12 October 2018
Project management has evolved considerably over the last decade, yielding increasingly complex programmes, processes, methodologies, and theory. But with ever-increasing academic qualifications, what is the best route for achieving them? Dave Corbin says to look no further than apprenticeships.
At the Project Challenge Expo 2018 on 10th October, the Head of Project Management at WYG spoke about the benefits of apprenticeships over traditional education while sharing anecdotes about his own journey. He was joined by our Trainee Project Manager, Natalie Brown, who also shared insight into her apprenticeship experience.
Dave said: “We need to do all we can to get young people into industry. Whilst there isn’t a shortage in project managers, I would argue that there is a shortage of good project managers. An apprenticeship allows a company to mould young people into qualified professional fully aligned with that company’s processes, capabilities, and values.”
Unlike a traditional education, Dave said an apprenticeship does a far better job of introducing youths to the pressures inherent within fields like project management. This, by extension, then helps apprentices better cope with those pressures upon assuming a permanent role.
Dave learned this much himself while undertaking an apprenticeship as a gas service engineer at only 16 – an opportunity most welcome after his weak GCSE results stifled his prospects of acceptance into A-level schools or universities. Although he eventually abandoned engineering, his current role is still linked with creating and managing assets in the built environment, adding further weight to the practical skills he gained from the apprenticeship, not to mention the personal development.
At a time when apprenticeships are more accessible than ever, Dave stressed that the apprenticeship market is also helping to attract a much wider and diverse range of future employees. Indeed, a National Apprenticeship Services study recently found that 60 percent of apprentices in the UK are female.
But the benefits of apprenticeships extend to employers as well, he added. Nurturing an apprentice through the early stages of their careers breeds increased loyalty and the potential for an individual to provide real value to the business.
Unlike Dave, who undertook his apprenticeship prior to completing his formal education, Natalie’s route has been less conventional, joining WYG after completing a biology degree. From the onset, she had to fight the stigma that came with taking an apprenticeship post-graduation.
She said: “I did what a huge number of students do and decided that I didn’t want to pursue a career in the subject of my degree. It was a practical course, but there was no obvious career trajectory. Towards the end, I noticed I enjoyed the methodology and outputs of a biology project and seeing the physical manifestation more than the topic of biology itself.”
Having accepted that biology wasn’t the way to go, Natalie sought a role that would allow her to aid development and spur change in the commercial world. She wanted a role with diverse responsibilities and client relationship-building opportunities. It wasn’t long before her research led her to being introduced to project and programme management. It had just the vast scope she had been looking for.
There was only one problem: she didn’t have any project manager qualifications, nor had she graduated in project management, surveying, or construction management for that matter. While that would seemingly hinder her options, her brother had coincidentally sung the praises of apprenticeships after completing his own in accountancy. She quickly saw it as the best alternate pathway into project management.
“When I came across the apprenticeship role WYG was offering, it was completely unique in the Leeds market at the time. It would allow me to get my foot in the door at an international multidisciplinary company, start a versatile career, and gain professional qualifications.”
“For me, the biggest benefits have been to meet a huge variety of people, learn from colleagues and clients who have years of experience, and gain commercial awareness of industries I never imagined I would learn about. It has absolutely helped me develop greater confidence.”
Natalie closed her talk by urging apprentices to take advantage of opportunities to network and gain qualifications within their profession. She is currently seeking to attain the APM Practitioner Qualification and AGILE foundation qualification.
Dave concluded: “We are privileged to have Natalie on board and I am pleased with the progression of all of our apprentices thus far.”
At WYG, we have implemented several initiatives to develop fit-for-future apprenticeship programmes to cultivate the next generation of young professionals. These include, among others, a rolling programme of apprenticeship vacancies, a Business Improvement Group to identify improvement areas, a chartership bonus, and encouraging increased involvement with professional bodies and industry groups.
To learn more about the Project Challenge Expo, please visit its website.