Will the “real” apprentice please stand up?
The famous show “The Apprentice” whether we liked it or not for us project management professionals, did help to increase public awareness of project managers when Donald Trump would famously designate one of his contestants with this role to coordinate and lead the other contestants. Of course the roles is not a “real” project manager as we know it, but the idea of an apprenticeship for a budding project manager is a idea who’s time has come. For the method in which a junior project management trainee learns the art and trade of project management by hands-on experience while working with a seasoned project management practitioner, usually under a written or implied contract agreement, would allow such an individual to acquire practical skills that would land him/her a real job.
One of the paradoxes of the field is that you cannot really learn and understand project management without actually working in the field, but in order to gain that experience you need to find a job doing it. For those just entering the field, they will usually lack such experience, but then that experience is necessary so that you can actually complete a project diligently. By actually working with a seasoned professional, a person just entering the field could get some hands on experience and get paid doing it as well. After several years of doing this and proving a level of competency, an employer could feel confident that such an individual would be able to manage and lead a project. And this project could be one that needs to be done, but would not be critical as to require a seasoned PM which would also help to free such senior PMs to focus on the more critical projects.
I think this a great antidote to the college degree and certification arms race in which individuals invest a lot of money and time to acquire paper designation that are not real indicators of job performance and competencies. Having an apprenticeship program would greatly enhance and complement the degrees and certifications, and give them more weight.
Here’s a video of an apprenticeship program by APM that highlights what was just discussed:
My current employer has just launched a similar program and I foresee these types of programs growing in the future.