An ambitious workshop for young people in Years 8-10 was recently conducted at City Heights Academy near Brixton by Parallel Project Training, an innovative training company based in Reading, Berks. It was organised in conjunction with Streetworks, a community-led project in Lambeth that is working to transform the local area and build skills in the community.
Streetworks had worked closely with Parallel Project Training to develop this introduction to project management that was accessible and better suited to young people than the more typical introductory courses to project management, which are aimed at people already working in a project environment and tend to use complex project and business language.
The workshop was the culmination of 6 months of effort by Jan Underdown, Project Management Training Consultant, of Parallel and the Streetworks outreach team, to create a new model of teaching the fundamentals of project management. The simple language was aimed specifically at young people and adults unfamiliar with a project-focused working environment. It was attended by pupils from 3 schools in and around Brixton: City Heights Academy, The Elmgreen School and St-Martin-in-the-Fields Girls School.
With project management now a well-recognised career choice and a modern profession expected soon to have chartered status, the workshop helped broaden the young peoples’ aspirations and influence their GCSE and career options. It also provided practical skills they can use right now to make a difference in their own community.
Community groups in inner London such as Streetworks are increasingly recognising that well-educated young people can make a real difference by getting involved in a variety of local collaborative projects such as new public art installations. By working with local forums that include volunteers from a range of backgrounds (such as tenants associations, youth groups and parent & toddler groups) Streetworks is widening the reach of local projects and building skills in the community.
The Project Toolbox
In order to facilitate the workshop Parallel and Streetworks worked together to develop a Project Toolbox based on the APM (Association for Project Management) lifecycle but using more simple language. The completed Project Toolbox has been licensed to, and handed over to, Streetworks so that it can be used for further workshops in schools and community groups. It represents a simple, but effective, 10-step approach to completing real-world projects.
At the City Heights Academy workshop in October 2016 pupils from Years 8 – 10 worked step-by-step through all the processes required to start, develop and complete a project successfully. The real-life projects were chosen as ones to which the young people could relate and included:
- Creating a Community Market
- Creating a Community Garden
- Organising a Street Party – including the music and popup food shops
Afterwards, the project teams presented their projects to the rest of the group to share lessons they had learned and encourage feedback from which everyone could benefit. It is expected that the older students (year 10) will become facilitators for future workshops, further developing highly transferable skills such as planning, budgeting and communication.
As Jan Underdown remarked “I am familiar with training adults already working in a project environment so this workshop for 12-14 year olds was a complete departure from my normal routine. However, I found it thoroughly inspiring and one of the best, if not the best, training session I have ever been involved in. I was very impressed with the attitude of the young people from the 3 schools involved who were enthusiastic and attentive and I hope they got as much out of the day as I did.”
Sarah Coyte (Lambeth Council) agreed, “These young people embarked on the workshop with energy and commitment and gained skills that will not only help them in their future life and work but which will enable them to get involved and make a real contribution to the second phase of the Streetworks project.
We would like to thank Parallel, and especially Jan, for all their hard work and support creating the Project Toolbox and delivering this first workshop. We now aim to deliver future workshops using the Project Toolbox to enable more young people to develop these skills and to encourage the older ones to develop further skills by mentoring and coaching the younger ones.”
Parallel Project Training deliver a wide range of training courses using a variety of methods and media including e-learning, podcasts, workshops, traditional classroom-based courses and master classes. Underlying their very practical methods of training is a serious approach to professionalism within project management.
Streetworks is a community-led project funded by Transport for London (TfL) that works collaboratively with local forums and other partners to improve the local area and build skills within their community. They are building a legacy for future generations supported by volunteers with a wealth of local knowledge.