Skilling up

The Government of Malawi's Income Generation Public Works Programme (GPWP), Malawi

The Government of Malawi's Income Generation Public Works Programme (GPWP), Malawi

Truly successful major projects are those that attain the highest engineering and project management standards and add value by delivering effective skills development to communities.


Leaving a skills legacy

When executed successfully, the ‘skills legacy’ of a major project ensures the effective, ongoing operation and asset management of the completed project.

Besides the obvious benefit of maintaining and improving skills levels across a workforce or community, there are numerous indirect advantages, not the least of which is succession planning.

“It’s one thing to deliver a successful project but the experience gained while delivering that project needs to be properly captured and passed on to those who will be involved in the operation of the finished project, which is usually the local community and local technical staff,” explains Peter Blersch, Aurecon’s Major Projects Leader, Water.

This is particularly true of developing countries, where the infrequency of major projects makes it vital that these opportunities are used to improve the skills levels of everyone involved — local staff throughout the project team and, where possible, members of the community.

In fact, experience in developing countries shows that staff retention is often a direct result of the investment made in ongoing training and skills development.


The benefits of skills development

In developing and developed countries, one of the most powerful benefits for project owners who create a ‘skills legacy’ is reputational gain. Governments and the private sector all have training agendas. Being able to align with these agendas allows a consultant to become a trusted partner who delivers not only skills development but also major projects that have an ongoing development legacy.

“If we fail to ensure that projects address the creation of economic, social and environmental gains for all stakeholders, we run the risk of not meeting the needs of the client, the workforce or the community,” says Blersch.


Mechanisms for delivering skills developments

An important aspect of improving a project team’s skills is that of recognising and rewarding innovation and improvement.

“When a project manager prioritises and champions skills development, the team is encouraged to follow suit and actively focus on finding better methods or processes to achieve the determined outcomes,” says Anton van Langelaar, Aurecon Project Manager, Water.

“In terms of project staff, scheduled formal and informal mentoring and coaching sessions during the project are effective methods for ongoing skills transfer from more experienced to less experienced staff. It is also vital that formal project induction occurs during which staff are briefed on the mentoring/coaching process, associated objectives and any evaluation procedures,” explains Van Langelaar.

In addition to this, “health checks” during the currency of the project, staff mobilisation and demobilisation interviews, will help to establish the value the project’s skills development contributed to team members on a particular project, and will provide input for improving future skills development programmes.


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