Global Project Management Job Trends 2023
Why Project Talent Is Still in Demand
Despite disruption and uncertainty, project professionals continue to have strong opportunities to advance their careers.
The threat of a global recession clouds all economic projections for 2023 as GDP gains across nearly all countries are expected to slow: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) projects 2.9% economic growth in 2023, which is down from the 3.4% growth expected in 2022. And the outlook is even more sobering for advanced economies that spur much of the world’s project activity. Yet even as many companies buckle up to respond to this downturn, there’s still a serious talent shortage.
According to PMI’s most recent Talent Gap report, 2.3 million people will be needed each year to fill all of the project management oriented positions expected to open by 2030. To remain competitive, companies will need to focus on hiring problem solvers and relationship builders who can help them drive change and deliver strategic value.
And that will sustain demand for project leaders — especially those with the power skills that can help organizations navigate turbulent times. Knowing where opportunities are most likely to bubble up will empower project professionals to find career opportunities.
Across nearly all sectors, communication is the most important power skill to possess, according to project professionals surveyed in the PMI Pulse of the Profession® 2023 report. Overall, 68% of respondents said it was the most critical power skill — followed by problem-solving (65%), collaborative leadership (62%) and strategic thinking (58%).
Mastering such behaviors along with core technical skills will make project professionals more valuable — and could make them less vulnerable in cases where the job market declines. In some sectors, hiring might slow even if project activity stays robust. Case in point: While 27% of IT departments will consider a hiring freeze to insulate themselves from economic downturns, tech companies are planning to increase budgets in the coming year, according to a Spiceworks Ziff Davis report.
What does it mean for your career? Take a deep dive into this outlook that reveals job opportunities — and shines a spotlight on hot sectors and emerging trends — for regions and countries around the world.
Global Project Management Job Trends 2023
We’re all sprinting a marathon, and that’s a recipe for exhaustion.
Rachelle Cooper Kulkarni
South Australia Department for Energy and Mining
Across the region, healthcare is expected to fuel hiring. In particular, Asia Pacific is forecast to be the world’s fastest-growing pharmaceuticals market through 2026, according to a report by Research and Markets. And Grand View Research expects digital health will see a 26% compound annual growth rate through the same time period.
The recent global surge in energy prices is also fueling heightened project activity — and jobs — in the energy sector, “which is going through the biggest and fastest transformation it has probably ever seen,” says Cooper Kulkarni.
Fintech, too, is flush with career opportunities for project professionals. A record-setting US$41.8 billion poured into the sector across Asia Pacific in the first half of 2022 alone, according to KPMG. Payments took the lion’s share of that funding, largely driven by Block’s US$27.9 billion acquisition of Australia-based Afterpay.
But investments in cryptocurrency and blockchain began to cool, suggesting that project talent demand will drop as well. However, KBV Research sees projects that automate financial services with artificial intelligence as a significant driver of the 17.7% annual growth rate expected in the region’s fintech sector through 2028.
Tech skills — particularly data visualization, process automation and AI — can set a candidate apart, even in sectors beyond traditional IT. A recent Willis Towers Watson survey found such tech capabilities top the list of sought-after skills by employers in the region regardless of industry.
“Talking with peer organizations in the Asia Pacific region and looking at project portfolios over the past few years, there’s a massive trend toward data and analytics, with no end in sight,” says Yim. “To increase your chances of landing a project position, familiarize yourself with the respective [terms] and base competencies. This need not be at the level of a data scientist, but you better get ready to converse with specialists about data lakes and data factories.”
For job seekers, all signs point to a time of great change.
“There’s so much activity underway and so much more to come,” Cooper Kulkarni says. Yet while career opportunities may be ample, she’s quick to caution that the roles can be quite demanding, and many companies are weathering high levels of burnout and talent churn. “We’re all sprinting a marathon, and that’s a recipe for exhaustion. There’s a need to also make sure our delivery approach is sustainable.”
China: Belt and Road Reboot
It was a grand vision: a massive network of trade routes stretching across more than 70 countries, bringing with it loads of infrastructure projects — and jobs. One decade later, China’s US$1 trillion Belt and Road Initiative has funded projects across Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America. Yet rising interest rates and a sluggish global economy have slowed project activity and made it difficult for some participating countries to repay their debts.
