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Project management distance learning establishes a benchmark for professional development

International Built Asset Consultancy invests in Project Management Development via a Distance Learning programme leading to the APMP Qualification.

The leading international Built Asset Consultancy Acadis has embarked upon a tailored distance learning programme for its project managers in order to establish a clear route for professional development and a benchmark for understanding project management within the organisation. The learning programme is a blend of virtual classroom sessions, e-learning and traditional printed study materials and books leading to the APM PMQ exam.

With offices across Europe, Asia and the Middle East the aim of the on-going training programme is to deliver a consistent, high-quality experience to all of its project managers wherever they are located across the globe. With the pilot scheme already completed resulting in a pass rate of over 80% for the APM PMQ qualification and a second course nearing completion, the programme is proving to be both cost-effective and successful. A third course is currently being planned, which will incorporate modifications based on participant feedback from the previous sessions.

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Even with the training programme at these early stages, 32 project managers from across the United Kingdom, and from Hong Kong, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have benefitted from participation. With project managers based around the world in Asia, North America, Europe, Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the advantage of this type of blended distance learning is not only to offer a clear career progression for project managers within Arcadis through consistent, high-quality training but also the potential opportunity for individuals to establish valuable networks outside their own immediate locations.

The Association for Project Management (APM) is the professional Project Management institute of choice for Arcadis, who hold APM Corporate Accreditation in recognition of their commitment to professionalism in project management. As corporate members they are fully engaged in supporting and contributing to the APM agenda as it seeks to raise awareness and standards in the project management profession.

Alison Mitchell, Learning and Development Consultant at Arcadis commented

"Within my role in Professional Services I had a very clear view in mind of a well-designed, high-quality, blended learning programme. Parallel Project Training was very responsive to our vision and we have been able to work closely with them to develop the high-quality training that we wanted for our international project managers. The model of blended learning for project management that has been developed has been so successful that we plan to use it for training in other disciplines within Arcadis"

echarris-image2The courses are conducted over an 8 week period with key virtual classroom sessions timetabled into that period and the examination held at the end. Adobe Connect, a core learning technology for Arcadis, is used to facilitate the virtual classroom sessions as a live event from anywhere in the world with the trainer visible on video to all participants. It also has a whiteboard facility and real-time questioning opportunities either via voice (for which a microphone and headset are required) or via a keyboard with the interactive Chat facility which shows all questions on-screen to all participants.

Distance learning of this type offers professional APM qualifications in a productive and cost-effective manner. It has all the benefits of distance learning such as reducing the time away from the office, combining individuals from different parts of the world on one training course and offering a flexible approach that suits different learning styles. But it also has the advantages of the interaction found in traditional classroom courses through the virtual classroom elements. Arcadis has additionally made internal mentors available to the participants and a one-to-one online tutor is also at hand. The final exam leading to the APMP qualification is taken onsite under strict exam conditions at an Arcadis location convenient for the candidate. An APM examiner is in attendance at every exam irrespective of the number of candidates.

Paul Naybour Business Development Director at Parallel Project Training, who delivers the courses, remarked

"The level of interaction between the participants in the virtual classroom situations is very high. Combining these with more standard e-learning practices and the printed study material has proved to be highly successful, allowing delegates to work in a way that fits more readily around their on-going work commitments, whilst still being supported by one-to-one tutors online and gaining the opportunity for project managers from disparate locations to get to know each other and establish smaller support groups. By recording the virtual classroom sessions we also offer participants the opportunity to re-visit particular sessions at any time, if needed; they are also able to access presentations and training documents through Adobe Connect. At Parallel we have the flexibility to tailor the training programme to the specific requirements of Arcadis and can also update it rapidly to incorporate feedback from previous delegates."

UPDATE in 2017

ARCADIS Virtual Project Management Training Continues to Deliver Outstanding Results.

Professional Project Management is a key capability of Arcadis, the leading build environment consultancy business. Arcadis plan and execute large scale projects for a broad range of sectors and clients. These range from the £1bn transformation of London Bridge Station to the new Sir Henry Royce Institute as a research centre for Manchester University and floor risk protection in Cornwall . To underpin and develop this capability Arcadis has for many years invested in training and development based on the five dimensions of professionalism established by Association for Project Management (APM), which is the UK’s Chartered body for the project profession. As part of this programme, the APM Project Management Qualification has been instrumental in establishing a common framework, structure and language across Arcadis.

