Project Management Institute (PMI), one of the world’s leading associations for project professionals has introduced a series of seven courses to improve project management skills in the construction industry. Leading to a Construction Professional in Built Environment Projects (CPBEP) certification, the courses are designed to help project managers improve margins in an industry often plagued by cost overruns and project delays.

The CPBEP is PMI’s first industry-specific solution designed for construction professionals.

PMI created the certification in collaboration with construction industry leaders and consultations with project managers who face the twin challenges of balancing technology and talent. Both Lean Construction Institute and Construction Industry Institute were integral to developing the certification along with Saudi Aramco, the United States Department of Energy, DPR Construction and BHP amongst others.

Technology is just an enabler. It is still people and their skills that are critical to improving project performance. Image credit: StartupStockPhotos | Pixabay

Technology is just an enabler. It is still people and their skills that are critical to improving project performance. Image credit: StartupStockPhotos | Pixabay

The construction industry, like many others, is seeing a rise in new technologies such as drones and artificial intelligence, mobile apps, cloud communication, and data management. Their adoption demands different skillsets to complete projects successfully. Add a diverse workforce, and a new skills landscape begins to emerge. Companies today need professionals with technical as well as power skills to navigate the changing workplace.

George Asamani, business development lead, Africa, PMI, says, “We see improvement in technology adoption, but technology is just an enabler. It’s still people and their skills that are critical to improving project performance.”

A recent PMI survey of more than 40 000 certified project management professionals working in the construction industry found that 70% of construction projects experience scope creep. A further 73% of such projects ended over budget. Moreover, it also found that 72% of construction projects often experienced project delays.

GCR Ratings South Africa in its corporate sector risk score records that risk in the South African construction industry is characterised by the complex nature of work undertaken as well as the relatively low margins that can be extracted. It further goes on to add that lack of skills is especially a risk in the domestic construction sector.

In addition, construction companies face the ongoing threat of delays and cost overruns resulting in loss making contracts and substantial unanticipated cash outflows. Safety and environmental factors are also concerns often leading to large, unexpected, liabilities that damage reputation and add costs. GCR expects that a gradual adoption of technology will increase operating efficiencies, enhance skills, improve sustainability, reduce costs and improve profit margins.

Construction, which contributes 13% to the global GDP and is the biggest, has not been performing well, having clocked only 1% annual growth over the past two decades. Domestically, in South Africa the construction industry has been depressed for several years even before COVID-19 brought the sector to a halt.

Even in good times, PMI’s Pulse of the Profession report suggests that the sector’s wasteful expenditure sits at USD127-million for every USD1-billion spent. This amounts to over USD1.6-trillion wasted annually due to capital projects not being delivered on time or within budget.

“But this doesn’t have to be the industry’s future. With more than 50 years in the project management industry, PMI is uniquely positioned to help equip professionals with the skills needed to transform the industry through developing these innovative learning methods and practices,” adds Asamani.

The sector employs 7% of the world’s working population.

To be eligible for the certification, individuals need three or more years of experience as a project manager, lead or contributor in the construction / built environment. The courses can be taken in any order and present an opportunity for professionals to focus on topics they are most driven to explore. Learners can either complete individual courses and earn specific micro-credentials or complete all courses in preparation for the capstone exam.

Three of the seven courses offer micro-credentials upon completion of a post-course exam. The micro-credentials award a digital badge to show the user’s mastery of the content. Each course explores a specific area of construction project management, such as communication and risk management.

The courses are:

  • Built environment project communication pro: This is a micro-credential opportunity, including an online course and a post-course exam, that teaches how to create a communications strategy and increase stakeholder buy-in for a construction project.
  • Scope and change order management in the built environment: This course covers strategies to develop scopes, manage scope creep, and establish change order processes.
  • Interface management in the built environment: This course teaches how to manage relationships and deliverables among project stakeholders, including improving real-time visibility and oversight and proactively mitigating risk.
  • Built environment performance and materials management pro: This is also a micro-credential opportunity that teaches how to use metrics-oriented processes to increase transparency in projects, reduce waste, and proactively address global supply chain challenges.
  • Contract and risk management in the built environment: This course explores best practices in risk management to implement throughout the entire project lifecycle, including how to manage high-impact risks effectively.
  • Built environment technology and innovation pro: This is the third micro-credential opportunity focusing on how to incorporate modern technologies across various construction projects and organisations.
  • Execution planning in the built environment: This course focuses on new planning and execution approaches to improve project outcomes at all stages of the project life cycle, including Advanced Work Packaging (AWP), Last Planner System (LPS), and more.

The Government, in its latest budget, has allocated R812.5bn for infrastructure projects over the next three years. While this should significantly boost the construction industry, lack of implementation remains a key risk due to fiscal weakness and capacity constraints, including project management skills. If the construction industry is to leverage this spend, it needs to accelerate the adoption of technology and upskill employees particularly project managers responsible for scoping, scheduling, and budgeting.

“Construction is a demanding industry subject to the vagaries of weather, supply chain disruptions, and a host of other often uncontrollable variables. It requires a well-versed project manager to bring the work in on time and within budget,” says Asamani in conclusion.