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The UK is in dire need of project management skills as an increase in demand and a decrease in the number of trained employees is occurring simultaneously. Currently, large UK public sector projects run the risk of delays and rising costs and in some cases, lost jobs. So how is this happening and what can be done?

Increase in Costs

When projects are delayed, they become very costly. The inability to fill UK project management roles has led to costs on the national project pipeline inflating to over £500bn. This is because projects are having to pay premium rates for financial, commercial and project managers.

Additionally, running over time means running over budget. Companies are set to incur costs from projects being delayed while they look for properly skilled employees to fill the vacant roles. Currently demand for these skills greatly outstrips supply.

Regional Skills Gap

The East of England is now currently seeing the largest UK project management skills gap, with five times as many jobs as there are employees to meet the requirements. The South West isn’t much better with three times as many positions as there are people to fill them. This leads to a massive regional skills gap and UK public sector projects are in high competition with each other and the private sector.

A boom in demand for project management skills is also leading to competition with some of Britain’s largest companies. The Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant is now competing with the Ministry of Defense, with neither able to currently recruit the number of project managers they need to ensure projects are timely.

Increase in Demand

According to data from the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline, there will be an estimated £500bn of projects across the UK in the next 5 years – including Crossrail and Hinckley Point. Therefore, demand is only going to get higher, given the scale of the planned investment.

Additionally, with the demand for project management roles comes the complementary need for support roles. Thus, the demand for the commercial and finance sectors is likely to increase as well.

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Projects are at Risk

Without the proper planning, things can crumble fast and that has already started for some companies. Lakesmere Group, one of the UK’s biggest building envelope specialists, is announcing layoffs of 109 jobs just weeks after being publicized as a top-growth company.

Only last October the firm ranked 244th in the UK’s private mid-market growth companies with some of the highest sales, but the organization has run into a variety of issues due to lack of skilled employees and delayed projects. The company has now fallen into administration with their 900 employees being managed by joint administrators.

Finding Solutions

There are ways to combat this major skills gap and a number of measures can be taken to fight the talent crunch. The following are just a few ways in which organizations can stay ahead of the game:

  • More flexible training with the use of existing skills
  • Sharing resources across departments and projects
  • Making better use of technology
  • Finding talent from unconventional sources
  • Take pre-emptive action with procurement programs

Decision makers need to strike first and think creatively in regions where there is lack of skills. Waiting until there is a talent shortage on a project already in motion is not a good idea and can lead to a delay in the program. Looking to invest in current employees is something that team leaders should be taking into consideration more. Implementing changes will take time so it is imperative that companies start thinking now, before they are left empty-handed.