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!

Apprenticeships: then and now

img_9759Apprenticeships are a radical new development in education – or are they? The word ‘apprentice’ conjures up a lot of images. These range from children in Victorian times apprenticed to a trade to young entrepreneurs jockeying for a position as Sir Alan Sugar’s next protégé. The Government has pledged to support 3 million apprentices in the UK by 2020. Are we returning to Mr Gradgrind’s vision in Hard times? Definitely not. Today’s vision of an apprenticeship is very different. Apprenticeships are very much supported by employers, education providers, Government and Professional bodies.

In 21st Century England, the Government has sponsored apprenticeships as a way of encouraging individuals to combine working in industry with studying. This has advantages for the individual, the employer and the academic establishment involved. The individual gets the opportunity to ‘earn while they learn’, they are working in industry from the start and their studies are sponsored by their employer. This leads to highly motivated learners who are keen to apply their knowledge in the workplace. From an academic perspective, working with these learners can be challenging and extremely rewarding. Text book knowledge is questioned, discussed and contextualised in the classroom and often in the workplace. Employers are involved in setting the standards for apprenticeships which are then delivered by training providers and educational establishments.

In project management terms, a Higher Level Apprenticeship in Project Management was launched by the APM several years ago. Following the Sainsbury report, the Government decided to rethink apprenticeships and employer groups were formed to write new Trailblazer standards. Once a standard has been approved, with its associated assessment plan and costing, it is available for training and education providers to develop programmes of learning to support the standard. Employers can then recruit apprentices and work with the training and education providers to support their development.

The Level 4 Project Management Trailblazer Apprenticeship Employer Development Group is a group of employers from different sectors and led by Sellafield. This group prepared the standard and assessment plan which is now available on the Government website and will influence the training of project management apprentices for many years. The photo marks the formation of the Employer Review Group who will support the standard and ensure it is being delivered effectively in the years to come. This group is being led by the Cabinet Office. The attendance of more than forty people at the inaugural meeting is evidence of the level of interest and support from industry in taking up this standard.

So, when you hear Project Management Apprenticeships – this is where we are now. A strong employer led group establishing standards and working together with education and training providers – all to support the development of the future workforce. It’s not about Mr Gradgrind or Sir Alan Sugar, it’s all about the apprentice and their development.