2017 Jobs Report
Despite Ripples of Uncertainty, Demand for Project Talent Will Be Robust in Many Nations
BY KATE ROCKWOOD ILLUSTRATION BY PETER AND MARIA HOEY
Zoom out far enough, and it looks as if there's nothing but endless opportunity for project talent on the horizon. This optimistic view is reflected by economic sunshine: The World Bank projects global GDP growth at 2.8 percent for 2017 and 3 percent for 2018, a welcome rebound from last year's 2.4 percent.
But project professionals in particular know that the forecast varies by locale. Zoom in on certain regions, and uncertainty and instability are easy to spot. China's decelerating economy isn't expected to pick up speed this year. Brazil's recession and political woes slog on. And the U.K.'s Brexit hangs like a question mark—not only over Europe, but in the minds of business leaders abroad.
Here's the project management career outlook in eight countries.
Sources: GDP: International Monetary Fund Median project practitioner salary: Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey—Ninth Edition, PMI, 2015
Hyderabad Metro Rail project
Gujarat International Finance Tec-City
Still Growing Strong
India's economy, population and demand for project talent just keep growing. The International Monetary Fund has projected India will continue to be the world's fastest-growing large economy this year, and the country's urban population is expected to swell by 165 million by 2030. Infrastructure projects sustain much of that growth: The Hyderabad Metro Rail project, the world's largest public-private partnership in the metro sector and largest elevated metro, is slated to transport more than 1.7 million commuters once complete this year. The Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, now under construction, is just one ambitious megaproject in a proposed portfolio of 100 smart cities across the country. By 2025, the McKinsey Global Institute estimates, India will have 69 cities with a population of more than 1 million each.
The urban transformation will fuel job opportunities on infrastructure projects and will help India's construction market grow nearly twice as fast as China's over the next 13 years, according to PwC's Global Construction 2030 report.
“Engineering, procurement and construction projects are hot favorites for new project management positions,” says Sanjeet Teri, senior project controller, Noida, New Delhi, India.
But India will need more than buildings. Urbanization will trigger a dramatic uptick in projects in telecommunication, transportation, water and sanitation, and energy. Yet shifting government regulations and frequent cost reductions can trigger challenges, Mr. Teri says. The cost reductions occur because of increasing competition between contractors who lower their margins to secure contracts. Practitioners with experience in successfully navigating such scope changes and budget contractions will likely stand out from other applicants.
“I think India is going to take a leap in project management in the coming years, due to rising concerns about the professional management of projects and the surge in demand for practitioners with a higher level of maturity,” he says.
“How will the role of project manager evolve in 2017?
“The value and respect for project managers is growing at a very fast pace in South Africa. As companies begin to understand the value of having proper processes and governance in place for projects, project management will mature in these companies.”
—Darpana Vallabh, PMP, project manager, central finance project management office, First National Bank, Johannesburg, South Africa
“Project managers must take on a more strategic role. Traditionally, project managers used to wash their hands and walk away when a project was completed, leaving their organizations to take care of the benefits or the loss. Now, project managers are expected to ensure the business benefits estimated at the project justification stage are delivered. Success is no longer limited to time, cost and scope; it will also be measured on how they deliver value through benefits realization management.”
—Madhu Fernando, PMP, CEO, Innova Strategies, Colombo, Sri Lanka
Whether it's a refugee crisis or terror attacks in France, outside influences have shaken the confidence of project sponsors and C-suite execs: Almost two-thirds of German managers, for instance, fear Brexit could drag down their business, according to a survey by Computer Sciences Corp.
But there's plenty of optimism in the face of uncertainty that likely will translate to project opportunities. According to Eurobarometer, 86 percent of Germans are upbeat about their national economy. And talent recruitment remains strong. Nearly a decade after the global financial crisis erupted, the country's employment rate this year is projected to return to its pre-crisis level, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development projections.
