New professionals for new infrastructure projects

As the demands on project professionals grow and employers have to work harder to recruit and retain talent, more companies are seeing the benefits of Association for Project Management corporate accreditation

With the economy picking up and Britain’s population continuing to grow, ever-increasing numbers of building and infrastructure projects are taking place. Crossrail is nearing completion and there is discussion about a major new rail system to link the great cities of the North.

Earlier this year the government announced £36 billion planned investment into infrastructure for 2014 to 2015, a sum that could support more than 150,000 construction jobs. Meanwhile, with tighter timelines, more stringent environmental considerations, new technology and more regulation, there are greater expectations about what these projects can achieve.

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Adding to these challenges is the limited pool of specialised project professionals available to meet this growing demand. Employers in a variety of sectors have to work harder than ever to recruit, retain and develop talent as they face growing competition for the best project professionals.

“Employers need to grow this workforce by investing in staff and improving training, knowledge and competence,” says Andrew Bragg, chief executive of Association for Project Management (APM), which with more than 21,150 individual and 550 corporate members is the largest professional body of its kind in Europe, and works to raise awareness and standards in the profession.

“Issues such as effective, competence-based recruitment, continuing professional development and retention are key when it comes to growing this pool of talent,” says Mr Bragg. In particular, he argues, more structured career development is needed for the next generation of project professionals who will run mega-projects, such as Crossrail and the building of the nuclear power stations which are being discussed by government.

“New regulations and new technology are constantly being introduced, adding new challenges. The majority of entry-level project management qualifications are knowledge based whereas, in order to create a more rounded project professional, we need to raise the bar and ensure these professionals engage with career-long professional development that continually builds on their experience and competence.”

We need to raise the bar and ensure these professionals engage with career-long professional development that continually builds on their experience and competence

This is why an increasing number of companies are realising the benefits of embedding APM qualifications into their own learning and development activity by becoming an APM-accredited organisation. These companies align themselves closely with APM’s Five Dimensions of Professionalism.

These principles help project professionals to develop their careers and include breadth and depth of knowledge, achievement of APM and other qualifications, which are recognised across the profession, a commitment to continuing professional development and accountability to APM’s Code of Professional Conduct.

“Organisations are also making a visible investment in staff by seeking APM corporate accreditation,” says Mr Bragg. “They find that this enhances the external recognition of their project management capability and provides assurance to key stakeholders allowing them to attract and retain the best project management talent in the country.”

These companies realise that aligning with APM’s suite of qualifications provides staff with a career-long development path as well as providing the organisations themselves with a structured framework to shape their internal learning and development activity.

Later this year, APM will publish a piece of research called Conditions for Project Success, which identifies and explores the factors which lead to the successful delivery of projects, creating a benchmark against which to assess the key ingredients for a successful project over time.

The findings, APM believes, will help organisations build a convincing business case for effective investment in project management and for maximising the return on that investment.

APM is also working hard to explode some of the myths around project management. Its Myth Busting-themed conference next year will bring together speakers from within the profession and thought leaders from outside to address what has long been believed, but never said – that project management in theory is rarely project management in practice.

As demand continues to increase for highly competent and well-rounded project professionals, who are able to meet the challenges of the 21st century, the role of APM is more important than ever.

Case Study

ALIGNING PROJECT MANAGEMENT FRAMEWORK WITH APM

FCO Services, part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, provides security services, such as installing and enabling secure communications and designing, building and managing secure facilities for the UK public sector and in challenging environments abroad.

In 2010, FCO Services took the decision to realign its project management framework with that of APM, stipulating both APM’s Body of Knowledge as the standard reference and APM’s suite of qualifications, investing in and developing staff to undertake formal project management development to this standard.

“Understanding the level of competency for each individual has a number of benefits, both for the business and the individual,” says Peter Bramley, resource development manager, programme and project management at FCO Services.

“Competency can be collectively reviewed against an agreed framework, which enables a greater degree of objectivity, while focused formal and experiential training can be identified in order to provide the individual with the best development opportunities. It also allows the organisation to allocate the best resource to each project, subject to developmental needs.”