In response to graduates looking to diversify and consolidate their workplace skills, London South Bank University (LSBU) is offering a new flexible learning masters course that increases employability – and that could eventually rival the more traditional MBA.
The specially designed MSc in Business Project Management gives students the skills to manage and transform business operations. “Projects are not about ‘business as usual’ – they’re about business change,” says course director Gary Bell.
The ability to innovate and manage change in a constantly morphing, high-tech world is essential to maintaining business competitiveness – which, in turn, ensures profitability and the addition of long-term value to the organisation.
He makes the distinction between the skills involved in being able to manage a project and the skills required to identify the right project in the first place.
“Doing the project ‘right’ – that’s associated with traditional project management,” he says. “But you need to choose the right project as well. For me, the study and research of project management is a growing area that’s only got going in the past couple of years, as people have realised that the ability to choose the right project links in with other fields, such as business strategy, business analysis and business change. That’s where this course fits in.”
The smartest businesses know they need to enhance their positions to increase their competitiveness and, ultimately, their profit – and this is reflected in the type of employees they are looking to recruit. Bell argues that a graduate from the MSc in Business Project Management will be more employable than someone from a traditional MBA course, because they will already have the skills needed for the workplace.
“Employers are starting to reject graduates with a traditional MBA in favour of graduates who can hit the ground running,” says Bell, who believes the majority of today’s taught MBA programmes are too focused on teaching graduates about the maintenance of the business process, rather than equipping them to make a real impact on the business’s bottom line.
“We try to be focused on practical skills, on methodology and technique – we ‘skill people up’ in all the areas of project management,” he says.
LSBU’s course is new this year, and Bell is constantly reviewing its content to ensure it’s as relevant to business and as up-to-date with current practice as possible.
“I’m always looking at potential new modules and new ideas,” he says. “I can see business strategy and business analysis being brought in to the field, for example.”
This willingness to adapt to changing business practices is part of LSBU’s drive to ensure graduates are equipped with the right skillset for the modern workplace; and because LSBU offers flexible learning, with once-a-month study sessions on a Friday and Saturday, students already in business can fit their study around their work commitments.
“We have two intakes annually, and this year we have ten full-time and ten part-time students, from a diverse range of backgrounds,” he says. “We have people from engineering, IT, healthcare, and even from within the university.”
The current cohort – particularly those already in employments – are already using their new skills.
“Part-time students can look at their businesses, and think about if there’s a need for change, and look at the costs and the benefits – and often they’ll see that the benefits will outweigh those costs,” says Bell.
He points to one student currently researching the possibility of introducing solar technology to his company, and travelling abroad to see how other businesses have managed that.
“The environment has changed and big companies are having to adapt,” concludes Bell. “MBAs do have their place – they can give you the skills to manage everyday operations – but there is a new world view, and you can see that with this new interest in project management.
“This perspective is emerging and growing,” he adds. “In fact, I think project management courses will eventually be as big and as popular as MBAs are now.”
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