In particular, Germany's IT project management environment holds promise. When the World Economic Forum compared the IT landscape in Germany to other similar economies, it found a more robust supporting infrastructure, higher environment of IT business usage and greater benefits realized from IT investments. That might explain why more project sponsors are giving the green light to projects—and headcount increases.
Skyscrapers in Frankfurt, Germany
“The drive to become digital is driving IT projects across all different industries and sectors, which consequently spurs the need for more project managers,” says Thomas Zimmermann, PMI-ACP, PMP, project portfolio manager, Karl Storz GmbH and Co. KG, Tuttlingen, Germany. “Both the healthcare and the automotive industries in particular suffer from a lack of experienced project leads, due to the huge demand to become more digital.”
To grab a hiring manager's eye, project talent also must develop and show off strategy chops. “Strategic alignment and the increasing interconnection between project, programs and portfolios is of growing interest,” says Martin Kontressowitz, PMI-RMP, PMI-SP, PMP, project manager and project management office lead, Operational Services GmbH and Co. KG, Dresden, Germany. As the profession continues to mature, he says, interviews are more focused on nuanced technical skills, such as requirements analysis and contracting and procurement. “Simple as it sounds, there's a considerable shortage of some skills—technical skills, people skills and leadership skills.”
“The drive to become digital is driving IT projects across all different industries and sectors, which consequently spurs the need for more project managers.”
—Thomas Zimmermann, PMI-ACP, PMP, Karl Storz GmbH and Co. KG, Tuttlingen, Germany
All eyes are on China, where economic growth is expected to decline for a seventh straight year. While business leaders around the world brace for the impact the continued slowdown will have on global projects, organizations within China are likely to sharpen their project focus—and raise the bar for project talent.
The first recorded decline in housing output and a considerable slide in the larger construction sector occurred in 2015, according to PwC. But the firm's 2016 report indicates the country's transition to a more consumer-driven economy could create new project opportunities, particularly around retail stores and social infrastructure.
“Functional buildings, such as schools, hospitals and factories, will be in demand, and renovation projects for existing buildings are also going to be very busy,” says Alice Chow, director of program and project management in East Asia, Arup, Hong Kong. Healthcare is another sector that's sure to see a swell in the project pipeline, she says.
But with fewer projects overall, job seekers can expect greater scrutiny. “In the past, anyone could call themselves a project manager,” Ms. Chow says. “But the remaining investors and developers are sharp, and they understand the real skills needed to plan and implement a project.” Employers are particularly keen on problem-solving skills, and practitioners should be able to talk about project challenges they encountered and overcame, she says.
And despite the global anxiety over China's sluggish growth, it's still common for project stakeholders to span country borders—either managing Chinese initiatives abroad or interacting with foreign sponsors. Strong communication skills are crucial on any project, but practitioners who are fluent in multiple languages are typically in higher demand.
Construction workers during lunch in Beijing, China
“How will the role of project manager evolve in 2017?
“I see organizations embracing more of the agile concepts, though not fully adopting agile [approaches]. There will be a demand for project managers who can adapt the best practices from agile and incorporate into a hybrid model where project efficiency is improved but predictability of outcomes can be maintained.”
—Brandon Lane, PMP, general manager, distributed energy projects, Duke Energy, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
“Technical skills will no longer be adequate. To be successful in this competitive market, project managers need to demonstrate business and leadership skills to be able to support longer-range business objectives.”
—Yamanta Raj Niroula, PMP, project officer, International Organization for Migration, Abuja, Nigeria
Traffic on the move in Lagos, Nigeria
More Than Oil
Plunging fuel prices have forced Africa's largest economy to look beyond oil now more than ever to avoid the threat of recession and spur economic growth. An increasingly diversified portfolio has created a wave of projects ranging from infrastructure to mining—and an increased demand for project talent.
