Project Management Apprenticeships Change the Face of That Career

Twenty years ago, project management was almost exclusively a career in the construction and IT industries. Today, however, project management is a fundamental part of all organizations, as most businesses have adopted a project-centric business model.

Businesses have seen rapid change in many areas of the workplace over the past 20 years, not least the digital revolution and the impact of social media. These affect all areas of business. Further, these changes look set to continue for the foreseeable future. Yet even with these significant changes, some career opportunities remain fundamentally unchanged. Think teaching, law, medicine, accountancy. On the other hand, some careers are entirely new. For instance, digital marketing, social media management.

Yet others, such as project management, have changed almost beyond recognition. What have these changes meant for the traditional route into a project management career?




The Traditional Route to a Career as a Project Manager

Typically, a project manager would be degree-educated. They will have worked for some years in a particular industry before becoming a project manager, usually in that same industry. But we have seen project management grow and develop rapidly as a profession. Now, there is an internationally recognized range of qualifications from the Association for Project Management (APM) in the UK and the Project Management Institute (PMI) in the US.

Further, the profession has been granted a Royal Charter in the UK. This places it on an equivalent footing with, say, accountancy, with all of its rigorous exams and continuing professional development programs.

Until recently, this remained the most common route to becoming a project manager. However, businesses have increasingly begun to recognize the importance of finding effective project managers with the right balance of project management skills and qualifications. Therefore, many organizations have taken a greater interest in training and developing their project management capability in house.



A New Route into Project Management

Initially, improving in-house project management capability took the form of ensuring more existing project managers gained recognized qualifications. For some organizations this meant embarking on specific training in existing in-house methodologies for their project staff.

More recently, however, there has been a new approach. That is, businesses employ trainee project managers before they embark on a degree course. They then develop this talent with the help of degree-level apprenticeships.

Combining real-life workplace experience with degree-level training enables businesses to select the right talent early on. They can then shape these team members’ experience to meet the requirements of their particular organization or industry sector.

Therefore, it is now possible for someone to become a project manager through a project management apprenticeship scheme. Apprenticeships such as this are changing the traditional perception that an apprenticeship is a non-academic option. Businesses now view them as an alternative to a degree-level qualification. Further, these apprenticeships come with a guaranteed job and a career path at the end of the training period.

Project management may not yet be as well established as other professions such as accountancy or law. However, it is certainly heading that way. For a qualified professional there are opportunities in a wide range of industries.

Once qualified via the higher apprenticeship route, a project manager will have real-world experience. Their project management skills will be derived from their having been involved in real-world projects. They will understand, for example, how to manage risks and change and how to budget and schedule effectively. Perhaps more importantly, they will have learned how to work in a team, how to communicate effectively, how to solve problems, and how to negotiate with senior stakeholders.


How These Project Management Apprenticeships Came About

The UK government recognized the need to develop better apprenticeship schemes for young people. Therefore, the UK government initiated new schemes in early 2017. Their intention was to create 3 million apprenticeships by 2020. A new tax in the UK that is applicable only to large organizations has already begun funding these apprenticeships. Businesses can offset this tax, however, by training apprentices.

Project management is at the heart of so many industries, from construction, engineering and IT to banking, tourism and healthcare. Therefore, many organizations are already developing their internal project management capability under this scheme. Their professional project managers will develop the skills, attitudes and behaviors required to succeed in any industry. These project managers will learn how to ensure successful project outcomes consistently. That’s because their training will be based upon documented best practices that have been honed over many years. They will, therefore, contribute to the continued success of the organizations they are a part of.

According to the PMI’s most recent Pulse of the Profession study, organizations that train and develop their project managers successfully complete projects more often and waste less money on projects. This can only be good for the bottom line as well as good for the individual project managers and project teams.