Celebration of Chartership at House of Commons

November 30th saw a reception at Speakers House in House of Commons celebrating APM being awarded its charter. Our Principal Lecturer, Therese Lawlor-Wright was invited to attend to help recognise this historic occasion.

A royal charter is a formal document issued by a monarch giving a right or power to an individual or corporate body. Most UK Universities were established by Royal Charter, starting with the University of Cambridge in 1231. Most recent Royal charters in the UK are issued to professional bodies or learned societies who work in the public interest. The award of a Royal charter is a recognition of ‘pre-eminence, stability and permanence’ in their field. Once incorporated by Royal Charter, amendments to the charter and by-laws require government approval, so it is a major change in the governance of an organisation. For a professional body, this transfers power from individual members to the Privy Council which regulates chartered bodies.

The Speakers House at the House of Commons in Westminster was a fitting location for an event to celebrate APM achieving its charter. At the reception, there were speeches by David Waboso, President of APM and John McGlynn APM chairman. Both recognised APM’s achievement in obtaining its Charter and the value of Chartership in establishing project management as a recognised profession. Therese met APM members from across the UK, including Richard Preston, the Chairman of APM North West Branch. There were lots of interesting discussions about supporting project managers to achieve chartered status and it was inspiring to hear about developments across the UK.

Later that day, APM published the standard for Chartered Project Professional. From April 2018, Individuals will be able to apply to become chartered and join the register. This will involve recognition of both professional and technical competence. The detailed guidance on how to apply will be published early in 2018. At the University of Cumbria we have discussed these developments with our students and look forward to more information becoming available to guide them on the path to becoming Chartered Project Professionals. It’s an exciting time to join the project management profession and we were proud to be able to join the celebrations to mark this historic occasion.

Photo credits APM

SpeakersHouse 8992

PM film review: Locke

Locke is a film starring Tom Hardy which focusses on a constructexperiencing a personal crisis at a critical moment in a high rise building project.

The day before the concrete foundations are poured is a critical point where a site manager needs to manage all kinds of risks. This involves performing last minute checks and taking remedial action if needed. Delays are extremely costly and in Locke’s project, the total cost of delays on the day of the concrete pour is in the region of 100 million dollars if all of the risks materialise. Understandably, there is a lot of scrutiny from the project sponsor. In the film, the sponsoring organisation is remote (Chicago) from the project itself (Birmingham). There is a huge reliance on the experience of the site manager, Ivan Locke, who has worked for the organisation for fifteen years and is regarded as a ‘safe pair of hands’.

The film features, the night before the major concrete pour, when Locke, facing a personal crisis, decides to drive to London rather than perform all the last minute site checks. It is clear that one of the largest risks to the project is the availability of the site manager himself and this has been overlooked by the contractor.

The film takes place entirely in Locke’s car on his epic drive where he attempts to deal with his personal crisis as well as handing over the project to his next in command and dealing with his irate employer. We see the need for the site manager to remain calm and deal with many different stakeholders, most of them extremely emotional. He also needs to instill confidence in his colleague who is taking over the project at the last minute and help him to manage the risks which have materialised.

The film raises questions about the pressure and responsibility associated with project management of large projects. If this becomes focussed on a single individual, the project is vulnerable if this individual is suddenly unavailable. How can organisations ensure that the project knowledge is distributed and accessible so the responsibility can be shared and understood by others? Effective knowledge management is part of risk management.

It also raises questions about how the pressure associated with project management can affect the lives of individuals. Locke is portrayed as a professional project manager, solid and reliable until the point at which his neglected personal issues threaten to overwhelm him. Although managing project risks, he has allowed his personal issues to escalate to the point of crisis. Relationships with co-workers and family members are strained to breaking point as Locke tries to fix everything himself, seeking help only at the last minute.

There are many issues to reflect on in the film such as the boundary between personal and professional world, the meaning of personal integrity and the limits of professional responsibility. Highly recommended viewing for professional project managers and their employers.

Continue reading “PM film review: Locke”

Abe Vincent Award Winner


Sarah Award Photo
Sarah Tyson accepting the Abe Vincent award from Therese Lawlor-Wright.

On graduation day, we had the pleasure of awarding the ‘Abe Vincent award for Project Leadership and Community Engagement’ to Sarah Tyson. Sarah has  graduated with an Fd Sc in Project Management from the University of Cumbria.

