The two-day Introductory Certificate in Project Management run by the Association of Project Management will be available throughout the country either at colleges or in packs for home study. Companies can also run it as an internal course. The association also hopes to make it available as an online course next year. The syllabus covers project management principles, risk management, communication, project success criteria and change control.
About 1000 people are expected to sign up for the course in this year, of whom 520 are from the Department for Education and Skills, which has helped the association develop the curriculum. Skills and vocational education minister Ivan Lewis hailed the qualification as useful for all businesses.
"Any organisation that's successful has at its core professional project management, even if it doesn't call it that or understand it as that," he said at the launch of the course in central London in April. "A qualification like this gets people to reflect on what the ingredients of successful organisations are."
Michael Shepard, chairman of the association, said the course was about recognising skills that people already have, as well as supporting those who are new to project management roles. "This is a huge step in achieving formal recognition of people's skills," he said. "Companies in all sectors are looking to improve their project management knowledge and effectiveness. People working in all areas of business have project management skills and experience that has gone unrecognised until now. Employers can be more certain of the skills in their business, and employees will benefit from having their skills recognised in a formal qualification."
It has made a real difference to Fiona Manklow, a senior consultant and team manager at the DfES and one of the first people to take the course. "I've really noticed an increased understanding and capability of managing risk within our team," she says. "It has also increased people's understanding of what resources a project needs, and how to keep it on track once it gets started. It has increased our department's success rate in achieving our goals and I certainly feel a lot more confident than I did before."
Fiona was issued with an introductory pack that took about six hours to work through on the internet. It included case studies and assessed her initial level of knowledge as well as providing a basis for the two-day course.
She found the course difficult but more enjoyable than she had expected. "You really do have to put in the work for the exam – it's quite demanding. So when I passed, I really felt like I had achieved something. You look at the people side of things as well as processes. The course is really interactive with lots of opportunities to share ideas with the other people on it, and it was very enjoyable – I wasn't expecting to enjoy it but I did."