Friday, 17 February 2017

Project Management: Certification or Education?

When I decided to venture into project management some years ago, the first step I took was to register for a training program and it turned out to be one of the best career decisions I ever made. This training opened my eyes to a profession which by the virtue of its importance should be as prominent as economics and Information Technology in the development of any nation.
But how was the knowledge of project management being sold to Nigerians? I observed that, beyond the very common 35-hour PMP trainings offered by many consulting firms across the country, no training service offers real Project Management education where the students are taught the skills of a project manager through workshops, case studies and so on, except a program by the Project Management College UK., a three month course called Advanced Diploma in Project Management delivered then at their Lekki-Lagos study center.
The Advance Diploma by PM College UK which cost about four hundred thousand naira (N400,000) in 2010, I thought was VERY expensive by Nigerian standards, but I later realized, after getting exposed to the world of project management training internationally how fair the pricing was, especially after attending further trainings in the USA myself. The truth is, Project management education is not cheap, except you’re satisfied with attending fast track PMP or PRINCE-2 certification exam preparation trainings which offer nothing except “exam prep” without any guarantee of exam success.
I got curious, how do we bring affordable Project Management education to Nigerians? PM education focuses on proficiency, it offers you the skills required to manage projects successfully, it takes time, you can’t rush it like the exam prep, you need facilities, templates and course materials to learn with, not just by studying the PMBoK or cramming the PRINCE-2 manual, you need practicing project managers as facilitators to help create the scenario expected in a project management office (PMO) for the students to gain richly. Then my brainstorm began.
Why is Project management skill still so important to me? I had a critical look at my environment. Unemployment has been a major problem in Nigeria; in fact, statistics from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) showed that an average of 1.8million youths has been graduated into the Nigerian labour market as at the year 2011. According to the chairman of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Employment Programme (Sure-P) under the previous administration of President Goodluck Jonathan, not fewer than 40 million people were unemployed in Nigeria as at 2013. These were very alarming figures!
The National Bureau of Statistics shows that unemployment rate in Nigeria had increased to 23.90% in 2011 from 14.60% in 2006, with figures forecasted to have risen to 24.30% by December 2012 and above that by December 2013. Despite a notable change in the political system after the 2015 general elections which promised economic transformation, youth unemployment rate has continued to rise with statistics showing a 24% rise as at July 2016.
The Honorary International Investors Council (HIIC) linked the growing unemployment rate to the rising number of poor skilled workforce in the country, so, it is somehow right to believe that the employment problem in Nigeria is not entirely because there are no job opportunities, but lack of skills to fill the available positions. Then, why don’t we as a nation pay more attention to empowering our youths with skills rather than the exaggerated degree certificates from our tertiary institutions where we consistently produce poorly skilled and unemployable graduates?
I observed as well, that the entrepreneurial attitude of an average Nigerian graduate is very poor; most only consider it an alternative means of living after failing to secure regular paid employment. This is quite unfortunate in a world where many countries like China depend on the growth of SMEs for the development of their nation’s economy; with obvious results there for us all to see.
The reasonable solution would be for the government to improve on its synergy with the various industries in order to build basic education geared towards enhancing the capacity of our workforce for the industrialisation of our economy. We need to develop more job creators than job seekers, more entrepreneurs than employees. There are jobs in Nigeria, available for those who can create them, but they need to be educated on how to identify opportunities and above all how to acquire skills to start-up and manage their ventures.
Professional certifications are good too, but how many certified project management professionals are actually skilled without practical experience? I’ve seen people study vary hard to pass professional examinations mainly for the purpose of seeking new opportunities either in form of new jobs or promotion in their current jobs, but most of the time they lack requisite competence to back up their application. It turns out that these certifications are fast becoming as exaggerated as some of our university degrees and we need to start looking in the direction of proficiency.
Here in Nigeria, we run a capitalist economy, where all means of production like land, labour and capital is freely owned by individuals or organizations and they are at the liberty of using it whichever way they chose to. There also exists economic freedom where individuals or organizations are free to produce what they want and consumers are also free to consume as they want, a system which directly affects demand and supply and also allows people to do whatever kind of job they prefer or invest in any business they so wish. Fortunately for us, our huge population favours local consumption which consequently encourages the profit motive which exists in a capitalist economy like ours. This means entrepreneurs have a big chance of avoiding major loss provided we can manage the dynamics of our business terrain and the competition which is common in this system.
Like Business Development, Economics and Information Technology, Project Management is one of such vital skills which I have always believed can be very valuable to entrepreneurs, but the first hurdle is to address its own challenge which is to bring affordable Project Management education to Nigerians”. Life itself is a project and we need to begin to see all our endeavors as individual projects which require skills to manage properly. However, in the context of economic development and youth empowerment, we should consider a kind of project management education which stimulates entrepreneurship in the hearts of our youths, thus, making them more of job creators than job seekers.