Cultivating The Next Generation of Project Leaders

The next generation of project leaders is already out there — in high schools and universities around the world. One of our jobs at PMI is to help bring them into the profession. PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF) is doing just that — with the support of great partners and some highly innovative programming. Olivier Lazar explains all.

Written by Olivier Lazar | PMI • 13 October 2022

Cultivating The Next Generation of Project Leaders

Cultivating The Next Generation of Project Leaders Imagine you’re 17 or 18 years old and you’re interested in engineering and hot cars.

Now imagine that someone gives you a once-in-a-lifetime chance to design, build and race a miniature Formula 1® car using some of the advanced technology employed by real Formula 1 teams. And you get to race the car you’ve designed competitively at Silverstone, the home of British motor racing in the U.K.

Would that be cool or what? 

The best part of this scenario is that it’s not a fantasy. It’s very real, and it’s brought to you in part by PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF).

In recent years, PMIEF has worked with leading nonprofit organizations around the world to integrate project management into programming for youth ages 5 to 19. It’s all part of PMIEF’s mission to enable youth to realize their potential and to transform lives through project management and PMI’s vision of “inspiring youth to achieve their goals, making dreams a reality.”

“PMI is looking to the future by cultivating the next generation of project professionals,” said Ashley Forsyth, Executive Director of PMIEF. “Our aim is not just to energize the profession by engaging smart young talent. It’s to empower young people who are passionate about social change to drive transformation and help solve society’s biggest challenges.”

In this case, PMIEF has teamed up with F1® in Schools, a not-for-profit organization committed to providing an exciting yet challenging educational experience through the magnetic appeal of Formula 1. Its main objective: to help change perceptions of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) and to encourage careers in STEM fields by creating a fun learning environment for young people.

The project involves some 26,000 schools around the world and culminates in a five-day World Finals event at a Grand Prix venue. This year’s event at Silverstone’s Wing International Conference and Exhibition Centre brought together 53 teams from 25 countries.

Integrating Project Management

Thanks to its partnership with PMIEF, F1 in Schools is integrating project management into its programs. Staff and in-country coordinators have participated in project management training and coaching, and project management has been built into the competition handbook, which will ultimately be used by 1 million youth in more than 50 countries.

Beyond F1 in Schools, PMIEF has partnerships with Junior Achievement Africa and Special Olympics International. In addition, last year PMI launched the PMI Make Reality Challenge — a virtual global hackathon competition for college and university students to develop creative solutions to challenges related to the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs).

In seeking to engage young people, PMI has one important advantage over many other organizations: the skills we teach are immediately applicable to a young person’s life regardless of their age. Just ask Libby Atkin, a 17-year-old student in the U.K., whose team, “SBA Avidity,” won the Best Application of Project Management Award at the Aramco F1® in Schools World Finals, held 14 July in Silverstone.

“I’ve definitely applied some of the principles of project management,” Libby said. “Being at school there is a lot of schoolwork, including coursework on the subject I study. Improving my time management skills and understanding how to delegate time to each individual task has really improved how I tackle things. If I get faced with a challenge or an obstacle, I can now think more critically about the situation.”

Libby served as the project manager on her three-student team, which also included team manager, Missy McArdle, 18, and engineer, Alex Jenkin, 18. All three hail from Scarborough in northern England.

“Project management teaches a number of important life and professional skills,” says Forsyth of PMIEF. “These include team management, organization, time management, goal setting, to name a few. PMIEF is thrilled to see how all the teams in the competition embraced this learning opportunity to understand what project management is and apply it to this exciting and fun STEM challenge.”

Applying Project Management Skills

These sentiments were echoed by members of “Hydron,” the Australian team that was crowned overall winner in the competition.

“I’d really like other young people to know about the utility of project management,” said Will Johnson, Team Principal (with project management specialty), of the Hydron team. “When you actually adhere to these things and set up work breakdown structures, scope statements and other key project management principles, these things can form a really strong skeleton for the team to build itself on. Project management is really important and something that all up-and-coming F1 in School students can really have.”

One other lesson that students in the competition seemed to have learned is the importance of people-centered power skills.

“Teamwork and collaboration have also been really important,” said Libby. “As we’re a small team, we’ve had to collaborate no matter what. Everything gets combined for the end result – it’s a competition at the end of the day, and we all have to meet the same standard. All this has really helped me improve my teamwork skills.”

Could this exposure to project management help refresh the ranks of the profession? Perhaps so, says Libby. “I definitely think project management is a potential career path for me,” she said. “I’m quite an organized person and like things to be in order… I’m interested in the management side of things, and I could see it as a future career path!”

That would certainly be a win for all of us in the project management profession.

Olivier Lazar headshot

Olivier Lazar
Vice President, Youth & Social Impact | PMI

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