Training: Getting Ahead In Project Management

If you’re organised and able to define a process from input to outcome, you should consider project management as a potential career.

The idea behind project management is relatively simple and relies on two very easy definitions. Firstly; a ‘project’ in this context is any type of unique or transient endeavour undertaken to produce certain results or outcomes. The actual success or failure of projects is measured against these outcomes.

Secondly; ‘management’ in this sense is the way in which knowledge, skills, methodology, experience and other resources are applied to the scheme in order to achieve the desired outcomes. The way these two definitions are processed towards the objectives forms the art of project management.

There are finer points within the process to consider as well. These are usually based around six key areas: scope, schedule, finance, risk, quality and resources. Just as a manager has a raft of responsibilities in any sector so the project manager accepts these as within their remit and makes sure that day-to-day they are all competently pursued and kept under control.

Leadership Skills

Well-developed interpersonal skills such as leadership, communication and conflict management are also vitally important, particularly if the desired timescale from the client is challenging – which, given that ‘time is money’, it usually is. Naturally, this immediately reflects the sort of team-working, processing and leadership skills that are acquired during a career in the Armed Forces.

People tend to think of project management as a role primarily found in sectors such as the construction industry but there is much more to it. A quick look over the corporate members list (numbering around 500 organisations) of the Association for Project Management (APM) shows the breadth of need for project managers in such diverse fields as construction (of course) but also utilities, finance, IT, education, management consulting and more. The acid test of a project manager is in being able to look at a project in context and come up with a plan to see it to a satisfactory conclusion within a given timeframe and on budget.

The core elements of project management are:

  • Defining the reason why a project is necessary and what exactly the project consists of.
  • Understanding the project requirements from specifying quality of the deliverables to estimating resources and timescales.
  • Preparing a business case to justify the investment. (Expressing how the outcomes make the project necessary, viable and profitable.)
  • Securing corporate agreement and funding.
  • Developing and implementing a management plan for the project.
  • Leading and motivating the project delivery team.
  • Managing the risks, issues and changes on the project.
  • Monitoring progress against the plan, budget and schedule.
  • Maintaining communications with stakeholders and the project organisation.
  • Provider management.
  • Closing the project in a controlled fashion when appropriate.

Service-leavers should be encouraged to find that a career in project management starts with building experience and expertise and can take them through a variety of stages and differing roles along the way including: project administrator, project coordinator and project manager with other associated roles not directly responsible for project delivery including PMO analyst, PMO manager, and portfolio manager also available.

Perhaps, former president of APM, Dr Martin Barnes summed Project Management up best, if a little succinctly, saying: “At its most fundamental, project management is about people getting things done.”


What you could earn as a project manager

According to www.cwjobs.co.uk which bases average salary information on recent job advertisements the average salary for a project manager ranges from £47,500 up to around £82,500 with the average being: £62,500. It should be noted that permanent project managers only earn around half of their ‘contracted’ colleagues.


PRINCE2 Qualifications

PRINCE2 (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a process-based method for effective project management. PRINCE2 methodology is the popular choice for projects undertaken by the UK Government but is also widely recognised in the private sector and internationally. It’s essentially a hallmark of best practice in project management encapsulating guidance on the core competencies of the project management role including: justifying a business case, organising the structure of the delivery team, planning, dividing projects into manageable portions and allowing for flexibility within a given project.

PRINCE2 Qualifications and Training

PRINCE2 training offers levels that can take novice project managers all the way to becoming practitioners through courses presented online or as part of a tutor-led classroom based course.

The major levels are:

PRINCE2 Foundation

This is an introductory qualification that covers the basics in terminology and methodology.

PRINCE2 Practitioner

Suitable for candidates wishing to develop their skills.

(The PRINCE2 Foundation and Practitioner courses can be studied back-to-back with some training providers utilising a course combining online and classroom elements.)

PRINCE2 Re-Registration

The PRINCE2 Examination Board has determined that all Registered PRINCE2 Practitioners should be re-registered within three to five calendar years of their original certification. (Failure to pass the Re-Registration examination after five calendar years as a Registered Practitioner will result in withdrawal of your registered status.)

The essential benefit of the PRINCE2 qualifications is that they are widely recognised. It is still the case that some organisations in need of a project manager find it difficult to accept candidates from outside their own industry sectors (even though sometimes a fresh perspective would be both healthy and sensible).

Clearly, project managers use skills and techniques that can be applied in any industry sector. Saying that, a project manager with experience in construction, IT or other specific working environments will have an obvious advantage compared with those applying for the same jobs that don’t. Of course, a PRINCE2 qualification can help organisations recognise that you have the desired competencies to tackle the project.