“The project management profession has become so popular over the past five years that a huge number of professionals are switching careers to join the field,” says Oluwatosin Agbetusin, PMI-SP, PMP, PgMP, director, consulting and systems integration programs, PMI Global Executive Council member Ericsson, Lagos, Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari's government has kick-started project funding, approving a three-year federal budget in May with a record NGN1.6 trillion slated for capital projects—triple the government expenditure of the previous budget. The country also is seeking US$7 billion in foreign investment for projects to build a more robust mining industry.
Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics predicts that the project spending spree—along with a focus on cutting wasteful spending—will spark an annual average of 5.4 percent expansion between 2017 and 2020. More projects in the pipeline mean more hiring of project talent. “There are currently more project management jobs available than experienced professionals to fill them,” says Mr. Agbetusin.
But as the profession matures in Nigeria, so do the expectations of hiring managers. Project management credentials that might have been viewed as a bonus a decade ago are now listed in job advertisements as requirements, he says. And risk management skills are more apt to be discussed now than in the past, when attention was largely limited to schedule and cost control.
“There are currently more project management jobs available than experienced professionals to fill them.”
—Oluwatosin Agbetusin, PMI-SP, PMP, PgMP, Ericsson, Lagos, Nigeria
It's impossible to press pause on a region's entire slate of projects, but Brexit—the U.K.'s vote to leave the European Union—has sent out palpable ripples of hesitation. “There's a level of uncertainty now, which will result in an increased number of projects put on hold or even canceled,” says Isabella Stefan, CAPM, PMP, technology strategist, PMI Global Executive Council member Microsoft U.K., Reading, England.
Construction is one sector that hangs in the balance. Pre-Brexit, the U.K. was on pace to overtake Germany as the largest growth market in Europe and the world's sixth-largest construction market by 2030, according to PwC. “But while construction used to be a growth market for project managers, Brexit may mean a decline in the coming years,” Ms. Stefan says. It will take years for the U.K. to actually leave the EU, so the question mark could hang over the sector for some time.
Still, hiring in many project-intensive sectors remains as healthy as ever. “Defense companies will always have an appetite for projects, and manufacturing seems to be an industry where there is a growing number of projects and demand for project management,” she says.
Also look for opportunities in cybersecurity, which remains a top worry in the C-suite—with good reason. The Cisco 2016 Annual Security Report found that the U.K. has a less mature security infrastructure compared with other countries of its size and economic scale, making it a target for attacks. That risk could drive a broader portfolio of IT security projects—and job openings for project professionals with the right skill set.
“How will the role of project manager evolve in 2017?
“Project management is a skill now considered essential at a mid- to senior-management level, but with the introduction of agile delivery methods in IT initiatives, the role of the project manager is not always clear. Agile adoption is reaching its tipping point, but the implementations vary and some patterns will stabilize over the coming years. There also will be a shift from traditional command and control to servant-leadership style of project management.”
—Sandeep Mathur, PMP, PgMP, program director, First Data Corp., Sydney, Australia
“Instead of committing to a single project management methodology, successful project managers will help their organizations choose between methodologies and frameworks to achieve a balanced portfolio with a higher success rate.”
—Jason Legum, PMP, program manager, administrative office of the U.S. Courts, Washington, D.C., USA
A neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The Olympics are history—so the race to complete infrastructure projects for the Games no longer can distract Latin America's largest economy from a grim reality. A recession that officially hit Brazil in August 2014 lingers on, and government corruption has created leadership turmoil. National unemployment is expected to climb to nearly 12 percent this year. With jobs and wages in decline, the economy—and project opportunities—keep contracting.
“Project management, as a career, is being deeply affected by this economic scenario: Less investment means fewer projects being rolled out because companies are in standby mode, waiting for funding,” says Alex Julian, PMP, head of change operations and cross-product services, Bradesco Bank, São Paulo, Brazil.
While many capital-expenditure projects have been shelved or delayed because of a lack of funding, organizations are doubling down on transformation initiatives that can cut inefficiencies and streamline operations. “Brazilian companies are looking for project managers who think with an owner's mindset, always looking for ways to provide efficiency gains and do more with less,” Mr. Julian says.