The award celebrates the contribution that project management skills make in the community and is sponsored by the friends and family of Abe Vincent. Abe was a young man who died from bone cancer at the age of 21. Abe did not study project management but he demonstrated many project management skills and used these to make a difference in the community. This included fundraising for charity and supporting and encouraging other people.

The award was open to students enrolled on one of the Project Management courses at the University of Cumbria. Applicants had to prepare a written description of the their work in leading a community based project and this was assessed by a panel of judges. The prize is a voucher with a value of £200. We chose a voucher saying ‘Above and Beyond’ for the award. This recognises someone who has gone above and beyond in using their project management skills for the benefit of others.

Sarah Tyson’s application described her use of Project Management skills in organising a field day event for the Young Farmers in West Cumbria. She chaired a group of 15 representatives of young farmer clubs to run a field day with 63 events. In the months of organising behind the scenes, she engaged stakeholders, responded to queries, co-ordinated the efforts of others, supported the group and held it together. On the day itself, she was the ‘go to’ person for any unforeseen events and also responsible after the event for handing over to the next committee. The field day resulted in  financial benefits in the funds raised and also many benefits in terms of bringing the community together.

With this award, we recognise and appreciate Sarah Tyson’s work in going ‘above and beyond’ studying project management in using her project management knowledge and skills for the benefit of the community.




Looking back, looking forward


Graduation Day marks the end of the academic year and is always a time to reflect, this year more than ever! 18th July 2017 marked the first graduation from the Project Management courses at University of Cumbria. We had 12 graduates from our Foundation degree in Project Management and eleven graduates from the University Certificate in Project Controls course. It is always a proud moment for staff to see our students graduate and also very pleasing to meet their friends and families at the ceremony. Graduation was in the historic setting of Carlisle Cathedral, definitely a place to appreciate and celebrate a historic moment with our new graduates!

After the graduation ceremony, there was a reception organised by the Project Academy. This was to celebrate the achievements of the students sponsored by Sellafield and also to recognise the success of the Project Academy in making project management education and training available across Cumbria. The achievements of the Project Academy are remarkable in drawing together providers of education and training to improve the skills base in the region.

There were many proud moments at the award ceremony, including the establishment of the Ian Marr prize recognising the Project Management Apprentice of the Year.  Sellafield has been at the forefront in promoting apprenticeships throughout its workforce across technical professions. In recent years, Sellafield led the employer groups who have established the standard for associate project manager apprenticeship. This is already making a huge difference with next year hundreds of apprentices expected to be enrolled across the country in public and private sector organisations. The employer group is now submitting the standard for the degree apprenticeship in project management and we look forward to providing this at the University of Cumbria in the future.

So, looking back, we recognise what we have achieved at the University in establishing the project management courses and the Project Academy for Sellafield. We recognise and celebrate and the efforts and achievement of the graduates in getting to this point with the support of sponsors, family and friends. We look forward to working together in the future to provide more opportunities and support for the project management profession.

Visit Report – University of Westminster Stakeholder Engagement APM Event

IMG_0203A visit to London on Thursday 16th March allowed a visit to the University of Westminster who were hosting an APM event on project problem solving through stakeholder engagement. The guest speaker, Fiona Magee from CITI Ltd drew on her experience in consultancy in Programme management to emphasise the importance of  ‘Stakeholder Engagement’ as an essential prerequisite for realising the benefits from projects.

Failure to engage the stakeholders, can mean that a project produces outputs as intended but there is no take up of the results and benefits are not achieved. Magee reported many instances where project managers attempted to hand over outputs to stakeholders who were unwilling or unprepared to take them up. She then debunked the Five Myths of stakeholder engagement which can affect projects.

