Professional Project Management is a key capability of Arcadis, the leading build environment consultancy business. Arcadis plan and execute large scale projects for a broad range of sectors and clients. These range from the £1bn transformation of London Bridge Station to the new Sir Henry Royce Institute as a research centre for Manchester University and floor risk protection in Cornwall. To underpin and develop this capability Arcadis has for many years invested in training and development based on the five dimensions of professionalism established by Association for Project Management (APM), which is the UK’s Chartered body for the project profession. As part of this programme, the APM Project Management Qualification has been instrumental in establishing a common framework, structure and language across Arcadis.
Working with the APM accredited training provider, Parallel Project Training, Arcadis developed a more flexible approach to the delivery of the APM Project Management Qualification. Instead of the traditional 5-day course, Arcadis developed a virtual programme spread over an 8-10 week period with 6-weekly webinars, weekly homework, a mock exam and full exam. This has many advantages over the traditional approach. It provides ample opportunity for the participants to study and reflect on the principles of project management. Weekly homework and feedback from the tutor consolidate this reflection. The mock exam enables participants to make sure they are ready for the full exam. The webinar approach means that busy consultants can take the course while maintaining progress on their projects. The meetings are also recorded so even if participants miss one or two sessions they can catch up. The webinar approach significantly reduces travel and accommodation costs.
This was echoed by one participant who said the advantages of the programme were:
- The virtual approach spread out the learning over a greater period, which allowed me to see how a business puts what we learned into practice, which benefited me greatly. I cannot personally just memorise something; I need to understand how it works in practice to attribute the knowledge to a real life scenario.
- With everyone working from different parts of the country, it allowed for greater flexibility. I work between 2/3 offices, so it did not matter where I was, as long as there was an internet connection.
- The webinar approach also allows for the recording of lessons, so if you are unable to make a session due to prior commitments or lack internet connectivity; you don’t miss out.
- I would see a 5-day intensive course as less valuable as you have less time to ingrain your knowledge on the subject matter and review yourself. There are a good amount of group reviews of knowledge making sure at each step everyone understands what has been covered in the Webinar.
Another participant said “The way the course is structured has made it easy to keep on top of homework submissions and revision. Exam was very challenging, and you need to be switched on pretty much straight away as those 3 hrs fly by!”
However the exam results have also been excellent, typically 90% of people on the course pass the final APM PMQ exam. However recently the last three cohorts have achieved a 100% pass rate. This compares well with a typical pass rate of 75% for a traditional 5-day course. This high pass rate is a credit to the quality of the Arcadis candidates and how hard they work completing their weekly homework.
The programme is still challenging because many people have not taken a formal exam for many years. Another participant said “The exam was the first I have done in five years, and a 3 hour one at that; was a significant challenge for me. I felt the course was structured in a way that you were learning the content rather than the answers to pass the exam, however there needed to be a degree of exam training which was brought across well through the homework.”
Asking participants what was the most significant thing you learned on the course? Produced some surprising results. Several participants found they benefited from an improved clarity of roles and structured stakeholder engagement across the lifecycle. For example, one candidate said “One of the things that was taught well, was how project management can be built into a multitude of disciplines and it is not just for a project manager. The project management skills are relevant to a wide range of roles on any project”. Another candidate said “I have found that the stakeholder engagement knowledge has really helped in my current role, and also my understanding of the project lifecycle”. Another said “The course allowed me to demonstrate an understanding of how all elements of project management interact and how the projects fit into the strategic and commercial environment.”
Participants in the course are already reporting that they have been able to apply what they learned to client projects. For example, one candidate said that “I have a greater understanding of the different roles within my team and how to differentiate what info needs to be communicated and how. I now have a greater ability to schedule work, based on the knowledge of understanding the requirements needed to complete tasks.” Whilst another said “I am currently working on a scheme with quite a high level of stakeholder engagement and the knowledge and learnt through the PMQ has really helped.”
What benefits will this training give you, Arcadis and your clients?
“It has given me the confidence to deliver. I work with a client who is heavily embedded in the APM ways of working. Doing the course has given me a better understand their organisational processes and governance; as a result I can deliver a better service to my client.” Another said, “in has enabled me to demonstrable industry recognised skills and knowledge.” And another “Arcadis can achieve competitive advantage and improve project delivery through a highly skilled and qualified project management community. The training enhances the Arcadis’ credibility to the clients through having project or programme staff that have achieved externally recognised qualification.”
Paul Naybour From Parallel Project Training said “it is a tough six weeks for both the candidates and me, but I see a real improvement in knowledge and understanding through the six week period. 4-5 weeks into the programme we hit a light bulb moment when people begin to see the principles and themes which underpin the APM approach to project management. Once we pass this point, I feel that the candidates have internalised the principles and are well equipped for future projects and the exam.”
Rob Marriot, L&D manager for the programme said “we are very committed to demonstrating or commitment to professional project management, and we work closely with Parallel Project Training and the Association for Project Management to ensure that we offer our clients a world class capability. APM PMQ is just the start of the journey for our project managers, and we fully support the move toward Chartered Project Professional.”
Since 2010 over 350 Arcadis people have completed this virtual programme, with about 60 people per year, in three cohorts of 20.