Virtually all students around the world had their schooling year disrupted due to Covid-19, resulting in little to no face-to-face instruction which is key in the formative years. In the shadow of the pandemic, while some students in Nigeria were unable to attend school in any form, others had to quickly adapt to the new reality of online learning and in some cases through traditional media, radio and TV*. Assisted by the teaching community, they submitted assignments on time, met attendance targets, problem solved and ensured parent and teacher satisfaction.
In many ways, these students are the first generation of workforce in decades that found its way out of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic without any formal training in managing projects.
The pandemic which felt like a temporary inconvenience is a stark reality we will confront daily in how we live, work and play. Its biggest and irreversible impact has been on the world of work. Change is inevitable, thanks to the many technological advancements in recent times. However, its arrival was certainly accelerated, and under the spectre of the pandemic, it was a landslide.
The kind of careers that Nigeria’s Class of 2021 may have envisioned, has shifted due to the pandemic. The companies on their wish list are already reconfiguring to find new ways to stay relevant and deliver new products and services. These radical shifts simply mean two things, the career you choose today needs to keep up with the changes of tomorrow, and professionals, including the youth, need to learn new skills to keep up as well.
As companies emerge from the pandemic, they are quickly realising that buzzwords like lean and agile don’t just apply to IT departments. Companies want to hire changemakers, not just job seekers, who have a learning mindset and can pivot when needed. Therefore, it is critical for Nigerians to harness project management skills and secure their futures amidst the pandemic.
Globally, the value of project-oriented economic activity over the decade is likely to reach $20 trillion (₦820 trillion). PMI’s Talent Gap report predicts that the number of jobs requiring project management-oriented skills from economic growth and retirement rates will create the global need for 25 million new project professionals by 2030. Here in Sub-Saharan Africa, we will witness a 40% growth in project management-oriented employment, the largest globally over this period.
Speaking at the recently concluded COP26 Summit, President Muhammadu Buhari said Nigeria needed a cumulative $1.5 trillion over the next decade to achieve an appreciable level of the National Infrastructure Stock for which his administration had established a clear legal and regulatory framework for private financing of infrastructure. The President welcomed the G7 countries for its ground-breaking plan to mobilise hundreds of billions of dollars of infrastructure investment for low and middle-income countries.
Author and leading expert on project management Antonio Nieto-Rodriguez, writes in his new book that unlike businesses in the 20th century that relied on advances in efficiency and productivity to drive value, today the focus is on projects. Managing the organisation around projects drives short-term performance and long-term value creation, through organisational transformations, faster development of products and quicker adoption of new technologies.
The pandemic has vastly intensified that need. The pressure on companies has never been greater to remodel their business to fit changing requirements. To leverage this opportunity, they will need a new approach to project management and a fast recipe for skills development.
In The Project Economy, talent managers will seek skills and behaviours needed to succeed in a world that is increasingly driven around projects. Power skills like empathy, collaboration, and communication will be non-negotiable and can make your resume stand out. Technical skills like decision making framework methodology, earned value and cost management that ensure projects are delivered on time and budget are easily learnable.
Some of the foundational skills necessary for a successful and rewarding career in project management can come from anywhere, even from the pandemic as noted earlier. There are several online resources available on PMI’s website to test one’s aptitude for managing projects including the free PMI KICK OFF.
The Nigerian economy could well use some of the skills the youth displayed during the pandemic as it embarks on megaprojects to spur recovery. You might even turn the skills you thought you never had into a successful career.
Joanna Baidu, is the Regional Youth Lead, Project Management Institute