Until recently the most typical route into a career in project management was to study for a university degree, work in your chosen industry for some years building up skills and experience and then progress to project management – usually in the same industry – and gain some PM qualifications en-route.
The vast majority of people currently working as project managers have taken that career direction but things are changing and it looks likely that the project management profession will be sourcing talent from a much wider pool in the future.
You can now throw yourself straight into the project management world with a Bachelor degree in project management – these are mainly focused on the construction industry at the moment but there are a few places like the University of South Wales, the University of Cumbria and Leeds Beckett University that do a straight project management degree.
But have you noticed a distinct change in the desire of young people to go to university? Until recently, if you were expected to get a few good A levels then you were automatically expected to go to university. Maybe I’ve just come across a lot of 16-18 year olds recently but what I am seeing is a definite reluctance to take on the debt that a university education now entails. Unless you have very wealthy parents who can fund your time at uni the debt you accrue will be significant.
Earlier this year the Independent reported that university tuition fees in England are now the highest in the world so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised by this reluctance on the part of recent school leavers.
Higher Apprenticeships and the new Apprenticeship Levy
University education isn’t right for everyone and fortunately in April of this year new government legislation has now made it easier to embark on a career in project management without having to get a degree first.
You can now work (and be paid) while studying for qualifications that are internationally recognised, which have a clearly defined career progression and with continuing professional development (CPD) that can lead to a degree level qualification for those with the aptitude and desire.
Project management apprenticeships are not new and have been around for many years at organisations such as BAe Systems but what is new is the introduction by the government of the new Apprenticeship Levy designed to encourage large organisations to train their workforce in relevant skills and, in doing so, improve business productivity.
The new levy will mean an increase in the quantity and quality of apprenticeships available by encouraging employers to invest in high quality training.
The Apprenticeship Levy came into force in April 2017 and is charged at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s salary bill where that is greater than £3 million/year. This means, in practise that it will only be paid by around 2% of organisations but it is nevertheless expected to raise £2.5 billion/year for training young people according to the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB).
Because large organisations subject to this levy can offset the amount of tax due by paying for apprentices to be trained, and, in addition, will receive a 10% top-up from the government for training costs, it makes sense that they will do so – and then benefit from a better trained workforce, better project outcomes and increased business productivity.
If there is a large uptake of the project management apprenticeship programme it will be interesting to see how this changes the face of the project management profession and what it will mean for those degree-educated and already qualified project managers.