Apprenticeship Levy – Route To Professional Project Management

Paul Naybour

Oh how times change! Young people today can embark on careers in areas that simply didn’t exist 20 years ago. Some roles today, especially in technology and the digital market, didn’t even exist a decade ago. And the world of work is still evolving. Schools are already working to teach and equip young people to deal with the possibility that they may take up a career that doesn’t exist now while they are still in full-time education but might exist in the future. So we are increasingly aware that career choices cannot, necessarily, be made at a young age; future career paths are not so easily mapped out in advance as they were in previous generations. In addition to the typical academic subjects, schools and colleges are having to teach skills such as collaboration, teamwork, creativity, critical thinking and problem solving that will help young people in any future career whatever that may be.

Yet there is also the continued need for all the traditional careers and job roles, be that as an accountant, a lawyer, engineer, doctor, nurse, plumber, carpenter, clothes designer or actor. All of these professions are still flourishing and haven’t been replaced by the new roles but the choice has just become ever wider. The digital field has perhaps been most affected by the technological advancements of the last two decades and has created many of the positions available.

Many digital jobs are driving our economy despite the fact that they are in their relative infancy.

It is also likely that any job you do now will be very different in another 10 or 20 years’ time so everyone has to be equipped to embrace change. Future jobs may not exist now – after all who’d have thought 20 years ago that you could make a living as a Blogger?

But this is nothing new – technological change has always affected the job landscape historically. Innovation has always resulted in new jobs being created while others are side-lined or disappear altogether. Thankfully, lifelong learning is something which is increasingly supported by both the Government and employers, with new, additional routes introduced to encourage people of all ages to continue with their education to keep ahead of this evolving landscape.

It’s nothing new that young people are increasingly seeking a professional career in either a traditional or indeed a new progressive industry, but there is a growing recognition that a university education is not right for everyone. The formation of University Technical Colleges (UTCs) is one area that has started to tackle the assumption that university is the right place for all young people. Certainly the increasing cost of self-funding a degree course and the resulting, inevitable debt is a factor but that aside, UTCs provide a sound education backed up by strong links with industry bodies and large, well-known employers in many sectors to better prepare young people for the workplace.

However, there are other avenues to an exciting career path that don’t require formal further education and these include apprenticeships. Apprenticeships are no longer seen as a “non-academic” route to a chosen career but rather a path to wider opportunities that can result in degree-level qualifications and higher accreditation such as chartered status.

An Evolving Profession

Amongst all these jobs where apprenticeships can provide the ideal route to a qualification,  there are some which aren’t so new, but which have evolved so rapidly this century that they are very different to how they were some 20 or 30 years ago. One such career is project management, which has been around since the 1960s but it is a role that has become increasingly important in our digital, project-focused business world and is shaping how businesses perform and succeed.

What we are seeing in project management is the growth and development of a new profession.

Yet the role of project manager may not, until now, have been familiar to people just starting out in their careers. However, since the granting of the Royal Charter to the Association for Project Management (APM) in December 2016 this is about to change. It means that there is a new, recognised profession for both young people just starting out and those who have been carrying out the role for some time.

In the 1960s project management was predominantly confined to the aerospace, construction and defence industries. While later that decade there was recognition of the need for professionalism in the role, it wasn’t until the 1980s that there were the first attempts to standardise project management procedures and approaches. In the same decade it first became possible to achieve certifications in project management and while the range and depth of those certifications and credentials has grown, variations of them still exist.

Project management has typically, until now, been the sort of role that many people just drifted in to – less of a definitive career choice than a chance encounter. Many people working in, say, IT, construction or engineering roles have in the past moved into project management at the request of their employer or in order to advance their career. Yet the profession has come a long way since the early pioneers first started to standardise PM processes.

Early versions of project management methodologies and certifications from the Project Management Institute (PMI), Association for Project Management (APM) and PRINCE (originally owned by what is now the OGC  – the UK Office of Government Commerce) started to appear in the late 1980’s and early 1990 but were initially confined to large corporations or government organisations. However, they increasingly spread to other companies who sought to improve their project outcomes and are now in widespread use.

Since those early years the APM has developed a progressive series of qualifications that take the novice project manager through basic training, building skills and knowledge of best practices right through to the Registered Project Professional accreditation which is soon to translate into Chartered Status.

No longer is project management being viewed as an accidental career choice but instead as a professional career of choice. It may not be as well-established as accountancy, say, or engineering but it is certainly now recognised worldwide as a profession with all the discipline and rigour of accountancy or engineering and, moreover, one that offers the qualified professional a whole range of opportunities in huge variety of businesses and industries that work on a project-centric model.

