Over half the respondents to the 2019 APM Salary and Marketing Trends survey thought that increasing visibility of the profession in schools, colleges and universities was a helpful approach to encouraging new talent. As project professionals we should act on this approach.
As part of the evolving Skills, Employment and Education (SEE) approach across the project management profession we must always look for ways to open new opportunities and entry routes for a diverse range of skills, backgrounds and employment. Thinking bigger, as members of the UK and global project management community, our broader aim should be to motivate and guide the next generation to develop the skills needed to choose and contribute to the project profession; create the future pipeline of talent needed to tackle the world’s grand challenges; and leave a lasting project management skills legacy.
Recent increases in the recruitment of graduates, apprentices, industrial and summer placement holders and workless job starters, are good examples of a steady cultural shift in the project management profession. It is having a positive impact on the look and feel of project management teams – broadening the range of backgrounds, skills and mindsets needed to fulfil the diverse and evolving needs of future projects. We still need to become far more joined up with our approach by engaging earlier and more regularly with schools, University Technical Colleges, sixth forms, further education colleges and universities.
This is where you can get involved - an idea this year is for you to specifically represent the project management profession at a school careers fair near you (rather than, or at least alongside the already well populated engineering, design, consulting, IT, or construction areas).
My experience is that these events are win-win. You’ll be welcomed with open arms and will find it a very rewarding personal experience. Taking the first step towards anything can always be a hurdle, so here are some simple steps:
- Make a personal commitment to engage with at least one school this year. Choose your own motivation – it could be to promote the project management profession, support early careers, stimulate interest in STEM subjects, give something back, or just get out more.
- Contact your old school, your kid’s school, your local school – whatever – find their careers contact and their programme of events. APM has links with schools and colleges around the country so can plug you in to events local to you if you don’t have links yourself.
- Volunteer to go along to a careers event to represent the project management profession. Insight events are another good way to give visibility to the project profession – whether it’s 45 minutes on being a project manager apprentice or a wider view of your career so far.
- On the night all you really need is yourself. If you don’t have any guidance material that is appropriate for a younger age group you can use APM’s Project:You student guide, and its parents’ guide to apprenticeships. Many organisations have learning and development teams who will happily provide some material you may be able to use or give away. Be creative and engaging – even if it’s just a rolling PowerPoint.
- Be ready to talk about routes to employment, summer and industrial placements, apprenticeship and graduate intakes.
- Think about other ways students can learn about and access the profession – professional bodies like APM have free student membership for example, or students may be interested in accessing networks like the local STEM ambassador hubs.
- Share your personal story – what was it that made you choose your route into project management. Chances are the seeds were already being sown before your GCSEs (or O’ Levels if you’re proper old like me).
- Last of all – just do it. You don’t need permission to exhibit at a careers fairs, you can just get on with it, and there are plenty of searchable ‘how-to’ guides out there.
Good luck and please share how you get on.