Building Life Skills Through Hands-On Project Management
In order to gain certain life skills, the best teacher is often hands-on experience. For example, a person can spend hours watching YouTube to learn different golfing techniques; but the only real way to successfully swing a driver is to pick up a club and practice. In the same manner, one can spend hours reading up on keys to growing great tomatoes, but nothing beats digging in the garden.
Similarly, many of the life skills necessary for project management are better taught—and learned—through an experiential approach. And the earlier these skills are acquired, the sooner young people will be positioned for success in everyday life as well as in a future career.
Embedding these life skills, which are also essential project management concepts, into student curriculums helps to prepare youth to succeed in an increasingly competitive world. Following are four project management skills that, once learned, help to unlock the potential of youth to become successful, confident adults.
- Collaboration – Working alongside others to produce or create something
Great managers are also great collaborators. In short, collaboration between team members and across an organization generates more ideas and breeds innovation. When youth learn to collaborate in the classroom, they are ultimately able to transfer that skill to an array of other environments—on the field, at the workplace, and within friend and family circles. When incorporated into youth education, teaching students to apply project management through a well-organized, age-appropriate project example helps them to develop, refine and excel in this skill. Ultimately, they are better prepared to collaborate in their daily lives and later in the workforce.
- Critical Thinking – The objective of analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment
A great lesson for young people to learn is, “There’s no status in the status quo.” In other words, questioning current processes, projects and practices is an essential step toward making them better. Being able to think critically encourages creativity and helps youth learn to uncover new ways to respond to questions and find alternative solutions to problems. A skill inherent in successful project management, critical thinking enables young people harness the ability to analyze, interpret, present and evaluate key data. From determining where to go with friends next weekend to contributing to company goals in the future, mastering this skill helps young people structure a successful life.
- Creativity – Using imagination to visualize future possibilities
For improving processes, solving problems and finding better ways to complete tasks, creativity is key. And fostering an environment that encourages creativity not only helps youth develop mentally and socially, but helps them think about their future and how they can execute their projects and ideas. Whether identifying a project, writing the scope statement, or creating the work structure, youth are using their imaginations to bring projects to life – while at the same time building confidence in their ability to provide creative, valuable input to the project along the way.
- Communication – Imparting or exchanging information in a clear manner
The globalization of projects in a highly digital world has placed more and more influence on the importance of effective communication at home, in school, at work and in one’s local community. The availability of communication technology such as email, audio conferencing, social media, web-based meetings and video conferencing has made virtual teams a popular option, both at school and at work. The challenges presented are mainly in the communication domain, including a possible feeling of isolation, gaps in sharing knowledge and experience between team members, difficulties in tracking progress and productivity, possible time zone difference and cultural differences. Youth can practice and effectively improve communications skills by participating in a project team while also strengthening their relationships with their peers, classmates, teachers, and parents, and preparing for success later in life.
The earlier that youth learn important skills like these, the greater the possibility for their success in a fast-paced, ever-changing business world.
This short video, entitled “PMIEF: Inspiring Youth Through Project Management” offers a glimpse of how teaching these essential skills is a launch pad to future success. And for more ways to use project management for social good, visit the PMI Educational Foundation.
Digital Exclusive article developed for Project Management Institute, Inc. by staff content writer Deryn Zakielarz.