If you’re mentoring a Project Management apprentice, you want to give them as much practical experience and responsibility as you can.
Beginning to build their autonomy away from their mentor is key for the successful development of the apprentice. While you still want to be there to offer a guiding hand and further information, you also want them to feel confident enough to act under their own steam.
Here are some responsibilities that you can delegate to your Project Management apprentice to really show them the ropes.
Defining Task Timelines
In the grand scheme of your overall project, there are many small tasks that need to be completed. As your apprentice joins the team and gets to know the timeline of various suppliers, they will be able to judge when these tasks should be completed.
This should be learned through periods of guidance, as the apprentice becomes more familiar with the different stages of the process. Be sure to teach them the communication methods that they will need to gain this information initially, like questioning suppliers and asking for updates.
As they progress, it’s time to hand these smaller duties over to the apprentice. Start off with the simple tasks, as they’ll be more likely to gauge these correctly.
As part of the PRINCE2 methodology, the scope should be considered when allocating other resources. What is this project really going to bring to the table and improve about your organisation?
In order to assess this, and potentially convince the C-suite, you have to measure the impact that such a solution will have. For instance, you want to change the way that a certain process is done which will save each worker 5 minutes per day. From there, you can calculate what this costs in equivalent wages and weigh this against the cost of the project.
Naturally, this is a simplistic example, a great deal of research actually goes into the facts and figures around the scope. Get your apprentice on board with making these evidenced based cases for improvement. Show them the formulas they need to work it out and hand this responsibility over to them.
This is another task that can be delegated to your apprentice and give them the first step into the world of negotiation. By scheduling meetings and asking for quotes, the apprentice acts as a point of contact for your organisation. Don’t limit them to making cups of tea; give them real responsibility.
You can give them templates and lead by example for these communications. Start them off with easy tasks, then they can gain confidence in speaking with suppliers. Then, when the time comes to putting their negotiating training into action, it’s not a totally alien scenario.
Risk assessment is a core module of the Project Management apprenticeship and it’s something that your apprentice can begin to learn right away. In the early stages, you can talk them through various projects and ask them to highlight where they think that there is an element of risk. They may even highlight things that you hadn’t thought of.
As the apprentice progresses through their training, the types of risks and opportunities that they can identify will become more complex. By giving them the forum to voice their opinions, you can build their confidence through the course of the qualification. Correcting them in a constructive way will ensure they continue to expand their knowledge base.
All employees are responsible for time management, either on a personal or organisational level. Instilling good time management practices can benefit the apprentice and allow them to apply this to their projects.
If time management fits into your company culture and you should communicate these values to your apprentice. For workplaces that are more lax with personal timekeeping, but strict on project timekeeping, ensure that your apprentice knows when this is important.
When creating a timeline for the project, the apprentice will then be more aware of building in additional time as insurance. We all know how quickly these additional resources can be used up during the course of the project!
Your apprentice can use their initial timeline to track the progress of the project. If unidentified risks occur, then this may set the project timeline back so they should be ready to adjust this when required.
Identifying key performance indicators and tasks through the timeline allows the apprentice to check if this is running to schedule. These concrete indicators remove speculation from the equation, as it’s clear to see the anticipated completion and compare it to the actuality.
According to the PRINCE2 methodology:
“Planning must be continuous throughout your project. Many things will happen during the project that will force you to make controlled changes to your plans. No plan can (or should) survive in its original form from the start of the project to the finish.”
Reiterate this to your apprentice; they shouldn’t be disheartened should their plan have to change during the process.
Once your project is fully underway, you can rely on the apprentice to report back to you on the progress. This can begin with basic reporting duties, then progress to include more detail.
Getting hands-on experience of reporting back on project progress is invaluable for apprentices. As they continue through their training, they will learn how to improve their reporting skills. Constructive feedback is key to helping these apprentices to gain the right skills.
Eventually, they can take these reporting skills to the next level by presenting to shareholders and senior members of staff.
If the outcome of the project will require members of staff to change their existing processes, then an implementation guide can smooth that transition. This is a suitable task for a Project Management apprentice to take on, as they will be fully involved in the process.
User guides have an important role to play in the implementation of a project, as they can dictate whether it is successful or not. If members of staff don’t understand or don’t like to use the new system, then you may find that it falls by the wayside in favour of more familiar methods.
Where these aren’t necessarily required, documentation of the project can still take place. This makes it simpler for those outside of the initial planning sphere to understand which steps have been taken and why.
Both with internal and external projects, it’s essential to gain feedback from those most immediately impacted. What you think may be a simple conclusion may be alienating for them, so you need to get outside experience.
There are many ways that your Project Management apprentice can assess and collate this feedback. Tools like Doodle are free and allow you to collect anonymous feedback with ease. They can also run focus groups for more involved feedback from individuals.
This can then be factored into any reporting that they are undertaking. Creating further recommendations and suggestions for improvements will kick off another cycle of development in the project.
As many apprentices are experiencing their first foray into a new professional working environment, they’re filled with new ideas and motivation. Make the most of this and you will find that this attitude can be contagious, and you may find you're getting more out of all members of the team.
Once the apprentice has had time to settle into the role and come out of their shell, they can be active in the team’s motivation. This can come in the form of speaking at meetings, discussing the project with colleagues and updating others on the progress.
We all have off days, so there may be times at which you have to bring this out of your apprentice. However, research has shown that 73% of businesses reported that apprentices have improved staff morale overall.
These responsibilities will give your apprentice the practical experience that they need to underpin their off-job training. Monitor their progress and feed back to give them autonomy; this will turn them into your model co-worker.
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