careers services centres can help them by pre-screening suitable students and graduates according to these firms’ requirements.

This applies to both internships and graduate employment opportunities, and the specialised nature of the work may expose students to a different form of industrial experience, instead of the kind offered by the conventional engineering giants.

It should be worth noting that “small” doesn’t necessarily mean “nameless” either! There are plenty of highly-specialised, world-renowned engineering employers who operate here in Singapore as SMEs, either because of the specialised nature of their work or for the tax incentives they can get from being classified as a smaller business. You never know what hidden gems you may find!

Applying to SMEs

Applying for a job with an engineering SME calls for a proactive nature. As is the case with most other employers, smaller engineering firms will favour experienced candidates who can offer immediate contributions to the company. You’ll have to go the extra mile by gaining relevant work/internship experiences to prove you can hit the ground running.

What this means is that you’ll have to start early – and begin multitasking! Engineering employers especially like graduates who have demonstrated the ability to successfully manage several projects or responsibilities simultaneously. Pinpoint instances where you’ve juggled a few responsibilities (hopefully with positive results!), and highlight those in your CV.

Don’t just focus on selling yourself, though. Job hunts are all about matching what you have to offer with a company’s needs, and it’s no different with these smaller firms. Make sure you also consider these other factors while applying:

  • Find out as much specific information about the company as you possibly can, such as their corporate aims and objectives, the type of projects that they do, as well as any stances that they have on social responsibilities.
  • Demonstrate that your existing knowledge can contribute to improving the company’s performance.
  • Indicate your enthusiasm in working with them by following up with a phone call or an enquiry e-mail after submitting your application (don’t flood their inbox though!).

Entrance requirements for smaller firms generally tend to be less restrictive or structured compared to larger organisations, so come expecting a more interesting or personal interview process!

Graduate apprenticeships

Sometimes, smaller engineering firms will also have graduate apprenticeship schemes – their own scaled-down equivalent of the formal training programmes at large engineering firms – to initiate graduate employees into their jobs.

Most inclusive apprenticeships will typically consist of three parts:

  • An introduction to the basic engineering principles needed for the job and their application in daily circumstances.
  • An extended education component for any necessary academic qualifications.
  • An industrial year where you earn credits towards your degree by working with the employer

Your apprenticeship may also be enhanced by a variety of other benefits and activities that these companies can offer, such as training sessions and seminars or after-work activities. Look for opportunities to interact with the staff at the companies you’re interested in to find out more about what their apprenticeships have to offer!