From construction, engineering and IT to banking, tourism and healthcare , these are just a few of the fields that require skilled project managers for a myriad of projects.  The new Apprenticeship Levy will provide employers in these sectors – and their workforce – with the opportunity to gain new skills or enhance the ones they’ve got to prepare them for this increasingly beneficial role.

Making the Project Management Profession an Accessible Career for All


Project management is used across a wide range of businesses and industries if not all businesses and industries. From developing the software that we use, to producing new technology products, from organising international sports events to building roads and bridges, from creating the next generation of energy efficient cars to developing advanced fabrics to survive in extreme climate conditions. There really is no area where project management is not used, whether to produce something entirely new or improve on something that already exists; it is at the heart of business today.

So it’s great news that the hard work and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) of project managers is at last being rewarded with Chartered Status. But what of the young people who might benefit from a career in project management and, more importantly, who might excel in this field? And what about those people already working in a project environment but without the requisite academic qualifications to embark on the currently available training programmes?

Where a traditional project manager may have taken a degree in almost any subject and later trained to be a project manager there is now a much more direct route that will develop the skills, attitudes and behaviours required to be a successful project manager in any industry without the need for a degree qualification or a period working in one specific industry. It will teach the best practices that lead to the most successful outcomes and ultimately offer a professional qualification on the same standing as a chartered accountant or chartered engineer.

So just how has this opportunity come about?

The Apprenticeship Levy

The UK government is seeking to boost productivity within UK based companies by investing in human capital: they are committed to developing vocational skills, and to increasing the quantity and quality of apprenticeships available to young people. It plans to create an additional 3 million apprenticeships in England by 2020 and the way this will be implemented is through an Apprenticeship Levy to support quality training by employers.

The Apprenticeship Levy comes into force in April 2017 and is charged at a rate of 0.5% of an employer’s salary bill if in excess of £3 million. The levy will, therefore, be paid by less than 2% of UK employers but, given the salary bill threshold, the actual amount raised and available to train apprentices will be significant and is expected to reach £6 billion.

Large organisations who will be subject to this levy can offset the amount due by bearing the cost of training apprentices in their organisations. Employers who are committed to training will be able to get back more than they put in by training sufficient numbers of apprentices. So this new levy opens up opportunities for apprenticeship training leading to a project management qualification and ultimately to chartered status.

Embarking on a two year Level 4 Apprentice programme such as that run by Interserve Learning & Employment (ILE) in collaboration with Parallel Project Training will provide career opportunities to young people as an alternative to a degree course and develop their professional skills to help organisations deliver more projects, more successfully.


The Project Management Apprenticeship Programme


The apprenticeship programme aims to build competence through knowledge and practical experience and is directly aligned with the industry standard APM Competence Framework. This means the apprentice will benefit from industry best practices as will the employer with the apprentice putting his or her new competencies into practice in the work place.

The key to a successful apprenticeship programme is for both employer and apprentice to benefit. The employer benefits in a range of areas including the development of rigorous PM practices to help improve the delivery of projects, increased productivity as tasks are done right first time and the introduction of a culture of success within their organisation.

Equally, the apprentice benefits by gaining expert project management knowledge that they can put to practical use and which will lead to professional qualifications and accreditation. They also have the benefit of using the type of flexible, modern training methods such as webinars, podcasts and e-learning for which Parallel Project Training are renowned.

The apprenticeship programme comprises a predominantly remote course of study, although there is a one-day course initiation day and, of course, the exam day at the end. The advantage of this method of study is that it can be done from anywhere in the UK and there is no requirement for frequent attendance at a training centre.

The programme is supported by Interserve Learning & Employment (ILE) through one-to-one mentoring sessions and by the individual’s employer via ongoing progress reviews.

Upon successful completion of the course those with the desire and ability to progress further as a project manager have the option to continue working in a project environment and seeking chartered status following the required number of years’ experience (currently 7 years). Or embark on a further course of study with either the 2-year APM Project Professional Qualification (APM PPQ) or the APM Practitioner Qualification (APM PQ)

The project management apprenticeship programme run by Parallel and ILE is an 18-month programme to establish the foundations of a successful career in project management. It is suitable for young people straight out of school and also for those who already work in a project environment and wish to consolidate their existing knowledge.

Apprentices are taught by project management training experts from Parallel Project Training using a combination of theory and practical experience to develop full competence in the key areas of project management. They use engaging modern training methods such as webinars, podcasts and e-learning. There are also assessments at stages throughout the programme and each apprentice will have a mentor to support them in their learning and career development.

