Why project managers are in demand

Project managers are in the box seat as demand for their skills hots up around the world, says the Property Council’s South Australian Young Property Professional of the Year Nathan Foulis.

Recent research commissioned by the Project Management Institute in the United States has found the project management labour force is about to experience exponential growth.

Analysis undertaken by Anderson Economic Group has found nearly 22 million new jobs will be created over the next decade in just 11 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, Japan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States.

This is a 33 per cent increase in just a decade, and 9.7 million project management roles will be in manufacturing and construction. By 2027, employers will need nearly 88 million project managers.

Foulis (pictured) is a passionate project manager and practice leader in South Australia for Mott MacDonald, a global management, engineering and development consultancy.

He says project management was a natural fit for his skills and interests.

“At school, I liked the idea of architecture but I wasn’t a gifted designer or artist. I liked the thought engineering but as a seventeen-year-old the mathematical rigour didn’t appeal. I knew I liked dealing with people and the idea of shaping our built environment so I started a construction management and economics degree.”

This led to a graduate position with Hansen Yuncken during which he gained insights into project management. “From there I found my passion and just ran with it,” he says.

And run with it he did. Foulis now manages a team of 10 project managers at Mott MacDonald which delivers large, complex and strategic projects, among them the Adelaide Oval Redevelopment, heralded as both “awe-inspiring and accessible”, and the ongoing revitalisation of the 380-hectare Riverbank precinct.

Foulis’ role includes management through the feasibility, planning, concept design, construction and post construction phases. Career highlights include the recent completion of the new $246 million Adelaide Medical and Nursing Schools Building, which is “the largest capital works project in the University of Adelaide’s history”.

The school boasts advanced hospital simulation capabilities and multiple research and teaching laboratories that promote collaboration between students and researchers, and will support the state’s growing reputation for medical excellence, he says. “It’s a highly-complex, challenging building that was completed on time and budget.”

These projects may be technically tricky, but Foulis says he thrives on “being able to build a team culture that can overcome any challenge. This is always critical to a project’s success”.

“And you need to be good at communication. When you will work together for three to four years, sometimes longer, it’s important to build good professional and social relationships with your team.”

Foulis says he’s proud to work with Mott MacDonald, which is one of the largest employee-owned businesses in the world, “and yet our Australasian head office is right here in Adelaide”.

Throughout his career, Foulis has invested in “a lot of self-learning”, which has helped him propel his career to the next level. He was chair of the Property Council’s Future Directions Committee in 2015 and 2016, which “is a great way to become involved in the industry, develop a network, meet people and gain the educational benefit of attending regular industry events”.

He’s just stepped into the Commercial Office Property Committee, a new group that is currently working through its charter. “It’s an exciting opportunity to look at the challenges we face in Adelaide and how we can tackle them together as an industry,” he says.

So, what does Foulis advise young talent? Consider a career in project management, of course.

“The project manager’s value will continue to grow as large-scale infrastructure projects roll out around the country.

“The knowledge that project managers bring to the table is transferrable across so many sectors, not just in Australia but internationally. It’s an exciting time to be a project manager in our industry.”