Reasons for Optimism on this World Youth Skills Day

Celebrated annually on 15 July, World Youth Skills Day celebrates the importance of equipping young people with the skills they need for the future. The day carries special meaning for the project management community, which faces a looming talent shortage in the years ahead. In this post, Olivier Lazar lays out the stakes and explains why there is cause for optimism on the talent front.

Written by Olivier Lazar • 14 July 2023


If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you’ve undoubtedly seen this statistic: the global economy will need 25 million new project management professionals by 2030. And perhaps you, like me, have asked the somewhat worrisome follow-up question: where will all this new talent come from?

I’m feeling better about the answer to this question having just returned from Berlin and Istanbul where I saw the next generation of project professionals in action. And let me reassure you – they are very impressive indeed.

In Berlin, I was part of a delegation of PMI Educational Foundation (PMIEF) members attending the Special Olympics World Games. Special Olympics International is one of the partners PMIEF works with in teaching project management skills to young people, and, while in Berlin, we reviewed some 45 community service projects developed by Special Olympic-affiliated student teams, each having fulfilled a UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).

In Istanbul, I attended Junior Achievement Europe’s Company of the Year Competition, where I presented the “Best Application of Project Management Award.” More than 150 teams from 33 countries applied.

At both events, I saw young people running projects and entire companies that are achieving outstanding results. Among the Special Olympic projects, for example, were initiatives to bring clean water to underserved communities and efforts to enhance educational programs for local youth.

The timing of the Berlin and Istanbul events couldn’t have been better because 15 July is World Youth Skills Day – which commemorates “the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work, and entrepreneurship.”

Building Skills with the PMI Educational Foundation

The United Nations General Assembly declared the first World Youth Skills Day in 2014. At PMI, of course, we’ve been helping raise the skill level of youth and young professionals for far longer. That’s the very purpose of PMIEF, which was founded in 1990 and whose motto is “project management as a skill for life.” And the PMI Academic Team has supported project management learning in academic settings for even longer.

In 2023 alone, PMIEF has awarded more than US$5 million in grants, helping students incorporate project management skills into their personal and work lives. Through its partnership with Special Olympics International, for example, PMIEF has served more than 24,000 youth with and without intellectual disabilities.

PMIEF’s work with Junior Achievement (JA) includes partnerships with JA Worldwide, as well as JA Europe, JA Asia Pacific, JA Americas, JA Africa, and INJAZ Al-Arab. More than half a million young people have learned project management skills as part of their JA involvement.

In addition to the great work of PMIEF, PMI also supports robust outreach to schools and universities, providing resources for students and faculty to add project management to their curriculum. More than 150 graduate programs have been accredited to date, and we’re actively working to expand the impact of these programs.

Recently, PMI teamed up with a leading international university group to bring the latest best practices, teaching methods, and project management research to more than 1,000 universities around the world. We’re piloting the program with one chapter per region through the first quarter of 2024 and hope to scale it globally after that.

PMI NextGen Insight Teams Tap Into Young Professionals' Mindset

At PMI, we’re also committed to helping young project professionals acquire the skills needed to excel. To tap into the mindset of these young professionals, PMI has created the PMI NextGen Insight Team, a group of global volunteers who help PMI understand the trends and issues affecting students and early career professionals.

“There are a lot of studies on how the younger generation is more enthusiastic and eager and has more passion to pursue their dreams,” says Khulan Batkhuyag, a 31-year-old communications strategist from Mongolia and member of the PMI NextGen Insight Team. “There are certain things that you can do with passion, but there are also things that you can’t get done only with passion. I would highly recommend young professionals acquire skills that solve problems.”

Increasingly, those skills include power skills – the behaviors that facilitate working with others and that are essential to project success. Ninety-two percent of young professionals say power skills allow them to work smarter. Relevant skills include communications (cited by 69 percent of young professionals), problem-solving (69 percent), strategic thinking (61 percent), and collaborative leadership (58 percent).

Six Ways to Empower Aspiring Project Managers

As we celebrate World Youth Skills Day, what can you and your organization do to encourage students and young professionals to acquire must-have project management skills? Here are six suggestions – all of them based on research:

  1. Provide training and development on power skills. Only 29 percent of training is spent on power skills.
  2. Reimburse young professionals for certifications that help strengthen power skills. Seventy-six percent of young professionals say they are more likely to pursue certifications if their employer offers reimbursement.
  3. Discuss the importance of power skills and bake them into the organization’s DNA. Sixty-one percent of young professionals say power skills were discussed when they were hired or promoted.
  4. Emphasize a culture of mentoring and coaching. Mentoring is crucial for young professionals as 53 percent say they are more likely to leave a company if they are dissatisfied with mentorship opportunities.
  5. Support networking opportunities. Similarly, 47 percent of young professionals say they are likely to leave a job if they don’t have satisfactory networking opportunities.
  6. Promote professional organizations and certifications. Young professionals believe that membership in professional organizations helps them with professional development (43 percent), networking opportunities (48 percent), and overall fulfillment (59 percent).

Emphasizing power skills and prioritizing opportunities for young professionals to level up their careers will be pivotal in closing the talent gap and helping the next generation of project professionals thrive in their careers. As I often say, the next generation of project leaders is already out there – in high schools and universities around the world. Our job at PMI, and across the project management world, is to bring these budding project leaders into our profession.

Olivier Lazar headshot

Olivier Lazar
Vice President, Youth & Social Impact | PMI

Related Posts


Four Essential Skills to Future-Proof Your Career

Employers are looking for people with multiple skills who can deliver extra value in everything they do. Learn how to avoid skill gaps in your career.


The Top 10 Project Management Skills You Need in Your Toolbelt

PMI CEO Pierre Le Manh discusses how the project management landscape is changing and what skills will be most in demand in the future. Read it here.


What is Wicked Problem Solving?

Tom Wujec explains how Wicked Problem Solving can be used to break down and solve the most stubborn challenges. Learn more here.