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Project management contributes £156bn to UK economy

Apr 10, 2019

  • Study highlights an increase in a ‘project led’ approach to business with scale and budget of projects set to rise

  • Demand for project management likely to exceed available skills

  • Future skills gap could influence the rise of the ‘accidental project manager’


New research, commissioned by the Association for Project Management (APM) and conducted by PwC UK, has for the first time revealed the scale of the contribution the project profession makes to the UK economy. 

The new report, entitled ‘The Golden Thread’, has identified that project management in the UK generates around £156.5 billion of annual Gross Value Added (GVA)* and that an estimated 2.13 million full-time equivalent workers (FTEs) are employed in the UK project management profession.

This means around 7.9 per cent of UK employment (full time equivalents FTEs) delivers almost nine percent (8.9%) of total UK GVA.

The new APM and PwC report seeks to highlight the contribution of the project profession to all aspects of UK plc, and reveals that the profession generates GVA that far outstrips other cross-business activity such as design, law and marketing.

Debbie Dore, chief executive of APM welcomed the report stating:

“Project management has for too long been cast as a ‘Cinderella’ or ‘hidden’ profession, working hard behind the scenes to ensure other’s success. But this new report recasts the profession into the role of a ‘golden thread’ - a seam that runs through UK plc, helping to develop new services, drive strategic change and sector-wide reform. In short, this report finds that the project profession is a thread truly woven into the fabric of UK societal and economic success.”


Having established the real value of the profession, APM, the chartered body for the project profession, is now building on these findings to raise a red flag, warning of the factors that could inhibit the potential growth of the profession’s economic contribution. Of particular concern is the potential for a growing skills gap which, if not addressed, could lead to the rise of the ‘accidental project manager’ - employees without any recognised professional standards or training, who are given project management roles - decisions that can often jeopardise project success.

Debbie Dore, explains:

“Our report suggests that the contribution from and demand for the project profession is more extensive than many commentators thought and is set to increase. This could lead to demand for qualified and experienced project personnel starting to outstrip supply - ultimately leading to the failure of increasing numbers of projects. That’s why this report highlights to business, government and the education sector, the importance of training, development and professional standards (such as chartership) as the best way to develop a talent pool that is to scale and fit for purpose in today and tomorrow’s world.”


Measured optimism

PwC interviewed over 400 businesses for The Golden Thread and concluded that, as recognition of the importance of good project management grows, so too does the level of optimism among organisations in all sectors about the future of project management. 40 per cent of those interviewed in this research predicted a growth in projects, and 34 per cent were expecting project budgets to grow over the next three years.

However, the report concludes that challenges remain - with over half of organisations (52 per cent) expressing concern over the current uncertainties caused by government policy - and just over one third (35 per cent) ranking this as the single greatest challenge of the past three years – with 56 per cent of businesses forecasting that this will still be an issue by 2021.

Skills shortage

Skills and capability shortages were also cited in the report as a potential barrier by a third of organisations questioned. Having access to enough people with the right project management skills and capabilities in the UK is a concern for 39 per cent and financial pressures leading to severe cost containment issues is a worry for 37 per cent. 32 per cent and 39 per cent of businesses respectively expect these to continue to be a challenge in the next three years.

Sectoral trends

Types of projects undertaken vary from sector to sector, but overall IT and digital transformations and new product development projects tend to dominate with 55 per cent and 46 per cent of organisations respectively having undertaken these types of project in the past year. Perhaps not surprisingly, in the construction and local government sectors, fixed capital projects are the main project type undertaken.

Sandie Grimshaw, Partner, PwC UK explains the need for the UK to focus on skills further:

“As ‘megaprojects’ increase in size and complexity, project professionals’ skills and attributes will need to change and adapt to handle media and political pressure along with strategic stakeholders in ways that are akin to professional diplomats. Whilst the UK has a strong and growing number of project professionals, this research helps to provide a better baseline for the skills sets and numbers of professionals required to support the capability for delivering projects – both large and small – in the years ahead.”




Notes to editors

About the research

The study was conducted by PwC Research on behalf of the APM and involved a three-phased approach which took data and insight from a number of key sources. A detailed analysis of data from existing sources was undertaken including the 2017 ONS Labour Force Survey, the BEIS Small Business Survey, the APM Annual Salary Survey and other published market statistics. The available data was then supplemented by a PwC survey of 438 UK businesses. To test the validity of the emergent results, in depth discussions were held with a small group of experienced project management professionals from across the UK.

*All data quoted is representative of a midpoint range

It is important to note that where this report refers to ‘project management and the project profession’ it includes project, programme and portfolio management in this definition.


About APM

The Association for Project Management (APM) is the chartered body for the project profession and is committed to developing and promoting project and programme management.


With over 28,000 individual members and over 500 organisations participating in the Corporate Partnership Programme, APM is the largest professional body of its kind in Europe.


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About PwC

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