Applicants must learn to switch lanes, too. Slumping construction and oil and gas industries are forcing some project professionals to flock to IT, telecommunications and financial services. Having a proven track record in stretching resources and motivating team members will make the transition easier, Mr. Julian says.
“Some companies were less concerned about cost or scope in the past because there was lots of money, but now budget restrictions mean more CEOs are interested in controls, processes and methodologies,” Mr. Julian says. “That contributes indirectly to the project management profession growing in maturity here.”
“Brazilian companies are looking for project managers who think with an owner's mindset, always looking for ways to provide efficiency gains and do more with less.”
—Alex Julian, PMP, Bradesco Bank, São Paulo, Brazil
Spread the Wealth
Sharply sagging fuel prices have forced the Middle East's second-largest economy to frantically diversify project portfolios beyond oil. The strategy is spurring new opportunities in a highly competitive country where project talent is well compensated.
Only Qatar offers a higher median salary for project talent in the Middle East, according to PMI's 2015 publication Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey—Ninth Edition, the most recent data available. And for practitioners managing projects with a budget over US$10 million, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) takes the top spot for compensation, paying US$95,274 on average.
To shift away from oil, project sponsors have launched a raft of high-profile megaprojects, including a US$3 billion amusement park, a US$6 billion complex of 2,600 villas, and a US$3 billion, 75-acre (30-hectare) town square in Dubai. Other initiatives aim to transform the UAE into a knowledge-based, innovation-driven economy. And Dubai's Smart City initiative, launched in 2014, has sparked hundreds of new projects designed to make everything from transportation and high-speed internet to energy and infrastructure more efficient.
“There's been some new activity in the job market for project management positions in manufacturing and infrastructure, which are part of the drive for diversification away from oil,” says Joel A. Eacker, PMP, PgMP, a senior vice president at CH2M who oversees projects in the UAE. He says that healthcare, food production and chemical companies are other local sectors hungry for project management skills.
“Strong project controls, such as experience in planning or managing costs and schedule systems, are always a very strong positive for project management professionals in the UAE marketplace. But risk managers are at a premium in very complex and large projects and programs,” Mr. Eacker says.
Rendering of the Town Square project in Dubai, United Arab Emirates
“How will the role of project manager evolve in 2017?
“I see 2017 bringing more push for additional project management skills and certifications. Beyond the Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential, I expect more organizations here will seek out practitioners with specific certifications in risk, scheduling, program management and portfolio management.”
—Oluwatosin Agbetusin, PMI-SP, PMP, PgMP, director, consulting and systems integration program, Ericsson, Lagos, Nigeria
“Fast-changing market conditions impact projects in progress. To cope, project managers will need to elevate leadership skills to keep projects strategically aligned.”
—Sean Lavery, senior project planner, WorleyParsons, Marshalltown, South Africa
The slow but steady recovery of the world's largest economy has fostered upbeat prospects for project professionals this year—and beyond. Management occupations—including IT project managers and construction project managers—are expected to grow roughly 6 percent by 2024, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And the country's overall unemployment rate has continued to inch downward since its global crisis peak of 10 percent in 2009. The rate dropped below 5 percent last year—the first time since 2008.
Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, USA
“Project talent that's not willing to adapt might have fewer opportunities.”
—Brandon Lane, PMP
“In an increasingly competitive market, organizations will have to lower their margins to win contracts. That creates a high demand for project professionals who have the skills to efficiently manage projects. Project talent that's not willing to adapt might have fewer opportunities,” says Brandon Lane, PMP, general manager, distributed energy projects, Duke Energy, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA.
Having the right credentials also can help you get recognized—and command a better salary. The Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification is one of the top seven highest-paying certifications, according to Global Knowledge's 2016 IT Skills and Salary Report. Five others on the list are IT or security-related.
