Surging demand for project managers

A looming skills shortage could be shoring up the future for project management graduates.

Designer's desk with architectural tools and notebook


With technology-driven changes such as automation, big data and artificial intelligence pushing organisations to new limits, there is plenty of challenging work for project management graduates to sink their teeth into.

Recent studies tell us there are, in some cases, more jobs than candidates in the project management sector and some of these jobs pay particularly well. Australia’s job market is hungry for new project managers, says Andrew Hendry, interim chief executive at the Australian Institute of Project Management.

“It's one of the most sought after professions at the moment,,” he said.

“From anecdotal evidence, if you looked at Seek and Indeed at the moment, I think there's about 26,000 roles for project managers. So even if you discount that by about a half, because the same role could be on both sites, you're looking at above 10,000 roles at the moment, just seeking project managers.”

Demand outstripping supply

Graduates in this sought-after profession are needed across a wide range of sectors from construction to information technology, architecture to government and engineering to events management. And with demand outstripping supply, some organisations are expecting staff without formal qualifications to take on project management roles.

“What we're seeing is that there's a lot of accidental project managers at the moment,” Hendry said.

“That's not necessarily bad, it's just the fact that they haven't had the formal background in the technical side, and so what you're seeing is that people are now reverting back into those that are taking up project management as a profession.

“A lot of people, certainly the employers, are seeking competent and certified professionals. They're saying qualifications are fantastic and that's the underpinning of being a professional, but the next bit the expertise.”

Leadership skills

Employees who want to upskill or people who want to change careers altogether are choosing programs such as RMIT’s Master of Project Management, which equips graduates with the management and leadership skills businesses are crying out for.

An emerging interest area for graduates and businesses alike is the integration of project management and change management, said Professor Ron Wakefield, Dean, School of Property, Construction and Project Management.

“The way businesses are operating now, many are using project managers in their change projects,” he explained.

“So it’s a whole group of project managers who, up until now, haven’t been called project managers.”

Time, quality, cost

While project managers oversee an organisation’s planned project goals and overall objectives, change managers help organisations manage any changes that may occur as a result of projects or other events.

A steady growth in both professions has seen them merge throughout some organisations.

Yet a project manager’s role remains focused on three critical factors, Professor Wakefield said.

“The three things that are important in a project are time, quality, cost,” he said.

“So manage the program in terms of getting the work done in a timely fashion, managing the resources that are needed for that project, and then making sure the project meets its design requirements in terms of quality.”

And while RMIT graduates can look forward to positive employment prospects, they cannot afford to be complacent.

“You still have to work hard to be employable,” Prof Wakefield said.

“But once they've done our programs here, our graduates are very employable and that's something we pride ourselves on.”

Story: Kate Jones

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