More:

Association for Project Management: www.apm.org.uk

 

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Interview: Relocating To The Highlands & Islands

Development Manager with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, Ian Philp, explains the various advantages of resettling in the Highlands and Islands.

What are the major projects currently underway in the Highlands and Islands that might attract Service-leavers to the area?

That is a very broad question! Major infrastructure projects include the roll-out of fibre broadband across the region; development of the Inverness UHI campus; ‘dualling’ of the A9; renewable energy projects and those in the oil and gas sector. 

1344IanPhilpWho are the major employers in the area?

As the area stretches from the Campbeltown peninsula to Shetland and from the Outer Hebrides to Moray; this is also not straightforward to answer. The more rural parts of the region are typified by small to medium sized enterprises and a lot of self-employment.

The larger employers would include the public sector (NHS and local authorities in particular); BT and Calmac. There is a large and growing life sciences sector in the Inner Moray Firth area; the forestry sector and timber processing is still a big employer, particularly in the north and west. Within food and drink, the distilleries would be the bigger employers and of course we have the likes of Baxter’s and Walker’s. Aquaculture is a big employer on the west coast and in the Northern Isles and offers some excellent careers in those locations.

With such a wide geographic area do you find regional differences/identities take on significance? Do the different regions have things in common?

To an extent but not overly… The islands probably have the strongest identities and regional differences than differing areas of the mainland – but then my colleagues in Argyll or Moray might disagree!

Are ‘new settlers’ to the area likely to find opportunity within modern sectors such as ‘renewables’ or is there still growth in the Highlands and Islands’ traditional sectors –whisky, food, tourism?

There are good opportunities in young or growing industries such as renewable energy, life sciences and education but equally there is considerable growth and good opportunities in the more mature sectors such as food and drink, and tourism. The reputation of the Highlands for quality produce and the visitor experience and the mix of both in the growing number of high-quality, award-winning hotels means there are excellent opportunities for those able to supply the right offering.

Does being relatively under-populated make the region attractive or does it hinder people. I’d like to know what the impact is on house prices and school provision etc?

The population size in the rural areas has positives as well as negatives. For some, the lack of crowds and quieter roads are a great attraction. The perception of a more sedate lifestyle without busy commutes or crowded shops is a big reason why many people relocate here. On the other hand, it can bring limitations. Services are stretched to cover a dispersed population. A smaller population means there is less market demand for certain things so people have to travel further to access facilities like large supermarkets and cinemas. Similarly, high schools are more dispersed and are smaller than their urban counterparts. However, this can bring benefits in terms of teacher to pupil ratios and indeed, Highlands and Islands schools produce some very good results.

The large number of retired, semi-retired and second home owners who have bought properties in the region has raised prices, but compared to other parts of the UK the region is generally very affordable. The region is known for its spectacular scenery, so obviously properties in good locations do attract a premium. Many parts of the Highlands retain genuine community spirit; something which is arguably decreasing in many areas. It is the sort of place where most people know each other and while some might find this a little overbearing at times, there is a real sense of community. 

What are the main reasons (economic and social) that Service-leavers should resettle in the region?

I think that question contains the answer – economic and social. This is a great part of the world to find a good work-life balance. Many Service-leavers enjoy the outdoor life and the opportunities to indulge passions for activities here is second to none. We have mountains, rivers, lochs and the coast which are perfect for recreation. The region is home to many fantastic restaurants serving excellent local produce. Almost every community has a vibrant social scene and there is a real passion for live music. The Highlands and Islands is one of Europe’s top tourism destinations so there are clearly advantages to living within it.

There are great opportunities for people with vision and an entrepreneurial spark. Employment opportunities are growing and diversifying all the time. The roll out of superfast broadband across the region is opening up new opportunities and with modern airports throughout the region it is easier than ever to travel. It is a great, safe place to bring up a family too.

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Employment – Live In Jobs

Although free accommodation is a great perk to enjoy, there are other things to consider before deciding to take up a live-in role.

If you ever find yourself strolling around the grand Georgian suburbs of places like Pimlico in London be sure to look to the very top of the imposing houses to see the smallish windows at roof level. In days gone by these were far from the most desirable rooms in the building, despite their penthouse views; they were the servants’ quarters.

Live-in servants such as housekeepers, butlers and maids started to decline in numbers after the First World War with the rise in the middle classes and roles ‘in service’ are now very rare indeed. Saying that, there is still demand for live-in employees in the twenty-first century.

The idea of a live-in employee is a simple trade-off. The employee gets free accommodation and probably a package of other perks and benefits such as meals and or laundry (since they may not have facilities in their quarters). The employer gets an employee that can remain on-call literally day and night or at least somebody that because they don’t have to travel, can work unsociable shifts.

