Getting the balance right

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What does it take to develop the next generation of project manager? In the last decade or so, have we placed too much emphasis on academia, as opposed to good old-fashioned on-the-job work experience?

I recently interviewed Sir John Armitt, the chairman of the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA), who argued just that. He said: The technical training of people is something I consider very important, increasingly so. I think we had the balance wrong for a long time, by placing too much emphasis on those with academic training and qualifications, as opposed to the technical training provided by organisations such as City & Guilds.

Incidentally, Sir John Armitt is set to become the chairman of the aforementioned organisation after his tenure at the ODA comes to an end. But does he have a point?

Budding practitioners that graduate from the many university courses around the UK are fighting hard for any available job roles. Where as those already embedded in organisations, and that have come through internal project management academies, have the right skills, strengths and training that firms are looking for.

For employers, recruitment is an expensive business, even more so if the candidate isnt right. For these organisations, training engineers and young project managers in house can be a more efficient way of ensuring that staff meet the individual needs of the company.

Of course, it isnt the fault of students wishing to better themselves far from it. From a young age a generation was told... If you want to do well, go to university get a degree.

Has the UK Government and media in general put too much emphasis on academic qualifications, and not shone an adequately bright light on the route of, say, apprenticeships?

I am of the belief that qualifications are vital to ones success, and that how you develop these skills should depend on your individual learning style. That being said, the future of the profession is reliant on practitioners seeing first hand how they can deliver successful projects. I wonder if this is a skill best achieved in the field or in the classroom.

Have we got the balance right? Answers on a postcard please.

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Posted by Andrew Hubbard on 28th Jun 2012

About the Author
Andrew is the editor of Project magazine. He began his career working as a freelance journalist. At the time his clients included Northcliffe and BSkyB. He became editor of Project at the end of June 2012.

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