The rapid evolution of project management was illustrated most clearly when APM’s President David Waboso commented that we were uniquely honoured to share the success of a Royal Charter with those who originally found the profession. Chartered in a single generation is undoubtedly something to be celebrated.
Professionalising project management has had a long evolution from early discussions and research which established ways of doing things through methods and formalised qualifications, before the debate moved onto ideas of professionalism.
The launch of APM Registered Project Professional (RPP) in 2011 was another step in the long path to establishing a profession; building on already developed ideas such as a track record of achievement, knowledge and competence, professional development and a code of professional conduct, it combined all these professional values – the APM FIVE Dimensions of Professionalism – into a single designation for the first time.
The update to RPP, launched in February 2017 and based on the APM Competence Framework 2nd edition, has broadened the scope of the designation to recognise those working in projects, programmes and portfolios. It also provides a new developmental route that allows those without the experience to work their way to RPP through the APM Project Professional Qualification or the APM Practitioner Qualification.
The new developmental route broadens the range of people able to access to standard. Previously RPP was available only to those who had the experience to meet the standard. While it has always been possible for people to achieve the standard earlier in their career, to many accumulating experience is rarely linear. Very few of us gain experience one building block at a time - we learn from our mistakes, and from repeatedly honing our practice, we sometimes acquire experience which is less relevant and so on.
Plus we don’t all enjoy an unbroken career, there are many planned and sometimes unplanned changes along the way. Acquiring seven years’ experience relevant to the RPP standard can, in reality, take significantly longer to develop.
This presented some key challenges; the first was that there are many capable professionals only able to apply for RPP with confidence in the later stages of their career.
This subsequently reinforced the idea that RPP was predominantly retrospective; that it recognised a career of accumulated experience and didn’t act as a gateway to a long and successful career.
This subsequently created a barrier for those wishing to access the profession. Project management is a fantastically rewarding career which offers huge possibilities in all sectors for all people. But given the option of being professionally recognised as an engineer in your 20's or a surgeon in your 30's has been, potentially, a more attractive option of registered project professional in your 40's and 50's. If we are to capture more people and earlier from the talent pool, then we need to create more efficient ways of recognising their professional capabilities.
This presented a further underlying challenge; is an experience-only route to professional recognition fair to everyone? In the APM Salary and Market Trends Survey 2016 nearly 30% of respondents had experienced a break in their career. Amongst women that grew to 43%. Of those who responded 18% of men and 37% of women felt that their careers had been negatively impacted by the break.
Many women in particular will take maternity leave during their career, in addition, childcare and personal preference may see them working part-time for a period. That potentially slows the accumulation of experience needed to achieve RPP having a longer term impact on those who affected.
By providing a developmental route through APM Practitioner Qualification or APM Project Professional it is possible to develop at a pace suited to you and fits with your needs and lifestyle. There is now a way for a wider number of professionals to enter and succeed in the profession offering a much more diverse range of skills in the market, and that has to be good for all of us.