In 2019, a large-scale study from Consultancy.uk, set out to discover more about the world of ‘project management’ in UK businesses. They estimated the gross value added (GVA) to the UK economy from project management to be a whopping £156 billion, with 2.13million full-time workers said to be employed in the sector.
When you begin to understand what it is that a project manager actually does, it becomes more and more clear that the role is vital in almost any industry. For those in the engineering sector, a project management role could be involved in so many different areas; from construction, manufacturing, mechanics, IT software and more, but what they do, the skills required and how to become one contains many overarching themes.
Here at BMR solutions, we take a further look into the impressive world of engineering project management.
What Does a Project Manager do?
Whatever the size of the project, from car design, to software development, to architecture, organising disaster relief or strategies to combat climate change, someone is needed to oversee and supervise every stage of the process. This includes the initial research phase, the planning and development of intricate designs, the implementation of the project and reviewing the performance.
It involves a whole host of expert knowledge and skills. Risk assessments, contingency plans, budget and financial control, optimising staffing and processes are all elements that contribute to the overall role of a project manager. They are needed to streamline every aspect of a project journey for optimal performance and productivity.
If that sounds like a big ask, it’s probably because it is. Part of the reward of such a complex role is in the expected salary.
With roles varying from large scale projects within vast businesses to small scale projects, salaries tend to also vary and will depend on experience. Many job adverts will either offer a vague guide to pay-scale or none at all until later in the application process. That said, the latest research from Indeed.com, in September 2020 based on job adverts and anonymous salaries submitted to their website over the last 36 months, suggests a project manager in the engineering sector earns an average of £47,000. Glassdoor came up with a very similar figure of upwards of £49,000 based on 94 salaries.
With all this in mind, to be successful as an engineering project manager, we take a look at the skills required and the demands of the role.
Skills and Demands of the Role
The beginnings of any project come from an idea. An idea that, if not already, needs thorough research, before you can even begin planning on how to implement it. The research may only need to be small, but it needs to demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed project and the project manager needs to lead this process.
Part of undertaking any project will require thorough risk assessments. This is something any engineering project manager needs to have experience with, particularly as it can involve legalities when it comes to rules and regulations.
Should one or more aspects of a project fall down, a project manager needs to ensure they have an alternative back-up plan. The plan should be ready to go rather than a response to an issue. A successful project manager is always proactive rather than reactive.
Detailed plans and designs
A project manager may be involved in the drawings and specifications of a design or at the very least, needs to manage the team who is responsible and be in agreement with the plans drawn out. This cannot be done if the project manager does not have fundamental knowledge of the engineering involved in the project.
Any project in any industry needs to take into account budget and cost implications for effective financial planning. A project manager may have experience with certain software that can assist them in the financial planning of the project such as XERO or SAGE.
Staffing and equipment needs
An understanding of the skills and expertise of staff ensures that a project manager allocates the most appropriate people to a task. This could also apply to allocation of machinery, software or any equipment that could be used, to ensure maximum productivity and performance.
Point of contact
A project manager is the go-to contact for any aspect of any task. For complex projects this can involve liaising with a large number of staff amongst many different teams, communicating effectively between them and negotiating when necessary.
Knowledge of appropriate software
There is a huge range of innovative software designed to support project managers in every aspect of their project. Some may be more general and appropriate for a range of industries, whilst others are more specific. If you’re looking at applying for a new role, make sure you read the spec carefully as knowledge of a particular software is likely to be listed in the person spec if it is a requirement.
Time management and organisation
Managing a project, large or small, requires you to juggle many different skills and often all at once. Time management and organisation skills do not need to be good; they need to be exceptional.
Ultimately, a project manager is a leader. Whilst you may have knowledge of engineering or software, good time management and exceptional organisation skills, you cannot successfully project manage if you do not know how to lead. This means being the decision maker, being resilient to set backs, being proactive not reactive, being able to motivate a team and at all times lead by example.
Journey to Engineering Project Management
Obtain a bachelor’s degree in Engineering
Without the knowledge of engineering fundamentals, it would be near impossible to orchestrate a project and a bachelor’s degree can be expected as a requirement of any engineering role.
Masters and Doctorates
Project management requires so much more than the engineering fundamentals. When it comes to actually managing a team, the skillset is much more diverse and is why many of those in the role will have gained further accreditation through a masters or even doctorate specifically in ‘engineering project management’.
Courses and Certificates
There are numerous courses you can undertake to further develop the skills and experience required for an engineering project management role and to set you above any competitors for a role. A quick Google search will provide you with a whole host of opportunities. If you have a very specific career path in mind within the vast diversity of engineering, make sure the course you pick is suited to that path.
Proven industry experience in delivering an engineering project
The length of time varies with some companies looking for a longer history of experience within engineering projects, usually upwards of 3 years. This may be within a team for a number of successful projects, as an assistant project manager or actually managing smaller projects. That said, there are opportunities for those just leaving university as employers are investing in graduates who will gain their experience on the job.
Get Started with BMR Solutions
A final top tip from us, would be to check out the latest job opportunities and get your highlighter out. Highlight the skills and experience you already have. That way, it will be clear which skills you may still need gain evidence of and you can begin to plan how you will do this as you continue your journey to your dream job.
For some of the most exciting opportunities in engineering and manufacturing, from the finest and most reputable technical employers, why not take a look at the latest exciting opportunities on our website today. For further support and information, register online and one of our friendly team will be in touch shortly.
We are ready and raring to work with you to pair you with your dream job in the South West.