The knowledge, skills and behaviour required of a project manager are listed in the table below:


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Knowledge Project governance Different types of organisational structures and responsibilities, functions and project phases on different types of project. How governance can control and manage the successful delivery of projects. The significance of the project management plan (PMP).
  Project stakeholder management Stakeholders: their perspectives, different interests and levels of influence upon project outcomes.
  Project communication Key contexts of a project communication plan, its effectiveness in managing different stakeholders. Factors which can affect communications such as cultural and physical barriers
  Project leadership The vision and values of the project and its links to objectives; the ways in which these can be effectively communicated and reinforced to team members and stakeholders. Leadership styles, qualities and the importance of motivation on team performance. Characteristics of the working environment which encourage and sustain high performance.
  Consolidated planning Purpose and formats for consolidated plans to support overall management, taking account of lessons learnt and how the plans balance fundamental components of scope, schedule, resources, budgets, risks and quality requirements.
  Budgeting and cost control Funding, estimating, overheads; direct costs, indirect costs, fixed costs, variable costs and an overall budget for a project; tracking systems for actual costs, accruals and committed costs; alternative cost breakdowns to provide for graphical representations, and performance management.
  Business case and benefits management Preparation and/or maintenance of business cases, including benefits management.
  Project scope Requirements management, and evaluation of alternative methods to learn from the past to improve delivery. Project scope change control, baseline change management, configuration management
  Project schedule Scheduling and estimating for project activities including how they can be quality assessed. Progress monitoring and metrics to assess work performed against the schedule. Schedule management methods to evaluate and revise activities to improve confidence in delivery.
  Resource management Resource analysis, resource allocation and resource acceptance.
  Project risk and issue management The need for and implementation of a risk management plan. Risk management methods and techniques to identify and prioritise threats or opportunities. Mitigation actions to minimise risk impacts and to optimise benefits by managing opportunities.
  Contract management and procurement The nature of contracts, and their implications for contracting organisations. Procurement processes. Legal and ethical means for managing contracts.
  Project quality Quality management processes, assurance and improvements. Outcomes of a quality management plan, metrics for processes and quality standards.
  Project context The different contexts in which projects can be delivered, including health, safety, and environment management. The interdependencies between project(s), programme(s) and portfolio management. Project phases and key review points, across project life cycles.


Project governance Project monitoring and reporting cycle to track, assess and interpret performance by the application of monitoring techniques to analyse status and manage information.


  Stakeholder and communications management Manage stakeholders, taking account of their levels of influence and particular interests. Manage conflicts and negotiations. Communicate to a variety of different audiences. Contribute to negotiations relating to project objectives.
  Budgeting and cost control Develop and agree project budgets, monitor forecast and actual costs against them and control changes. Support funding submissions. Tracking systems for actual costs, accruals and committed costs; structures for alternative cost breakdowns.
  Business case Contribute to the preparation or maintenance of a business case including achieving required outcomes.


  Scope management Determine, control and manage changes to the scope of a project, including assumptions, dependencies and constraints.
  Consolidated planning Consolidate and document the fundamental components of projects. Monitor progress against the consolidated plan and refine as appropriate, implementing the change control process where relevant.


  Schedule management Prepare and maintain schedules for activities aligned to project delivery.
  Risk and issue management


Identify and monitor project risk or opportunity, plan and implement responses to them, contribute to a risk management plan. Respond to and manage issues within a defined governance structure.
  Contract management and procurement Facilitate a procurement process, contribute to the definition of contractual agreements and contribute to managing a contract.


  Quality management Develop a quality management plan, manage project assurance, and contribute to peer reviews. Utilise an organisation’s continual improvement process including lessons learned.


  Resource management Develop resource management plans for project activities, acquire and manage resources including commitment acceptance, monitor progress against plans.




Collaboration and team work Understands and is effective as part of an integrated team.
  Leadership Communicates direction, and supports the vision for project delivery.
  Effective and appropriate communication Working effectively with and influencing others, taking account of diversity and equality. Influences and facilitates effective team performance.


  Drive for results Demonstrates clear commitment to achieving results, and improving performance.


  Integrity, ethics, compliance and professionalism Promotes the wider public good in all actions, acting in a morally, legally and socially appropriate manner. Promotes and models the highest standards of professional integrity, ethics, trust and continued development.



Take advantage of the levy

The UK government’s new Apprenticeship Levy has provided a marvellous opportunity for anyone to embark on a career in project management – the newest of the chartered professions – that underpins so much of our modern business world. It can ultimately lead to chartered status in a much sought-after profession and provide degree-equivalent qualifications without incurring any of the typically associated student debt.

The project management apprenticeship programme is delivered and supported by two highly experience organisations: Parallel Project Training and Interserve Learning & Employment.

So make your first project task today a commitment to find out more about an apprenticeship in Professional Project Management. Call us now on 0118 321 5030, or visit our project management apprenticeships page on our main website. 

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