  1.  We Manage our stakeholders
    Using the term ‘stakeholder management’ indicates that we co-ordinate and control our stakeholders. Is this really our intention? Can we be successful with this approach? The term ‘engagement’ indicates participation and responsiveness. We seek to engage our stakeholders and can only manage the project’s engagement with them. This distinction is really important.
  2. ‘Everybody’ is a Stakeholder
    This attitude can lead to futile efforts in pleasing everyone who has any connection with a project. There are two types of stakeholder – role based and agenda based. Role based stakeholders have roles in the project e.g. project sponsor, team member, supplier. They are an intrinsic part of every project and need to be engaged. Agenda based stakeholders are ‘around’ the project and are affected by it. In some projects, managing these stakeholders is hugely important. In other projects, they may not play a significant role.
  3. We understand our stakeholders
    The classic ‘stakeholder analysis’ matrix classifies stakeholders according to their interest in the project and the impact they have on the project. We need to take a questioning approach to this analysis. Is the project sponsor really a high interest and high impact stakeholder? Some project sponsors have little interest in the project and need to be engaged to increase their interest. By questioning the actual position of the stakeholders, we can take action in order to address any potential problems for the project.
  4. It’s all about communication
    Communication is important for engaging stakeholders but we need to consider what we are trying to achieve with our communication and why we are communicating rather than just the ‘how’ and ‘when’ of the communication. If we are trying to change behaviour, it can be useful to consider Beckhard and Harris; change formula.
    We can ‘nudge’ behaviour in the direction of engagement and this taking this  into consideration with our communication can be very effective.
  5. Some projects do not need stakeholder engagement
    Projects vary in the degree of complexity of their stakeholders. Some projects have few stakeholders and all are role based. In this case, the stakeholder engagement will not take significant effort. However, other projects have a wide range of stakeholders with complex interrelationships and we can expect these will require significantly more effort to engage. We could call these ‘stakeholder sensitive’ projects and there is a lot to be learned from them.


Think Global, Act local – APM Event Carlisle


Storm Doris raging outside did not deter the enthusiastic reception for Dr Ozma Taylor’s talk on ‘think Global, act local’ at the University of Cumbria’s Carlisle campus. The phrase Has been used in many contexts, but Dr Taylor discussed this in the context of how developing personal relationships and trust is a necessary prerequisite for international collaboration. Drawing on her extensive experience of international collaboration with the Chinese nuclear industry, Dr Taylor explained how cultural awareness had really helped to develop effective business relationships.

Key take away messages from Dr Taylor’s talk:
1. We need to be culturally agile and willing to adapt to develop relationships with other countries.
2. Chinese people really do not like sandwiches (but will be too polite to let you know). Please serve hot food if you are hosting them.
3. If there is a clash of cultures, explain politely where you are coming from to avoid giving offence.
4. ‘Guanxi‘ is a Chinese concept concerning relationship development. Ignore it at your peril, trust takes time to develop.
5. In many cultures, the real work is done outside of the formal meetings. Be sensitive to what is not said as well as what is said in the meeting.

Also, at the Carlisle event, three University of Cumbria students gave their perspective of what it means to be a professional project manager in the U.K..

The three students were all on the Fd Sc Project Management at the University. Their far sighted presentations included the impact of APM receiving its Royal Charter, a comparison of the APM code of conduct with that of the PMI and the role of continuing professional development.

Brian Wernham, APM board member, commended the students for the high quality of their presentations and gave an update on APM’s journey towards awarding Chartered Project Professional status. The prize for the best student presentation went to Wayne Cook who is employed by Sellafield and studying through the Project Academy at the University of Cumbria.

Student News – Andrew Bennett and the Brathay Apprenticeship Challenge


Andrew Bennett is in the second year of the FdSc Project Management course at the University. He also is completing a level 4 apprenticeship in Project Management. Combining the apprenticeship with being employed at Sellafield and studying on a day release at the University makes for a very busy life. This Semester he is ultra busy having taken on the challenge of leading a team of apprentices in the Brathay Apprenticeship Challenge.

In this challenge, teams of nine apprentices compete in various challenges designed to develop team skills and to publicise apprenticeships to young people and employers. It’s a national competition, this year involving more than 650 apprentices from 75 organisations. The challenge is designed to develop leadership, teamworking and communication skills in the contestants. Eight national finalist teams will be announced in the House of Commons on 17th May 2017. The competition culminates in a four day workshop from 12th to 15th June with the overall winner announced on 14th June 2017.

Andrew has taken on the role of team leader and is already using many of the skills developed on his Project Management foundation degree course. His experience on the challenge so far has included giving presentations about apprenticeships to local employers and young people.

Andrew is looking forward to completing the community project which is part of the challenge. The project is called ‘Cumbria Youth Can – get the fitness factor’ and is designed to promote initiatives to improve physical and mental health of young people in Cumbria. The project will involve setting up a website with information on local sporting clubs and mental health initiatives to promote physical and emotional well being.

For the latest updates, you can follow the Sellafield Apprentice team on Twitter at @SLBrathay2017 or use the hashtag #BAC17 to find out more about the progress of all the teams in the Brathay Apprenticeship Challenge.

Andrew has promised to update us on the teams progress as the competition progresses, so watch this space……..


