Apprenticeship: A New Way into Project Management?

One of the questions we get time and again is “How do I get into Project Management?” Until recently our advice has tended to focus on finding opportunities within project based organisations (paid or unpaid) where an individual could pick up valuable experience rather than pointing them at training courses where they can attain theoretical knowledge. For those already working, establishing if there is the possibility of working as part of a project team; or if their current role/experience is unrelated to project management, what about volunteering on a third sector project? The launch of the Higher Apprenticeship in Project Management would now appear to offer another option for a chosen few.

Aimed largely, but not exclusively, at school leavers and recent graduates, this nationally-accredited scheme aims to provide the training and development to take project novices to a point where they can effectively contribute to large programmes or take responsibility for small work packages.

Image courtesy Bosc d’Anjou @Flickr
Anyone familiar with the traditional apprenticeship model will recognise and appreciate what the scheme is attempting to achieve. At the end of your training, you would expect to have a sub set of project management skills and the ability to be able to work unsupervised. Over time, you would be given greater responsibility and embark on further education, training and CPD to progress up the ladder to being recognised as a fully fledged Project Manager. This is not to diminish the scheme, but rather to reasonably set expectations as to what you will be, once you have completed your ‘time’.

Over a two-year period, you are expected to complete a number of modules which are a combination of competency and technical/academic-based units. Some of these are mandatory, such as: Principles of project management; Project stakeholder management; and Project communications. The remaining modules are selected from an agreed list.

How the modules are delivered (e.g. block release, day release or self-study) is a joint decision between the involved parties, but at the end of the day must achieve the standard accredited by Ofqual. Successful completion will see the award of a Level 4 Diploma in Project Management, slotting in just above the APMP level in the current APM qualifications. Candidates, now with a solid foundation in Project Management, will be well equipped to continue on the project management career path.

An aging population, the need to succession plan and the APM’s aspiration to raise the standard of project management  have prompted some 80 organisations to get involved in the development of the programme. The number of active schemes is still relatively low (24 – June 2012) but this number is expected to grow as the scheme becomes more widely known. Competition is expected to be tough – BA recently undertook a recruitment campaign for five apprentices and had some 300 applications.

The success of this scheme in developing project management capacity and capability will only be evident in time. But as a real alternative for people with an aspiration to enter project management, this has many benefits and should be worth looking out for.

Apprentice image courtesy Bosc d’Anjou @Flickr, re-used with permission

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