President Xi Jinping looks to be pressing forward, while also reassessing how to rebuild momentum for the gigantic effort. In November, Xi announced he would consider holding a forum aimed at forging new project agreements and sparking new job opportunities, particularly for those open to managing projects outside of China. The last event in 2019 led to strong project activity, with countries signing more than US$64 billion in new deals.
I’m facing massive risks to project delivery. It’s partially caused by no new influx of bodies and brains.
Beyond energy, the hiring heat of other sectors often hinges on that age-old qualifier: location, location, location. German organizations in finance, manufacturing, education and health are staring down deep talent shortages, impacting almost 80% of ManpowerGroup survey respondents. But in France, employers in IT, construction, hospitality and manufacturing are scrounging to find the talent they need.
One other twist: Europe’s 6% unemployment rate is at odds with the fact that 3% of available jobs in the region remain unfilled — signaling a mismatch between the skills organizations are seeking and the market’s available talent. Aiming for greater alignment, the European Commission has declared 2023 the European Year of Skills and proposed a far-ranging program of initiatives, including €580 million for digital upskilling.
Regardless of sector, project professionals on the prowl for new career opportunities should make networking a priority, says Bennis. “Attend industry events to make connections, engage with colleagues and coworkers, build relationships and present your view to the world,” he says. “It might sound like a cliché that soft skills are important, but they are. If the technical side is fulfilled, the next thing people consider is: How are their social skills?”
And that’s where power skills like communication and collaborative leadership can make the difference between landing the job — or not.
Sylvain Costy, an IT project manager at Inetum in Paris, France, agrees. Those with the right combo of technical skills and power skills stand out in any type of job market, he says. “Hiring managers now are looking for candidates with a business background, project management experience and a good resistance to stress.”
We haven’t seen project-heavy organizations pulling back. In fact, some industries have more major project activity underway.
London, United Kingdom
Latin America: In Focus
Here’s a peek at some sector-specific opportunities in a trio of Latin American countries.
Mexico: Building a Better Future
The construction sector grew just 1% in Mexico last year, but that pace should pick up in 2023. The US$151.2 billion industry is expected to increase more than 2% annually through 2026, according to Global Data. Part of that sustained momentum stems from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s late-2021 decree for federal agencies to grant automatic approval for any government works initiatives. One such high-profile project: the US$5.6 billion Felipe Ángeles International Airport near Mexico City inaugurated in March 2022.
Brazil: Banking on Startup Success
Brazil’s 9.8% unemployment rate isn’t hitting all sectors equally. Consider fintech, which has surged on the heels of changing national financial regulations aimed at boosting inclusion in the banking system. The country’s largest digital lender, NuBank, now has 70 million users, many of whom had previously been unbanked. In October, the Warren Buffet-backed fintech unveiled plans to roll out its own digital token in 2023.
Argentina: Renewed Hope
Year-round sunshine in Argentina’s northwest region and steady winds in the south make it ideal for renewable energy projects, though the country lags behind many of its neighbors. In 2017, the federal government set out to change that, launching a program aimed at shifting 20% of the country’s electricity to renewable sources by 2025. Long pandemic lockdowns slowed progress on that goal but didn’t halt it. And along with government projects, Chinese solar investments will spur more activity — and project jobs. In October, the Argentinian government announced US$21.7 million in funding for rural solar energy projects across 19 provinces.
Many people in Latin America say there are no jobs, but that’s not true. There’s a mismatch between the available workforce and the skills needed for open positions.
Jose Octavio Rodriguez, PMP
Mexico City, Mexico
Construction-related industries have found the Gulf region a very significant market.
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Throughout the Middle East, there’s a surge of residential developments being launched or in the planning pipeline — and those projects will create new job opportunities, says Miguel Monteiro, senior director, development at Emaar Properties, a multinational real estate development company in Dubai, UAE.
In search of project talent, companies and governments are working to attract workers from across borders, he says. “Construction-related industries have found the Gulf region a very significant market with strong incentives for relocation,” Monteiro says. “Technology is another sector where states are providing very strong incentives for relocation, increasing access for entrepreneurs in this field.”
Infrastructure needs are also driving project investments in Egypt. The country’s construction industry is primed to grow by an annual rate of 10.6% through 2026, with the government committing to building hundreds of schools, hospitals and water treatment plants, along with prioritizing transportation upgrades. Support from the World Bank Group is helping to fund US$4 billion worth of infrastructure projects in some of the country’s poorest areas.