Beyond security, IT project opportunities are both varied and robust, ranging from autonomous driving vehicles, data analytics and the Internet of Things to the convergence of IT and financial services or healthcare. The latter continues to add jobs at a record clip, outpacing other sectors, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Another project-intensive sector, construction, also faces a bright future. The BLS predicts project management employment will grow by 5 percent by the year 2024, and construction associations already have warned of a growing shortage of experienced project talent with the right skill set.
These five emerging countries have growing economies—and serious project management opportunities.
Apartment buildings frame Bitexco Financial Tower in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
2017 GDP Growth Forecast: 6.2%
Project potential: Low wages and a young workforce are spurring construction of new factories in Asia's latest manufacturing powerhouse. Infrastructure projects delivering new roads, ports and power plants will create a demand for project talent.
2017 GDP Growth Forecast: 2.6%
Project potential: Mexico is launching a spate of ambitious projects and courting international project investors. A government investment program aimed at making Mexico a logistic and transportation hub spans more than 200 projects with a total budget of MXN1.3 billion.
2017 GDP Growth Forecast: 5.3%
Project potential: Indonesia has become a stealth center of construction projects. The Megaprojects Database values the country's total portfolio of megaprojects at US$330 billion, with roughly US$88 billion in the project pipeline.
2017 GDP Growth Forecast: 3%
Project potential: Latin America's third-biggest economy has become a magnet for foreign investments: everything from manufacturing and mining to financial services. And the president has earmarked US$70 billion to build roads and reliable infrastructure—the lack of which has created project obstacles.
2017 GDP Growth Forecast: 4.3%
Project potential: The land of deltas and deserts is becoming a project oasis. Robust infrastructure investment and technological improvements help Botswana rank as the most transparent emerging economy, according to Cushman & Wakefield. That designation translates to less risk for foreign sponsors—and more hiring.
The first step in getting a chance to shine is knowing where the action is.
These countries are projected to have the highest GDP growth rate this year.
The world's 10 largest economies, based on 2017 GDP forecasts (in U.S. trillions of dollars).
The sectors expected to have the highest demand for project management talent in 2017 and beyond include:
China's building craze might be slowing, but there's still a global surge. Construction output is forecast to grow 85 percent by 2030, to US$15.5 trillion, according to PwC.
The issue remains a top project focus for many organizations. Nearly 60 percent of organizations are constantly upgrading with the best technologies available, according to Cisco's 2016 Annual Security Report.
AEROSPACE AND DEFENSE
The industry is packed with digitization projects—and job openings for skilled practitioners. Nearly 1 in 3 organizations report that they already have an advanced level of digitization, and 3 in 4 expect to get there within five years—the highest expectation of all the sectors.
New tech and regulatory changes are causing massive disruption—and job opportunities. Seventy percent of business leaders at financial organizations worry that a lack of the right skills will pose a threat to the company's growth prospects.
Climate change and technological advances are driving interest in—and expectations of—energy projects. Nearly 60 percent of energy CEOs report that they've launched initiatives to integrate tech into how they assess and respond to stakeholders.
72 percent of CEOs are concerned about the availability of key skills. Focus on these to get a job application to the top of the stack:
A strategic mindset is the most desired, yet hardest-to-find, skill among U.S. employers, according to Bloomberg. And it shows: Only 44 percent of projects are highly aligned to organizational strategy.
Nearly 2 in 3 CIOs expect digital disruption to bring significant change to their business models, products and services.
59% of hiring managers in the U.S. believe people skills are in short supply.
The right location and certifications can boost salaries.
20% The average salary rate increase that holders of Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification earn compared to those without it.
The countries with the highest median salaries for project management professionals. (All salaries have been converted into U.S. dollars.)
Sources: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; Global Construction 2030, PwC, 2016; Annual Security Report, Cisco, 2016; 2016 Global Industry 4.0 Survey, PwC; 19th Annual Global CEO Survey, PwC, 2016; The Bloomberg Job Skills Report 2016; Harvey Nash/KPMG 2016 CIO Survey; LinkedIn; Earning Power: Project Management Salary Survey—Ninth Edition, PMI, 2015
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