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September 2018
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Why educational institutions will look to partner with the private sector

Job-hunters are often doubly disadvantaged during a recession. School leavers and recent graduates cannot gain the work experience they need to develop the skills that will help them secure a position. People who are out of work or who want to change career can find it difficult to secure another job if their skills and qualifications are not up to date. Eddie Kilkelly, Chief Operating Officer of ILX Group plc examines what educational institutions are doing to help these groups and why there will be a continued trend in developing closer ties with the private sector.

Over the past couple of decades, educational institutions have sought to align their offering more closely with the needs of employers – most obviously with a huge increase in business and information management courses. In addition, some have started to integrate professional qualifications into their courses, to give students a competitive advantage in difficult labour markets. Others are participating in government programmes to help the unemployed update their skills with new courses targeted at specific groups.

As an example, project management skills are in demand for both public and private sector organisations of all sizes. Irrespective of the economic climate, change is an inevitable fact of business life, accelerated by technology and globalisation. Organisations need people with the right skills to work with and manage this change. Moreover, globalisation has created a requirement for a common language and model that can be used to drive cross-border projects. However, there is a huge gap between the generic theory of project management taught in many university courses and the specifics of best practice project management models that are commonly used in real life.
Professional qualifications matter

Professional qualifications can make a huge difference to an individual’s employability – especially in project management. PRINCE2® sets out best practice in the planning, implementation, management and evaluation of projects. It is the de facto standard for project management in the UK and is used in more than 50 other countries. Crucially, accreditation in PRINCE2® is a pre-requisite for over 60-70 per cent of all Project Management jobs advertised in the UK. Accreditation is achieved by passing exams at both Foundation and Practitioner levels, with Practitioners obliged to retake the Practitioner exam every five years to remain accredited. The learner can study the relevant text books, or join an open course or attend a tailored course run by a specialist training provider. Educational institutions have started to realise the importance of PRINCE2® accreditation to their students and are partnering with specialist private sector training organisations to offer relevant courses.

Innovation counts

There are a number of reasons why educational institutions are partnering with private training companies like ILX Group. Most importantly, they do not have the skill set or knowledge to educate students in PRINCE2®. The principles seem simple but the trainer has to impart how those principles may be applied. In addition, educational institutions are operating under the threat of reduced public sector budgets in the coming years, so partnering with an external training provider gives them the ability and expertise necessary to deliver new courses without increasing headcount. Also, institutions that provide PRINCE2® training have to be accredited by the APM Group, and this can be a lengthy process. Partnering gives the institution the opportunity to get these new course offerings to market quickly, without having to become accredited first.

During difficult market conditions there is less money available for incremental discretionary spend, so fewer people are undertaking ongoing professional development. Educational institutions will be forced to re-evaluate their offering to ensure it is aligned with the skills organisations need and professional qualifications provide a key area of differentiation. This shift change will be a positive win-win situation for the institutions and their students.
Case studies: Birkbeck and UWE

Birkbeck, University of London, recently became the UK’s first academic institution to incorporate PRINCE2® professional accreditation in its postgraduate programme. Birkbeck’s MSc in Information Systems & Management includes a ‘Project Management for Informatics’ (PMI) module, which gives students the option to study for PRINCE2® accreditation. Conversely, existing holders of the PRINCE2® foundation and practitioner qualifications can apply for credits on the PMI module. In addition, Birkbeck is offering a short course on Project Management with PRINCE2®. Delegates undertake 40 hours of e-learning provided by ILX Group and an evening workshop before sitting the examination.

The University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) has established a solutions4recession programme to help individuals who are unemployed or under notice of redundancy to improve their skills and marketability. It now includes PRINCE2® foundation and practitioner e-learning courses, in recognition of employer demand for these qualifications. The course includes e-learning modules, the official manual and tutor support by telephone or e-mail and can be accessed by computer from anywhere in the UK.

What Birkbeck and UWE have in common is that they want delegates to have a good mix of skills that they can take and apply immediately in the workplace. PRINCE2® is such a practical qualification, it is equally beneficial to new graduates, the unemployed, or experienced staff who wish to up-skill their project management knowledge in order to keep their jobs.

Eddie Kilkelly MAPM MBCS – Chief Operating Officer for ILX Group plc www.ilxgroup.com has been involved in the Best Practice industry for over fifteen years. During this time he has worked as both a Project and IT Service Manager and more recently as an implementation consultant providing support to organisations who have adopted the use of Best Practice methods including PRINCE2, MSP and ITIL.

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