However, Egypt and other oil-importing countries in the region, such as Tunisia and Morocco, are more susceptible to a host of outside factors, from inflation and the war in Ukraine to the continued effects of COVID-19. Without the cushion of oil revenues, government and business leaders in these countries may be forced to make tough decisions about where to spend — with many projects potentially on the chopping block.
That kind of flux is likely to continue rattling markets across the Middle East and the rest of the world. One thing remains certain, however: Many organizations are emerging from the pandemic with great hope — and great ambition. Those ambitions are driving a need for project professionals with the skills to help build for the future.
“All types of construction projects are generating a lot of project management opportunities,” says Yacoub Tayeh, PMP, PMI-RMP, project coordinator, Nokia Al Saudi, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. “These unique, competitive projects develop quickly, and the transformation in the region requires high-level management skills to succeed.”
Organizations face many novel challenges today that project talent is uniquely fit to tackle.
Taiwo Abraham, PMP
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
North America: Exploring New Frontiers
Here’s a snapshot of some future-focused issues likely to inspire project activity — and career opportunities — in 2023 and beyond.
Making Net Zero a Reality
There’s no shortage of businesses that have pledged to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in the near future. Making good on those climate promises requires dramatic pivots: reshuffling supply chains, developing new materials or switching energy sources. And in each case, the answer lies in projects.
The Next Space Race
SpaceX, Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic are just a few of the private companies transforming the aerospace industry — and they’re hungry for project talent that can make their out-of-this-world ambitions a reality. Project professionals with strong collaboration skills and an innovative mindset will be needed across aerospace manufacturing, logistics and satellite communications. One stat says it all: Commercial activity in space has more than tripled since 2005, hitting nearly US$357 billion in 2020.
Infrastructure for Tomorrow
Across North America, public and private organizations are looking to upgrade or replace outdated roads, water systems and power grids. One major driver: Within one year of the massive U.S. infrastructure law being signed, the White House had announced over US$185 billion in funding and more than 6,900 specific projects, reaching 4,000-plus communities across the country. Likewise, Canada is looking to build on infrastructure commitments that have already resulted in 84,000 projects worth CA$126 billion over the past six years.
Most organizations are now into rebuild-and-reinvent phases focused on business model innovation and growth.
How will companies channel that investment boost? “Healthcare providers are now focusing their R&D efforts on distinct segments such as active pharmaceutical ingredients, injectables, transdermal and other specialty drugs,” he says.
Attrition could open new doors, too. Looking to fill public-sector vacancies, India unveiled an ambitious plan in October to hire 1 million government workers by September 2023. Across the country’s private sectors, 66% of employees said they might leave their job in the near future as they reassess their career paths and work-life balance, per a McKinsey survey.
India’s turnover rate — the world’s highest — will undoubtedly put pressure on companies to retain top talent. And that means new opportunities for project professionals willing to build their skill sets.
The payoff is not only empowered employees who can “stand up if they fall in the face of uncertainty,” Mondal says, “but also an agile and effective workforce.”
Hiring managers tend to be seeking project managers who also possess leadership skills, together with strategic and business management skills.
East London Industrial Development Zone
Another red-hot sector is IT, which has seen “remarkable momentum as global companies open or expand their operations in the region,” says Devan Naidu, project management office head at the East London Industrial Development Zone in South Africa. “The large numbers of highly qualified professionals, together with a high unemployment rate and inexpensive labor, makes it lucrative for companies to invest here.”
Google, for instance, opened a product development center in Nairobi in late 2022, just three years after building a major R&D complex in Ghana. Microsoft recently launched its own R&D facility in Nairobi, and Visa opened its first innovation center last year, aiming to create commerce and payments solutions across the continent.
What does it take to make the most of those emerging opportunities? “A project management certification gives one a competitive edge in the job market,” says Haghe Adan. Experience with AI or software development can likewise provide a boost, even for those positions not strictly in the IT sector.
Project managers should also look for ways to deliver value through the PMI Talent Triangle®, says Naidu, which requires leaning into new ways of working, power skills that facilitate working with others and business acumen.
“Just having technical project management skills isn’t enough,” says Naidu. “Hiring managers tend to be seeking project managers who also possess leadership skills, together with strategic and business management skills.”
Opportunity Is Knocking
Despite gloomy economic forecasts around the world, a demand for project talent will persist. Project professionals with strong power skills and a change-ready mindset can help organizations stay resilient in 2023 and — more importantly — advance their careers well beyond this year.