Service Sector

The practice of ‘living-in’ is relatively common in hotels; especially those awarded the highest star ratings since premium service is expected at all times, irrespective of when the call comes. Concierge or even simple reception services need to be available to guests when they want them, not when the hotel wants to make them available.

For the employee, the upside is a significant saving in outgoings such as rent. This is particularly so where hotels or other places of work are in expensive districts in say, big cities and especially in the Capital. (To give you an example, a one bedroom studio flat in Victoria, London, will cost north of £1,200 per month in rent.)

It’s no surprise to find that at luxury hotels such as those run by the Four Pillars group, live-in accommodation is seen as the norm with around 45% of staff living-in at the Oxford Thames and Oxford Spires hotels (because they are in affluent areas where housing is expensive).

In other areas where a hotel or restaurant is in a remote location and poorly served by public transport, it is all but essential for an employer to provide accommodation for staff.

The Costs

Legally, if employers provide staff accommodation, some of its value can count towards minimum wage or is offset. The offset rate for accommodation charges is £4.91 a day or £34.37 a week. If an employer charges more than this, the difference is taken off the worker’s pay, which counts towards the
minimum wage. If the charge is at or below the offset rate, the staff pay is unaffected.
If the accommodation is free, the offset rate is added to the worker’s pay. It is also worth noting that live-in staff may also be expected to pay an upfront bond just as they would if they were in private rented accommodation. (This is refundable minus any charges for damage etc on vacating the accommodation.)

Other perks are usually of little consequence to the employer who, of course, in any event, has to stock the restaurant kitchens and organise the laundry. Because of economies of scale, adding the requirements of the staff is all but painless to the bottom line. Even so few employers will extend the full ‘hotel service’ to employees. They will be responsible for keeping their quarters in good order, for example – and are not part of the hotel’s housekeeping rota.

As well as not providing hotel-style services, live-in employees should be aware that staff accommodation can vary wildly between providers and can sometimes fall below expectations. Even though (utility) bills are covered it’s entirely possible that accommodation could consist of a single bedroom with shared bathroom facilities.

Living at Work

Another potential downside is that it can be difficult to genuinely ‘switch off’ from work. If you only rarely leave the premises and work unsociable hours it can add up to a very peculiar work-life equation, although it can also be fun to build up camaraderie with your fellow live-in colleagues in the same way as it is in the Services.

Live-in jobs are also a great way for staff to get to know an area before attempting to put down roots. Whilst this could be great for Service-leavers considering an area for long term resettlement, it should not be considered a realistic long term outcome in itself since companies tend to withdraw live-in options once an employee gets promoted. The simple thinking is that it would no longer be appropriate for a ‘manager’, for example, to live and work with their team.

Whilst it isn’t just hotel and catering roles that are likely to be based around live-in arrangements it is certainly the sector most likely to offer packages of this nature. It isn’t, however unique with roles in care and nursing (and childcare – such as nanny) for example, using a similar set-up. Further to that there’s the classic ‘hermit’ scenario of the lighthouse or lock keeper although these roles tend to be very rare indeed and because of their isolated nature will only attract a very few candidates.

Elsewhere, a small number of roles in the security industry will have live-in requirements as do roles such as gardener or housekeeper, usually in the heritage sector – and of course, where would a vicar be without a vicarage?

Whilst the breadth of live-in roles available is quite wide, free accommodation is perhaps a perk best viewed as a bridge between leaving the Services and full resettlement.

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Give Us Time Encourages Hospitality Sector To Remember Military Sacrifices

In the run up to Remembrance Day 2015, Give Us Time, a charity launched by Dr. Liam Fox MP, for the Armed Forces, is appealing to owners and managers of holiday homes, hotels and timeshares to donate accommodation to British Military personnel and their families.

Since 2001, more than 458 British Forces personnel have lost their lives in Afghanistan, more than 2,000 have experienced physical or psychological damage, and families across the country have seen their lives profoundly changed.

Recognising the impact an operational tour can have, Give Us Time takes one-week holidays donated by hosts and matches them with British soldiers in need of rest, rehabilitation and reconnection with their families.

Generosity

In 2015, Centre Parcs generously donated 25 holidays to Military personnel and Club La Costa donated 40 holidays. The charity is hoping to increase its number of partners in the hospitality sector this year.

Chief Executive of Give Us Time, Karen Hay, says: “Remembrance Day, which falls on 8 November this year, is a timely reminder of the sacrifices Military personnel have made and the impact Serving in the Military has had on their families. We are asking businesses in the hospitality sector to contribute to Give Us Time’s initiative. It is easy to donate spare capacity accommodation via our website.

A simple holiday in a neutral environment, away from the responsibilities of day-to-day life, can have a transformative effect. The hosts that we currently work with can clearly see that they are making a real contribution to Military personnel and their families, and it ties in with their Corporate Social Responsibility.”

