Education is divided into three main categories; formal, non-formal and informal. School and universities focus in formal education, while training centers focus in non-formal and each student is responsible in their informal growth. Much has been accomplished through formal education but little in the other two categories.

Formal education usually has an approach in providing students with knowledge and hard skills. Transferring knowledge and then measuring through memorized tests may have worked in the past but our times are different and demand the building of skills and specially competencies. Knowledge is divided in sections in such a way that students can learn information during a period of time. The real question is if students are really learning and if that knowledge is applicable and helpful to seek and keep a job in the market.

A dual system were a student learns concepts but at the same time is able to apply in a specific company could be a better teaching model. It seems that the formal approach seems to expect the students to be some kind of recipients were great amounts of data can be downloaded and then easily applied in real life. Human mind can be very similar to how a computer receives inputs but very different in how it provides its outputs.

What about project based learning?

Another method of teaching is a project based approach were you teach the students not only a section or part of the chain value but the whole process. It seems also, that this could be a very interesting teaching method for some schools and students.

The science of neurolinguistics has discovered that when a person is highly motivated, correlates what it’s learning with a real life situation and is very curious about a topic, then the person has more possibilities of learning and understanding the received information.

What employers are seeking are employees that can effectively do a task. They want high performance, good set of skills, great interpersonal skills, business acumen and to be an expert in the field you were hired for. This is not easy to accomplish and requires intentional, proactive and mentoring actions.

It seems that humanity is over reacting with all this knowledge era while the human side is left behind. Skills and competencies are develop in a safe and right condition which can be at home, school or work.

The first editions of the PMBOK focus in hard, technical skills but slowly the soft skills and especially the development of competencies has also gotten the right attention. Certification of competencies is now taking a lot of consideration but again, we must be careful in not trying to recognize a competence through a formal education tool like an exam while the human mind operates differently than a computer. The development of competencies should be another step in our professional development but it should be natural instead of something imposed by society or professional pressure. People may wrongly start focusing in obtaining a skill, competence or certification just to attach it to a resume but what really matters if we can perform the duties and responsibilities we were hire for.

We will always have to keep acquiring knowledge because it keeps multiplying exponentially, but we should rethink the way we think we should obtain a skill or competence. To be a project manager is a difficult position which requires of high performance. We can have degrees, certifications and a resume that states that we have several skills and competencies but what the employer wants is high performance. Project stakeholders want results, benefits, control of our project and to deal correctly with issues, potential risks and problems.

In normal conditions a new employee will have time to learn the basics and start performing with moderate expectations. But projects are demanding efficient and effective managers that provide high results.

Alejandro Paredes Trapero

By Alejandro Paredes Trapero, PhD, PMP, SPP

Professor of the Human Resources and Communications Management course in the Master in Project Management Program at the University for International Cooperation.