Association for Project Management (APM), the chartered membership organisation for the project profession, has called on the Government to do more to ensure long-term stability and appropriate skills provision for UK infrastructure projects, following the launch of a major report.
The Second National Infrastructure Assessment has been published by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), the executive agency that advises the UK Government on long term infrastructure challenges facing the nation. The report makes several recommendations around transport, energy, digital, environmental resilience and reaching net zero. And it highlights these will only be achieved through:
- Policy stability with clear, long term goals and plans to meet them in all infrastructure sectors.
- The removal of delivery barriers that cause delays to projects and increase project financing costs.
- A visible and long term pipeline of investment opportunities that will enable the market to invest in skills and operators to build effective contractual relationships with supply chains that keep costs down.
- Predictable regulatory models that allow rates of return commensurate with the level of risk involved.
Responding to the report and its implications for the project profession, APM’s Head of Policy and Public Affairs, Andrew Baldwin (pictured) said: “The UK faces a multitude of challenges, which are playing out against a backdrop of accelerating change. Economic volatility, political uncertainty and the threat of climate change make the need for modern, reliable infrastructure more important than ever.
“Major infrastructure projects, when delivered well, can provide economic, social and environmental benefits. In order to succeed however, such projects require stability. The Second National Infrastructure Assessment demonstrates that its core recommendations will need to be delivered through projects, but also points out that ‘part of the solution also comes from having greater policy stability and long term plans.’ It is possible for projects to be rescoped and assessed and still succeed. When projects are scrapped or face multiple significant changes, this severely impacts – or completely negates – their ability to meet the intended need.
“Project success is also dependent on skilled professionals. Indeed, the NIC report makes it clear that delivering major projects requires ‘strong project management and delivery skills’. APM echoes this view. There is strong appetite among project professionals to develop their skills – evidenced by the fact that more people sat APM exams between April 2022 and March 2023 than in any previous year. This suggests there is a huge opportunity for government to invest in professionalisation of project management.
“But that isn't all that is needed. There is a further opportunity to focus the civil service more on policy delivery, not just policy development. It is not just about having the right skills in place; it is about having the right people as well. We hope Lord Maude’s imminent review into Civil Service governance and accountability will support this. Increased resource and development of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) and departmental project teams will ensure the recommendations in the NIC’s report can be delivered in full.”