Reverend Gary MW Keith CF, comments: “Give Us Time holidays really do provide the time and space needed to spend good quality, family time together away from the high-pressure tempo of Military life. Without them I couldn’t fulfil my role in the Military and I suspect that is true for many.”

To find out more or donate a holiday, visit: www.giveustime.org.uk

Twitter: @GiveUsTime

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Evening All – Taking Classes Out Of Hours

If you’re looking for a career in an area that’s completely unrelated to your Military skills and experience you may find yourself needing to spruce up your qualifications a little. Evening classes are a good first step.

On leaving the Services it’s a smart move to take stock of what you want to do and what you have to offer by way of experience and qualifications, to whichever field you’re going to attempt to find work in post Forces. As we’ve stated many times, Service-leavers are in an enviable position, in that they can make real choices about what they want to do given that their lump sum (on exit) will likely tide them over for a while and give them some space to think about their future.

Formulating a plan is the sensible thing to do and should start from the end point or outcome that you want to get to. It might be that you want to work in a specific organisation or sector that demands certain higher qualifications and so your plan should be to eventually take a degree or whatever the industry standard is. Although it’s altogether possible to study for a degree with a university (through evening classes or otherwise), working backwards could take you as far back as foundation courses, vocational courses or any missing GCSE’s that you might need.

Back into education

The process then might start with small decisions regarding subject areas and the like and gently breaking back into education. Evening classes can be just that – and then scaled up. From basic maths or English through to specialised courses in relatively obscure skills or subjects such as sign language etc.

As with any evening classes, you might have to wait for the start of a new term. Autumn term will have already started and so January is your next target, when Spring term commences. Whilst you’re probably keen to get stuck in, the good news is that this will give you slightly longer to make decisions, provide you with a better choice of courses – of which there are hundreds, and give you the best chance to book a place since some of the more popular courses will fill up very quickly indeed.

As well as that it also gives you a bit of time to prepare and do some background reading so you’ll be able to hit the ground running. (There may even be a reading list of textbooks and the like available.)

Application process

Evening classes are so popular that the terms and conditions will almost certainly stipulate that you cannot get a refund after the course has started or defer for a later date. If you intend to use your learning credits, you must make sure that the course you want to study is of the correct level. Contacting ELCAS sooner rather than later with any queries is sensible since this will prevent you from losing money on fees and yet hopefully still give you time to secure a place on your preferred course. (See boxout for details.)

In short, very few study places for evening classes can be secured without handing over payment or sponsorship documents. It is incredibly rare to be given an opportunity to start a course without having sorted out the fees, even if they are subsidised.

Distance learning

Naturally, there are other ways of learning than literally turning up to an evening class. Distance learning is an option favoured by many Service-leavers since  it can be commenced even before they’ve officially left the Services or once they’ve arrived back home when free time such as evenings and weekends can be utilised. (This also allows them the flexibility they need if they are employed or have other personal commitments such as those relating to family etc.)

You may be surprised to learn that this is a very popular way to study. According to The Complete University Guide website more than 27,000 undergraduate students are taking their first degrees via distance learning with around 108,000 postgraduate students. Of course widespread use of broadband connectivity has led to a huge growth in distance learning opportunities with tutors communicating with students and providing course materials without ever meeting.

Service-leavers should definitely look at the The Open University (OU), Career Development for the Defence Community website (forming part of a close partnership with MoD) which outlines any number of opportunities for Serving personnel and Service-leavers to study by maximising the use of personal time. (The OU can also advise as to whether any study undertaken in the Military can be used as credit towards a different qualification but this should be done before they register.)

www.thecompleteuniversityguide.co.uk

www.open.ac.uk/choose/forces


About Enhanced Learning Credits:

The following advice is taken from the Enhanced Learning Credits website:

  • You are reminded that ELC funding is only available for pursuit of higher level learning i.e. for courses that result in a nationally recognised qualification at Level 3 or above on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) (England and Wales), a Level 6 or above on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) or, if pursued overseas, an approved international equivalent qualification.
  • Just because an organisation is listed as an Approved Provider it does not mean that all of their courses are of the required level.
  • You are advised not to pay any money to the provider or book the course before you receive your Claim Authorisation Note. This also applies to potential new providers awaiting ‘approved’ status to join the ELCAS list. Any money paid to learning providers (eg. a deposit to secure a place) is paid purely at the personal risk of the individual.

www.enhancedlearningcredits.com

Contact ELCAS
elcas@uk.g4s.com
UK: 0845 3005179
Overseas: 0044 1452 558390

(Lines open 09:00 – 17:00 Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays.)


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