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Projecting the project management industry

The UK faces a project management talent gap, which will affect a number of high-growth industries. This is a subject we’ve explored extensively at Project Management Institute, most recently in an analysis performed for us by the Anderson Economic Group.

Findings released in Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027 found that by 2027 the project management labour force is expected to grow by 33 per cent across 11 countries – the UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the United States – analysed in the study. Between 2017 and 2027, project management-oriented industry contributions will add £4.3 trillion ($5.6 trillion) to the GDP of these 11 countries.

According to the analysis, almost 22 million project management jobs will be created during the next decade and by 2027 employers will need nearly 88 million individuals working in project management-oriented roles. Within the UK, the project management profession is expected to have 168,196 new job openings between 2017 and 2027.

In the next decade, the most job growth across all countries analysed is expected to occur in manufacturing and construction, with more than 9.7 million new jobs. Information services and publishing will account for the second-largest increase, with nearly 5.5 million new jobs, while finance and insurance will create more than 4.6 million jobs, and management and professional services will see the addition of over 1.7 million new positions.

While the career outlook for the project management profession continues to outshine the overall labour market, this fact also means there is a serious gap in available talent to fill these positions. The talent gap puts at risk a total of nearly £161 billion ($208 billion) in GDP from 2017 to 2027 for the 11 countries assessed, and £2.09 billion ($2.7 billion) in the UK alone. This also means the shortage of project managers poses a severe risk for organisations worldwide that need qualified talent to implement their strategic initiatives – the projects that drive change in organisations.

Having the talent to implement strategic initiatives successfully is the critical capability that enables organisations to navigate change and successfully achieve their goals. As organisations find themselves competing for the finite pool of critical talent, it’s essential that they implement leading practices for finding, retaining and developing qualified project personnel.

We have found that when organisations focus on developing talent internally, specifically focusing on the technical, leadership and business management skills of their project professionals, 32 per cent more projects meet original goals.

Some three quarters of organisations rank project management leadership skills as most important for the successful navigation of complexity in projects, according to our research. Most organisations report that technical skills are the hardest to find, but the easiest to teach. As a result, global organisations are choosing to hire individuals who possess more nuanced skills in such leadership areas as stakeholder communication, negotiation and collaboration or analysis, and then provide training to develop their technical skills.

While the talent gap will pose challenges to organisations worldwide, the global shortage of project talent will present exceptional opportunities for qualified professionals to begin and advance their careers in the project management industry.

It’s time project management professionals recognise and embrace the opportunities and advantages that the talent gap affords them. It’s also time for organisations to realise what the implications of the talent gap are for them.

Demand is high for practitioners who have a necessary mix of competencies. To be successful in today’s fast-paced environment, organisations need project, programme and portfolio managers with a combination of technical and leadership skills, plus strategic and business management capabilities.

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