International job report
by Simon Kent
As the slump subsides, companies are finally starting to do some hiring—and project practitioners are often at the top of the list.
“More than ever, strong project management is essential,” says David Leyshon, managing director of technical recruitment agency CBSbutler, Redhill, Surrey, England. “Companies don't want to waste funding on projects that just bring them more risk.”
Even as opportunities arise, though, competition is fierce and not all markets are recovering at the same rate. Check out our region-by-region breakdown:
“[Australia's] project management employment in 2010 would be best described as soft to steady.”
—Greg Hedlefs, PMP, Callaur pty Ltd., South Brisbane, Australia
THE MIDDLE EAST
Without a doubt, the United Arab Emirates was hit hard last year. The global financial crisis, tight international credit, falling oil prices and deflated asset prices caused its GDP to drop nearly 4 percent in 2009.
“Everyone has been affected by the recession,” says Arnold Rørholt, CEO of Norcon plc, a Limassol, Cyprus-based project management and outsourcing services consultancy with project offices in the Middle East.
Long-term prospects remain strong, though, with many projects in the United Arab Emirates delayed but not aborted, Mr. Rørholt reports. And while demand for project managers in the private sector has declined, it's on the rise in the public sector.
In many cases, that demand is being met by project management talent from outside the area—with some new strings attached.
“The United Arab Emirates attracts highly talented individuals and businesses to run projects for them when they don't have the capacity to do it for themselves,” says Mr. Rørholt. “But they are learning how to control those companies more effectively.”
Much of the spotlight has been on Dubai since the government sought to delay payment of US$60 billion of its debt in November 2009. Mr. Rørholt predicts Dubai will recover and the ongoing developments will be sustainable, largely due to projects tied to the tourism industry and the United Arab Emirates being the financial hub for the region.
Sports are proving to be a savior in South Africa. As it gears up to host the World Cup this year, the country is home to some of the largest capital projects and construction works on the continent, says Amir Sharif, professor and director of master of business administration programs at Brunel University, London, England.
The diverse infrastructure and transport projects the event requires will likely not only boost South Africa's economy but job prospects for project managers as well.
Still taking a hammering from the financial crisis, Europe as a whole isn't expected to recover until the second half of the year. Some countries such as Spain, where the jobless rate has hit 19 percent, will probably take longer to rebound than others. In Norway, though, unemployment remained about 3 percent.
Across Europe, the outlook remains positive for project managers, says Mr. Leyshon.
“There's significant demand for project management skills in most sectors, whether for infrastructure, new oil and gas, and even the launch of renewable energy initiatives,” he says.
Still, as more European companies centralize their human resources, job opportunities outside of organizational headquarters are scarce, says Michael Boyle, director of portfolio management, applications, Europe, Middle East and Africa, at BCD Travel, Vienna, Austria.
“Hiring local project managers hasn't been on the drawing board,” he says.
The United States has endured its longest and deepest recession since World War II, according to the Congressional Budget Office, which is forecasting only 1.5 percent real growth in GDP in 2010. But even though unemployment has hovered near 10 percent this year, expertise in project management may actually offer some job security—if candidates can prove they have something to offer a company.
The first blows of the recession knocked project managers as hard as everyone else, says Darrel Raynor, PMP, managing director of consultancy Data Analysis & Results Inc., Austin, Texas, USA.
“Many layoffs were deep and broad, and those left were barely able to keep the firms running,” he says. “Now that efforts are expanding more, project managers will be needed to coordinate the still-scarce [skilled] people resources.”
Project practitioners in Canada and the United States should try targeting areas likely to see growth with the economic turnaround. Mr. Raynor's hit list includes medical, alternative energy and government-led programs such as defense.
There's still an awfully high level of supply in the project manager talent pipeline, which, ironically, is having a detrimental effect on projects, says Karen Jahnke, PMP, consultant and chief solutions officer at Triumvirate Consulting Group LLC, Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA.
“For those projects that do move forward, hiring managers are overwhelmed by the number of highly qualified candidates,” she says. “The hiring process itself has slowed the progress of these projects.”
The glut of talent makes it all the more difficult to demonstrate value to potential employers. Professional development and personal branding will be required to thrive in the new normal, Ms. Jahnke says.
Expect to see more “help wanted” ads. Those at the highest levels of business are finally ready to call off the hiring freeze, according to the 13th Annual Global CEO Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Although 25 percent of the 1,198 CEOs surveyed between August and November 2009 said they plan more job cuts in 2010, 39 percent expect to boost headcount, with those in emerging markets the most optimistic. In Asia Pacific, 49 percent of CEOs anticipate increasing staff levels, while 48 percent in the Middle East and 45 percent in Africa said they foresee doing the same.
