World faces growing project management talent shortage

26 August 2021 4 min. read

A major project management shortage could cost the global economy $345 billion by 2030. A new report suggests that Europe stands to be one of the regions most heavily impacted by the shortage, as the only continent with a declining project management workforce.

In broad terms, project managers (PMs) are responsible for planning, organising, and directing the completion of specific projects for an organisation, while ensuring these projects are on time, on budget, and within scope. Throughout recent years, the importance of project management has been proven time and again, as growing numbers of firms embark on high-stakes digital, cultural and organisational transformation projects.

Demonstrating the value of PMs, project management now represents one of UK’s largest areas of business, amid the increasing ‘projectification’ of work. It is so important that according to one study in 2019 from PwC, the gross value added to the UK economy by project management was estimated to be £156 billion. In spite of this, though, the industry faces a number of major hurdles in the coming years, which may lead to the squandering of a huge chunk of such value.

GDP at Risk in US$ Billions 2019-2030

In the same year, the Association for Project Management (APM), the industry’s collective body in the UK, stated 52% of businesses had to contend with uncertainty caused by government policy changes, such as Brexit-related immigration edicts, which made the sourcing of talent more difficult. Now, though, a new report has found that the industry’s skills gap extends well beyond the shores of the UK.

The Project Management Institute (PMI), a global association for project professionals and changemakers, has released a 10-year outlook of project management-oriented employment. At a global scale, the report demonstrates the continual gap between the demand for project management skills and the availability of talent. The report noted that an increase in the number of jobs requiring project management-oriented skills, higher demand due to economic growth, and retirement rates will create the global need for 25 million new project professionals by 2030, meaning 2.3 million project managers and changemakers will need to fill project management-oriented roles every year to keep up with the demand.

This shortage of talent may pose a considerable risk to organisations as they rely on project teams to implement strategic initiatives on time and on budget. Indeed, the report asserts that the talent gap is likely to impact every region, resulting in a potential loss of up to US$345.5 billion in global GDP by 2030.

Percentage Growth of PMOE in Projectized Industries 2019-2030

Some regions will fare worse than others, however. In Sub-Saharan Africa, increases in the total workforce of projectised industries will compensate for any GDP risk due to a talent shortage, making it the only region to not lose out due to the shrinkage of project management oriented employment (PMOE) – however, China is the single economy that looks to lose the most. Potentially, it could forfeit more than $148 billion by 2030 due to its shortfall in PMOE, while Europe is the next worst off, taking a $83 billion hit. North America meanwhile faces a $53 billion GDP loss.

According to the researchers, Europe may struggle to shrug this off more than other regions, as it is the only one set to see its PMOE shrink by 2030. While China and North America will both see moderate growth in the sector, Europe’s is set to decline by 7%. Even so, the size of China, North America and Europe’s economies mean its PMOE sector will yield huge results. The total GDP of projectised industries is estimated to increase from $24.7 trillion in 2019 to $34.5 trillion in 2030 – with those three regions enjoying the highest improvements in productivity.

“Projects and the changemakers behind those projects play a vital role in the global economy and society as a whole. And while project managers are the quintessential changemaker, any individual who possesses project management skills can help steer change,” said Joe Cahill, Chief Customer Officer of PMI. “Upskilling the workforce and empowering a new generation of talent with project management skills will be critical in narrowing the talent gap and creating positive impact. Organisations can help empower employees by providing learning opportunities, but can also spot qualified candidates by seeking out those who hold project management-related certifications.”