Working with the APM accredited training provider, Parallel Project Training, Arcadis developed a more flexible approach to the delivery of the APM Project Management Qualification. Instead of the traditional 5-day course, Arcadis developed a virtual programme spread over an 8-10 week period with 6-weekly webinars, weekly homework, a mock exam and full exam. This has many advantages over the traditional approach. It provides ample opportunity for the participants to study and reflect on the principles of project management. Weekly homework and feedback from the tutor consolidate this reflection. The mock exam enables participants to make sure they are ready for the full exam. The webinar approach means that busy consultants can take the course while maintaining progress on their projects. The meetings are also recorded so even if participants miss one or two sessions they can catch up. The webinar approach significantly reduces travel and accommodation costs.

This was echoed by one participant who said the advantages of the programme were “- The virtual approach spread out the learning over a greater period, which allowed me to see how a business puts what we learned into practice, which benefited me greatly. I cannot personally just memorise something; I need to understand how it works in practice to attribute the knowledge to a real life scenario.

  • With everyone working from different parts of the country, it allowed for greater flexibility. I work between 2/3 offices, so it did not matter where I was, as long as there was an internet connection.
  • The webinar approach also allows for the recording of lessons, so if you are unable to make a session due to prior commitments or lack internet connectivity; you don’t miss out.
  • I would see a 5-day intensive course as less valuable as you have less time to ingrain your knowledge on the subject matter and review yourself. There are a good amount of group reviews of knowledge making sure at each step everyone understands what has been covered in the Webinar.”

Another participant said “The way the course is structured has made it easy to keep on top of homework submissions and revision. Exam was very challenging, and you need to be switched on pretty much straight away as those 3 hrs fly by!”

However the exam results have also been excellent, typically 90% of people on the course pass the final APM PMQ exam. However recently the last three cohorts have achieved a 100% pass rate. This compares well with a typical pass rate of 75% for a traditional 5-day course. This high pass rate is a credit to the quality of the Arcadis candidates and how hard they work completing their weekly homework.

The programme is still challenging because many people have not taken a formal exam for many years. Another participant said “The exam was the first I have done in five years, and a 3 hour one at that; was a significant challenge for me. I felt the course was structured in a way that you were learning the content rather than the answers to pass the exam, however there needed to be a degree of exam training which was brought across well through the homework.” Asking participants what was the most significant thing you learned on the course? Produced some surprising results. Several participants found they benefited from an improved clarity of roles and structured stakeholder engagement across the lifecycle. For example, one candidate said “One of the things that was taught well, was how project management can be built into a multitude of disciplines and it is not just for a project manager. The project management skills are relevant to a wide range of roles on any project”. Another candidate said “I have found that the stakeholder engagement knowledge has really helped in my current role, and also my understanding of the project lifecycle”. Another said “The course allowed me to demonstrate an understanding of how all elements of project management interact and how the projects fit into the strategic and commercial environment.”

Participants in the course are already reporting that they have been able to apply what they learned to client projects. For example, one candidate said that “I have a greater understanding of the different roles within my team and how to differentiate what info needs to be communicated and how. I now have a greater ability to schedule work, based on the knowledge of understanding the requirements needed to complete tasks.” Whilst another said “I am currently working on a scheme with quite a high level of stakeholder engagement and the knowledge and learnt through the PMQ has really helped.”

What benefits will this training give you, Arcadis and your clients?

“It has given me the confidence to deliver. I work with a client who is heavily embedded in the APM ways of working. Doing the course has given me a better understand their organisational processes and governance; as a result I can deliver a better service to my client.” Another said, “in has enabled me to demonstrable industry recognised skills and knowledge.” And another “Arcadis can achieve competitive advantage and improve project delivery through a highly skilled and qualified project management community. The training enhances the Arcadis’ credibility to the clients through having project or programme staff that have achieved externally recognised qualification.” Paul Naybour From Parallel Project Training said “it is a tough six weeks for both the candidates and me, but I see a real improvement in knowledge and understanding through the six week period. 4-5 weeks into the programme we hit a light bulb moment when people begin to see the principles and themes which underpin the APM approach to project management. Once we pass this point, I feel that the candidates have internalised the principles and are well equipped for future projects and the exam.”

Rob Marriot, L&D manager for the programme said “we are very committed to demonstrating or commitment to professional project management, and we work closely with Parallel Project Training and the Association for Project Management to ensure that we offer our clients a world class capability. APM PMQ is just the start of the journey for our project managers, and we fully support the move toward Chartered Project Professional.” Since 2010 over 350 Arcadis people have completed this virtual programme, with about 60 people per year, in three cohorts of 20.

About Parallel

We give all of our clients a personal service, blending traditional and modern learning techniques to deliver a flexible training solution. We are a small and specialist project management training provider with a global reach. Our consultants are best in class and are equally at home delivering off the shelf courses or a solution tailored to your specific needs. We have designed this website to give you a flavour of what we do. If you like what you see, please do get in touch to discuss how we can support your organisation.

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