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With career development and progression one of the top deciding factors amongst job seekers, it is an important area for any business to get right. Employees want a job that will allow them to create space to grow, 47% of generation Y (18-34) and 34% generation X (35-50) list opportunity for advancement in their top three motivators in their working life.

Here in Phoenix, high intensity training sessions available to staff and specific schemes are in place to nurture our internal talent. One such scheme that is currently taking place is the Project Manager Apprenticeship Scheme. To find out a bit more, we caught up with two people currently on it, Rob Chambers and Hannah Milburn. Rob kindly agreed to face our questions first.

What is an apprentice Project Manager and how is it different to your previous role?

There is actually a quite a difference between my previous role of Programme Support Manager (PSM) and the Project Manager (PM) role and so for anyone who wishes to progress from one to the other it's a big step. The Apprentice PM role is designed to bridge that gap by giving the experience of a PM within the structure of a full support system.

For me, the biggest difference in the roles has been that as a PSM I had a lot of exposure to PM tools and techniques, but the responsibility always stopped with the PM. In this role, the responsibility stops with me and all eyes are on me to lead the project.

What have you been doing during the apprenticeship to prepare you for becoming a PM?

In addition to running several projects and gaining from the experience of doing so, I have also built up and been working through a full personal development plan. This has focused on developing the softer skills that you require to be a successful PM (the process book will only get you so far!). The Scheme has also given me the opportunity to become a member of the Association for Project Management. Amongst other things, this has enabled me to expand my understanding of how other companies and industries compare to our own.

What have been your biggest challenges?

I think my biggest challenge has been around the 'soft skills'. I have already got a good command of the technical Project Management processes (and have passed my Prince 2 and P30 exams which confirm that I'm competent in this area!) but it's been leadership, communication and confidence that I have really needed to focus on.

What is the best piece of advice someone has given you during your time on the scheme?

I have been lucky to have been surrounded by some amazing friends and colleagues who have all been very supportive throughout the process. However, I think the best advice has come from one of my mentors that even the most seasoned people sometimes have bad days, and that tomorrow is another day.

This has resonated with me, through this process I have had some days where I have needed to reflect on this wise counsel and they have been followed by some fantastic and very rewarding days. I am happy to say that the fantastic and rewarding days have far outweighed the latter!

And finally Project Management is a demanding role, what do you enjoy outside of Phoenix to stress bust?

For me, it's exercise. I swim most days and do karate with my son, along with a number of other classes during the week. However, my 2016 self-challenge has been to complete all four Wolf Runs (an obstacle run over 10km) this year. I have so far completed the spring and summer runs and I have the autumn run on the 4 September. For someone who could not run to the end of the road 12 months ago, to be able to complete all four and become an "Alpha Wolf" by the end of the year will be a fantastic personal achievement.

Rob Chambers, Project Manager