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A good day for women, skills and the profession

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Tackling career breaks

On International Women’s Day, chancellor of the exchequer Phillip Hammond announced a £5m fund will be made available for ‘returnships’ – to help those returning to work after long career breaks.

Returnships will be open to women and men, with the aim of giving people who have taken lengthy career breaks the opportunity to refresh their skills and build professional networks. The government will work with business groups and public sector organisations to identify how to boost further the opportunities for women returning to work.

In her first speech as prime minister Theresa May declared: “If you are women, you will earn less than a man” - a problem the nation has tried to solve for nearly 50 years.”

Today she continued: “When I stood on the steps of Downing Street and said I wanted this to be a country that works for everyone – I meant it. That’s why – on International Women’s Day – I’m pleased to announce £5m to help mothers returning to work after a long career break. Women are driving our economy forward, securing 77 per cent of new jobs last year – and now represent a higher percentage of FTSE board membership than ever before.”

Today’s investment marks a step change in how we tackle the gender wage gap and invest in increasing productivity. APM would encourage project leaders to join the discussion and explore the different factors that can help close the gender pay gap.

The average gender pay gap for project professionals currently sits at 29.5 per cent just over 11per cent higher than the average found by the Institute for Fiscal Studies.


As the UK begins the formal process of exiting the EU, creating a highly-skilled workforce will ensure businesses across the country have the talent and skills needed to succeed in global markets.

Employer demand for skills is increasing; over the coming years, 42 per cent of businesses expect to have more jobs requiring intermediate-level skills, and 74 per cent expect to demand more high-level skills.

Evidence shows that skills qualifications are also clearly linked to higher wage returns. An individual with a level 3 apprenticeship (broadly equivalent to A-levels) as their highest qualification can expect to earn between £77,000 and £117,000 more on average over their lifetime, compared to individuals with a lower-level qualification.

Investing in education and skills will help young people succeed in the workplace and increase their earnings, and support businesses of all sizes to thrive.

The project profession echoes this demand, with growing demand from new sectors demanding complex skills in order to deliver a growing range of projects, which in some industries will last into the next century. APM welcomes the announcement of an extra £500m for vocational and technical education in England.

Additionally the National Productivity Investment Fund will invest £250m over the next four years to continue to build the pipeline of high-skilled research talent necessary for a growing and innovative economy:

  • £90m will provide an additional 1,000 PhD places in areas aligned with the Industrial Strategy. Around 85 per cent will be in STEM disciplines, and 40 per cent will directly help strengthen collaboration between business and academia through industrial partnerships 
  • a further £160m will support new fellowships for early and mid-career researchers in areas aligned to the government’s Industrial Strategy.

Projects and infrastructure  

The National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) provides the financial backbone to the government’s Industrial Strategy, and will:

  • support market roll-out of the fast and reliable full-fibre connections that will help businesses to grow; 
  • tackle congestion and ensure the UK’s transport networks are fit for the future;
  • enhance the UK’s position at the forefront of technological progress globally;
  • accelerate new housing supply.

Research and development  

To support the UK’s world-leading research and ensure that the next generation of discoveries are made, developed and commercialised in Britain, the budget announces a raft of investment including:

  • The NPIF will invest £740m in digital infrastructure by 2020-21, to support the next generation of fast and reliable mobile and broadband communications for consumers and businesses. The budget announces the first steps towards this ambition. 
  • leading the world in the development, design and manufacture of batteries that will power the next generation of electric vehicles, helping to tackle air pollution;
  • developing cutting-edge artificial intelligence and robotics systems that will operate in extreme and hazardous environments, including off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining;
  • accelerating patient access to new drugs and treatments through developing brand new medicine manufacturing technologies, helping to improve public health.


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