Diane Stafford

New demands for project managers

Updated: 2013-04-17T04:11:37Z

By DIANE STAFFORD

The Kansas City Star

In the pit of the recent recession, job loss support groups teemed with project managers. Now, some of the same companies that cut those jobs are hiring again.

The turnaround is good news for workers who have both industry specific and cross-disciplinary skills. They’re needed, in essence, to help the trains run on time.

At the University of Kansas, Herb Tuttle, assistant dean of engineering for the KU Edwards Campus in Overland Park, saw a growing job market demand for project managers in his field. He led a push to begin offering evening classes leading to masters of engineering degrees in project management and masters of science in project management.

The specificity of the degrees shows the increasingly complex world of project management. Project manager skills need to be both wide and deep, and depth is particularly needed in science, technology, engineering and medicine.

“You have to know the technical stuff but also be able to communicate it in a cross-disciplinary way,” Tuttle said. “We believe you have to know it before you can manage it.”

Advanced education may help, but that doesn’t mean every former project manager needs a master’s degree to get back in the fold.

“I’m seeing openings in health care, IT, construction – across the board, really,” said Nancy Petersen, president of the 1,300-member Kansas City Mid-America Chapter of the Project Management Institute.

Petersen said she’s even seeing recent college graduates get hired for project management positions, provided they have the right business and communication skills.

Many of today’s hot jobs – and the projections for the next 10 years – give an edge to workers who can “pull it all together” to bring innovations to market. That’s what a good project manager does, and that’s why it’s a brighter job field.

To reach Diane Stafford, call 816-234-4359 or send email to stafford@kcstar.com. Follow her online at kansascity.com/workplace and twitter.com/kcstarstafford.

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