Skills gap worry for project professionals


05 July 2023
Adam Boddison of APM

Almost half of project professionals working across the built environment believe skills shortages could impact the delivery of projects intended to deliver a social benefit, new research by the Association for Project Management (APM) has found.

APM has launched its Future Lives and Landscapes campaign to help identify and overcome challenges facing projects intended to deliver societal benefits across the UK, now and in the future.

Working with research company Censuswide, APM surveyed 1,000 project professionals currently working on projects with the primary aim of delivering a social benefit – such as improving living standards, enhancing wellbeing, increasing social equality, or reducing geographic inequality.

The research found 47% of project professionals working in the built environment (including the architecture, engineering and building sector) think that project skills gaps in their sector will affect the delivery of other similar projects at present. Of these, a third (33%) said there are ‘some’ gaps while 13% said there are ‘significant’ gaps. Another 53% reported no skills gaps.

In addition, 37% said project skills gaps are currently the biggest risk to delivering social benefit projects currently, alongside insufficient funding (also 37%). A lack of project professionals in the sector was seen as the biggest risk by 13% of respondents.

Calls for urgent action to address skills and labour shortages in the built environment have long been made. For instance, an additional 225,000 construction workers are likely to be needed by 2027 to meet projected growth, taking the total to 2.67 million, separate industry research has shown.

Skills shortages are part of a wider national trend in the UK. Two-thirds of large companies cannot find workers with the skills they need, according to separate academic research.

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Meanwhile, APM’s Future Lives and Landscape 2023 survey also revealed that, when asked if there is sufficient funding to deliver their current social benefit project both on time and to specified quality, only a third (33.33%) answered yes to both. Some 60% said yes to meeting only the deadline, 3.33% said yes to meeting only the quality criteria, and 3.33% said no to both.

Workforce concerns were also identified among 60% of respondents. Some 13% said there weren’t enough project professionals to deliver other similar social benefit projects currently and many more are needed, while 47% said they would benefit from an increase.

Professor Adam Boddison OBE, Chief Executive of APM, said: “It is clear from our study that there are concerns around skills, the numbers of project professionals and funding for social benefit projects across the built environment. It is vital that individuals and those responsible for recruiting for project teams understand the importance of having not only sufficient numbers of project professionals, but also the right skills in place.

“We champion greater professionalism in projects and driving a better understanding of the importance of the use of expert project professionals in project delivery. This includes ensuring organisations and teams having access to the right level of training, qualifications and having more Chartered Project Professionals to raise standards and the outcomes of projects for public benefit.

“It’s important that, as the chartered membership organisation for the project profession, we recognise and highlight the issues impacting project success, and in particular those projects with a benefit to society. Our latest campaign sets out to do this.”

To learn more about the research, click here.