Brazilian and Indian CEOs led the pack, with 27 percent and 23 percent, respectively, expecting their organizations' headcounts to grow by at least 8 percent. Conversely, job levels in Spain and Italy are only expected to increase minimally.
Business and professional services were the most bullish, with 45 percent of CEOs in those sectors predicting they will add jobs. IT and financial services are also expected to raise their headcounts significantly. Metals, entertainment, media, automotive and utilities bring up the rear, although these CEOs still anticipate at least a small pickup.
Even those project managers who make the cut will likely be offered temporary positions. “I believe that the United States will become a free-agent nation with less permanent employment and more project- and consultant-based opportunities,” she says.
If one global crisis doesn't get you, another will. Such seemed to be the fate of Latin America. While dodging the worst of the recession, many countries in the region hit a brick wall in the form of the H1N1 virus, also known as “the swine flu.”
“H1N1 literally stopped the development of many projects in Argentina,” says Alejandro Aramburu, PMP, senior project manager at IT provider NEC Argentina, San Luis, Argentina. Chile was hit at least as hard, while Brazil, Bolivia and other nations in the north part of the continent were affected to a lesser degree, he adds.
If you're out of a job, stay productive.
Project managers laid off in the United States need to prepare for any contingency. “Plan for a minimum of 18 months unemployment,” says Karen Jahnke, PMP, Triumvirate Consulting Group LLC, Waukesha, Wisconsin, USA. “This is a good time for continuing education or investing time to obtain a Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential.”
“The majority of new project manager positions [in Singapore] are in the public sector and the financial sectors.”
—Evelyn Chin, Singapore
Overall, 2009 saw many Latin American countries continue more or less on track, thanks to a strong public-sector spend. The most significant impact of the recession was caused by the uncertainty among North American and European firms that canceled or suspended projects, according to Mr. Aramburu.
Even with its project partners ailing, Latin America should be right up there with India and China as locations offering the most job opportunities, says Mr. Leyshon.
Backed by rising stars India and China, Asia Pacific ranks as one of the hottest markets for project management jobs—and it's probably only going to get hotter.
China remains a “powerhouse,” according to Mr. Sharif. Significant investment in projects across industries should lead to continued job opportunities.
Things are looking up Down Under, too. Australia has been protected from the worst effects of the global recession due to its strong economic position before the crash and its trade links to China, says Greg Hedlefs, PMP, owner of IT consultancy Callaur pty Ltd., South Brisbane, Australia and president of the PMI Queensland Australia Chapter.
Substantial—and secure—government spending is likely to be the main support to the economy and project growth well into 2010. A large chunk of this is the AU$26.7 billion Nation Building Program, which calls for sizeable spends across the transport, clean energy, IT and health sectors.
All of that bodes well for job prospects, but that's not to say the Australian workforce didn't suffer.
“Overall, project management employment in 2010 would be best described as soft to steady, whereas the 12 months prior to the global financial crisis it would be described as buoyant,” Mr. Hedlefs says.
As in any market, job seekers should have “an up-to-the-minute understanding of their particular industry and trends” as well as network and maintain contacts, he says. “Australia, while geographically large, is a small enough market for reputation and personal contacts to be very important.”
For all the buzz surrounding it, India, too, has taken its fair share of hits, reports Ravindranath Palahalli, PMP, a senior director of quality engineering at Yahoo! India Research & Development, Bangalore, India.
Hiring of project management talent in the country has been “frugal,” he says.
Although many countries are relying on their governments to spend their way into economic recovery, the situation is reversed in India: “The private sector is leading in terms of investment,” he says. “The public sector will catch up in time.”
The best opportunities currently lie in infrastructure—roads and the energy sector, in particular hydro-electricity. And IT jobs are “opening up slowly” as well, Mr. Palahalli says.
Singapore hasn't fared as well. The country saw a 2.1 percent dip in GDP last year and project management positions weren't spared.
“The demand for project managers declined sharply from the first quarter to the third quarter in 2009,” says Evelyn Chin, a Singapore-based project manager recently made redundant.
Demand is slowly returning, albeit at a low level. Again, with so many skilled competitors, securing work can be difficult, so project managers need to prove their expertise.
“The majority of new project manager openings are in the public sector and the financial sectors,” says Ms. Chin, who estimates half of those positions either require or prefer a Project Management Professional (PMP)® credential.
On the tech side, many project management positions require “solid technical knowledge” and network infrastructure experience.
Shifting economic tides have no doubt altered the project landscape around the world. The good news is that demand for project management skills seems to be a constant. PM
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