Attracting young people to PM: interview with Chris Field

Chris Field wearing a suit and tie
Chris Field

Tomorrow is International Project Management Day, and the UK’s big event to celebrate is Synergy.

Over 1000 project managers are due to converge on the O2 arena in London. I spoke to Chris Field, who is the UK PMI Chapter President and one of the organizers.

When there is so much doom and gloom, and unemployment figures are so high, is project management a good career choice for young people? This is what he had to say.

Chris, are many young people choosing to become project managers?

I am in no doubt that lots of young people are entering the profession in some cases by design and in others by accident when their boss throws them the ball, and they have no choice but to catch!

We could do a lot more to promote the profession to those considering their future. Project management is a diverse, exciting career with no end of prospects and we need to raise awareness of this at all ages, but in particular with young professionals.

You’re President of the UK Chapter of PMI. What is PMI doing to encourage young people into project management?

PMI has some exciting initiatives aimed specifically at younger people. For instance the CAPM accreditation is aimed directly at those in the early stages of their project management career hence it’s a particularly exciting qualification as it arms those entering the profession with the tools necessary to manage projects successfully.

In addition, the Project Management Institute Educational Foundation (PMIEF) also supports a number of projects that introduce even younger individuals to project management and the UK has been fortunate enough to have been awarded one of these grants which is currently funding the work we are doing in a Hampshire school to introduce children to Project Management for the first time.

I’ve written before about the work that PMIEF does in schools, but I hadn’t realized there were initiatives going on in the UK. That’s good news, both because it helps school-aged children organize themselves effectively to complete their education projects, and because it exposes them to the possibility of project management as a career choice. What about young adults?

PMI has the Global Accreditation Centre (GAC) for Project Management Education Programs which accredits degree programs at the bachelors, masters and doctorate levels in the field of project management that are offered within accredited institutions of higher education worldwide.

This program is a great way to engage with universities and here in the UK we plan to place much more emphasis on reaching out to students and their teachers during the course of 2012.

Students are the next generation of project managers and I am very keen that they are given every opportunity to understand how rewarding a career in project management can be.

PMI Synergy logo for 2011That might get you some new members! How many members under 30 does the UK Chapter have?

A recent survey suggests that approximately 20% of our members are under the age of 35 so we have some way to go in attracting the younger members of the profession.

I hope more people choose actively to pursue project management as a career, as I certainly enjoy it and think it has a lot to offer. Why do you think project management is good career choice?

I don’t know of any other a career like it. Not only does it provide the opportunity to work with a whole host of people from a variety of backgrounds but you can work across multiple-industries, even countries — particularly in the case of PMI, which is a global organization.

As a project manager you also see some fantastic results as it’s at the heart of delivering some of the world’s most complex endeavors, be they major construction projects or the development of a major new IT system.

Thanks, Chris!

This article was first published on 2 November 2011.