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Developing talent from the ground up: why a PM graduate scheme makes sense

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Barely a week goes by without a statement from an organisation about skills shortages. Part of the solution to this issue is to nurture talent from an early stage and along with the large number of project management apprentices and degree apprentices in the UK, we can see a growing number of project management graduate schemes developing.

We spoke to APM Corporate Partner AlphaPlus and its Head of PMO, Nick Karamanis, about the decision to develop a project management graduate scheme alongside its project management  apprenticeship programme.

“We created this scheme in 2020 because it aligns to our core values of actively enabling the professional growth of our employees and giving back to the local community. It also sets us apart from those larger companies that don’t have a project management graduate scheme to help us attract the best graduate talent. From a more practical perspective, growing our own also has cost benefits alongside the development of talent aligned to company culture. The other key benefit to us is that it develops the coaching and mentoring skills of our experienced project management office (PMO) by assigning them to graduates and apprentices.

“We know that the graduates benefit too – they have a structured professional development framework and get to learn on the job, build their skills and knowledge as well as their responsibilities. They also have structure in terms of the professional qualifications they can do, including APM ones. Those who successfully complete the graduate scheme can progress further and should aim for APM’s Project Professional Qualification (PMQ) and, after that, Chartered Project Professional (ChPP) status. Once they complete the programme, they will then become coaches and mentors for future graduate intakes.”

Amelia Geoghegan is one of the many success stories from the graduate scheme.

“I started as a project manager on AlphaPlus' graduate scheme in 2020. From starting as a graduate straight out of university, I have developed significantly with help from my colleagues and mentors. The graduate scheme has been great to show the progression routes I can take in both the company and the project management industry and opportunities available for project managers starting their careers. Since joining the company, I have progressed from undertaking supporting roles on projects to leading large projects alongside project directors and senior leaders.

“As part of the graduate scheme, I have got involved with APM by becoming a member, attending online webinars and participating in panel events. This has connected me to other project professionals, some in a similar position as me, fairly early in their project management careers, and some with a wealth of experience, who can provide lots of advice and tips about the profession. This, alongside gaining my PMQ qualification, has been great to develop my project management skills and knowledge.”

Speaking about support for the scheme, Nick told us: “For us the programme was not difficult to set up because there was sponsorship from the board of directors – we just had to build it!

“For the PMO there are two distinct pathways: the first is focused on project management and sees graduates progress through the APM qualification path from Project Fundamentals Qualification (PFQ) to PPQ and then onto ChPP. Part of the programme is also about becoming an active member of the wider APM community and attending events and conferences, as well as giving back to the local community by being panellists at insight events. The second pathway relates more to our business of developing assessments, and so the graduates’ knowledge is geared more to those areas, with membership of relevant associations along with access to events and conferences.

“Project management is a core discipline to deliver the right assessments to our clients and that is why we made the investment to become an APM Corporate Partner and structured our PMO graduate scheme around APM’s qualifications. The result is that we have become more attractive not only to graduates but also to clients in the education business, because through our graduates speaking at APM events and conferences, we demonstrate our credentials and credibility.

“For those companies that don’t offer a project management graduate scheme, I’d say they’re missing out! We get to develop our graduates from the ground up in a structured and focused way. We now have eight project managers working in the PMO and Service Delivery, including a finalist at the 2023 APM Festival of Education and Research and another who was a panellist at the same festival.”

Find out more about APM’s Corporate Partnership Programme.


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