Why Study Project Management?

img_9360Thousands of students graduate each year from UK universities. Some subjects have very strong subject related employment figures following graduation. There are clear career paths ahead for graduates in medicine, dentistry and veterinary studies as well as nursing and education. In other subject areas the number of students in employment following their graduation is around 70%. The majority of these graduates are employed in a subject area that is not linked directly to their degree. In many cases, employers are not looking for subject specific graduate knowledge but the right person to fit into their organisation.
Project Management is a role which is seeing increasing professionalisation and a global increase in demand. The Telegraph published a short article  listing 10 good reasons to become a Project Manager. Employment opportunities , money and prospects feature at the top of the list. The Project Management Institute also reported that global demand for Project Managers is very high and showing signs of growth.

Currently, there are very few UK undergraduate programmes in the subject area of Project Management despite there being a huge demand for skilled workers. Project Managers are traditionally sourced from existing staff in organisations who need projects. So we have project managers in the health service and  IT as well as construction and manufacturing. These staff may have some training in project management or be qualified in other areas but lack training and confidence in project management. We could call these the ‘accidental project managers  it isn’t their chosen profession but they are in the role and can benefit from training and education to support and develop their potential.

Those institutions that offer Project Management as a subject in its own right include in their programmes the tools and techniques of project management itself but also include some personal and professional skills. These include communication skills necessary for dealing with people and managing conflict. Project Management degree courses also include business and finance skills to ensure that graduates understand the context within which projects operate. This mix of subject areas reflects the range of skills that project managers need if they are to be successful. These programmes will prepare graduates with a broad and relevant skill set making the task a finding a job easier and finding a job in the subject area related to their first degree quite likely.

Studying Project Management at University makes a lot of sense, it can lead to a varied career in many different industries, the job prospects are very good and salary expectations and career progression opportunities are also very strong. There are a limited range of project management degree courses available. The range of courses is likely to increase with the advent of degree apprenticeships. These courses will have appeal to new entrants into project management as well as giving the accidental project managers the qualifications and knowledge they are seeking to back up their experience.

If you are considering studying Project Management, please talk to us about our courses.

FdSc Project Management 

BSc (Hons) Project Management 

BSc (Hons) Project Management (top up)

Meet the Apprentices

Who chooses to become an apprentice or to take up an apprenticeship?

At the University of Cumbria, apprentices are already enrolled on our Foundation Degree course in Project Management. We find them highly motivated learners who are quick to grasp new ideas and seek to apply them in the workplace. Many are very involved in their local communities also – running sponsored events and making key contributions to voluntary organisations. We hope that the knowledge they gain on our courses and the skills they develop will have benefits in their work and also for the wider community.

For young people considering apprenticeships (or parents seeking to support their career choices) it can be good to have a talk with apprentices to find out why they chose this pathway and whether they would recommend it to others. Two of our Project Management students, Andrew and Chelsea are heavily involved in promoting apprenticeships as part of the Sellafield apprenticeship team effort in the Brathay Apprenticeship Challenge.

Employers can meet them at the University of Cumbria ‘Apprenticeship Information Events’ this week  in Carlisle, Ambleside or Lancaster.

You can find them on Twitter at @SLBrathay17 or tweet using hashtag #BAC17




A visit to APM HQ

Last week, I visited Association for Project Management Headquarters at Princes Risborough. This is an address I have seen on lots of forms but never previously visited. Over the past years, I have had regular correspondence with APM concerning membership, qualifications, accredited training, arranging events for the NW branch and even contributing to developing standards for apprenticeships in Project Management. Hardly a week goes by without some contact with APM. Most of my contact has been by phone or email. Realising this is true for many APM members (Princes Risborough is not just somewhere you ‘drop in’.) I decided to take some photos on my visit so I could share the whole experience. APM staff agreed to help.

Photos above – Venetia at APM reception is really helpful – first impressions count. Stephen Miller (Education) and Anna Grabham (Volunteers co-ordinator) are in regular contact with the volunteer community.  Keo-mony Mith deals with course accreditation and Jo deals with queries about membership and qualifications.

With the news in December of APM being awarded a Royal Charter, we should expect many changes in the coming months. This is a real milestone in the development of project management as a profession. APM members are awaiting further advice about how to become Chartered Project Managers, this will involve a major change of the institution itself. Many APM staff have been working diligently in the background to achieve this and we look forward to their continued advice and support as the profession moves forward.

So, lots of changes expected at APM HQ in terms of the organisation itself and how it supports the profession, watch this space!