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Project economy offers new job opportunities for youth

Tips for recent graduates to elevate skills base

Joanna Baidu.
Joanna Baidu.
Image: Supplied

July 15 was World Youth Skills Day, and Project Management Institute regional youth lead Joanna Baidu answered some questions. 

More than 200,000 students graduate from SA universities every year. What, in your opinion, should the youth be aware of when entering the job market?

Your question is an important one, especially in the light of growing concerns over youth employment and graduate unemployment. As evidenced in the report by Stats SA, though the graduate unemployment rate is low in SA compared to those of other educational levels, unemployment among the youth continues to be a burden.

As such, it is important that young people, and especially those now in the education system, acquire skills the industry recognises as “jobs ready”.

Post the pandemic, we are seeing businesses quickly move away from simply being “operational” to executing “projects” to deliver value to all stakeholders. This points to the advent of the project economy. In the project economy, talent managers seek skills and behaviours needed to succeed in a world that is increasingly driven around projects.

Power skills like empathy, collaboration and communication will be non-negotiable and can make your resume stand out. Skills like decision-making and cost management that ensures projects are delivered on time and budget are easily learnable. There are several online resources like the free KickOff to test one’s aptitude for managing projects.

What skills will the future workforce need?

Careers the youth might have imagined for themselves when they started their university life are likely to look nothing like they envisioned. The companies on their wish list are already reconfiguring to find new ways to stay relevant and deliver new products and services.

These radical shifts simply means two things: the career you choose today needs to keep up with the changes of tomorrow and professionals, including youth, need to learn new skills to keep up as well.

All sectors of the economy and business need project managers, like utilities, engineering, mining, construction, IT, the public sector, financial services, supply chain and logistics, and communication and marketing, among others. Even an editor of a publishing house is a project manager as he or she needs to deliver the newspaper on time every morning.

PMI estimates that the value of project-orientated economic activity worldwide is likely to grow to $20-trillion in 2027. This growth will send some 88-million people to work in project management-orientated roles.

It must be noted that these estimates were made even before countries started spending trillions on pandemic recovery projects only increasing opportunity for project-orientated work.

The global economy needs 25-million new project professionals by 2030. To close the talent gap, 2.3-million people will need to enter PMOE (the project management office executive field) every year just to keep up with demand – this includes project managers and all change-makers.

What should recent graduates know about elevating their skill base?

Think about the skills that you have now and the job you want in 12-24 months and then:

  • Identify the key power skills you have and need. You can then see where you have gaps and put learning goals in place to fill them. Examples of important power skills include critical thinking, problem-solving, communication, and learning agility;
  • Learning agility is key because it means you have the curiosity and motivation to continuously learn new skills throughout your career;
  • Consider core technical skills you have that are likely to stay in high demand, such as citizen development;
  • Focus on skills that are portable and that will be critical regardless of what field you enter. Citizen development is as useful in project management as it is in an IT firm; and
  • Last, it helps to join a professional membership organisation where you can network. Volunteers of their local chapters can serve as coaches and mentors.

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