We spoke to our Head of Information Solutions, Daniel Gooding, to find out what it takes to manage a successful project. Daniel has had many years’ experience in managing teams who have delivered projects on time and to budget. Here, he runs through some of the key lessons he’s learnt along the way.
What would you say are the three most important attributes of a good project manager?
First and foremost, a strong understanding and vision of what the project is designed to achieve. This will allow a project manager to anticipate and solve any problems which could jeopardise the project.
Secondly, communication. Effective project management can be achieved by using the right method to clearly communicate ideas, goals, decisions, and expectations to both stakeholders, clients and team members whilst managing feedback being received from all directions.
Lastly, problem solving. A great project manager will utilise their team member’s expertise to help resolve the problem and set the plan towards the most effective resolution.
How do you find a balance between being in charge of the team, and also working alongside them?
For a project to work, a project manager needs to inspire their team to all have the same vision for where the project is going. Making sure the team feel like they have an equal stake in a project and supporting them to develop towards that goal helps motivate the team and evokes respect towards the project manager.
How do you personally keep track of what each person is doing and what stage they are at in the process?
Regular meetings and updates with the team and keeping all channels of communication open both ways between team members and the project manager. An effective project tracker will also help keep an eye on how tasks are progressing.
How can project managers ensure that the communication within their team is strong and effective?
For the successful implementation of any project, it is necessary that the team is always communicating and working in unison. The project manager plays a role in ensuring this happens, by being visible and engaged with the team – focusing on the positive aspects of their team members.
How do you ensure that a project is always developing and moving forward?
Regular monitoring and reviewing of the project plan and targets allows for identification of any potential issues that need to be worked through and eliminated. A project manager needs to be capable of thinking quickly and reacting decisively to any unexpected problems.
Are there any other tips you would give to someone going into project management?
The best tip I can offer is that the project manager should always consider what they are aiming to achieve by this project and whether the method they have chosen is the most effective way of achieving the end goal.
In addition to this – the most appropriate project management method should be used for the project, with good planning and estimating being essential.
Finally, once the project is complete and live, a review of how the project went with stakeholders, clients and team members is essential. This will produce a list of lessons learnt that can be applied to future projects and prevent similar problems and mistakes arising.
Interested in taking a management qualification to enhance your project delivery skills?
At Parenta we offer training for a range of childcare qualifications, including apprenticeships in childcare. We have a team of recruiters for this, one of whom is Recruitment Liaison Officer Leah Daley. She has much experience in the recruitment process, and the consideration of apprenticeship candidates. We conducted an interview with her to ask what she looks for in an apprentice and to share some more knowledge about apprenticeships.
Are there any particular qualities you look for in someone when considering them as a candidate for an apprenticeship?
An important quality for anyone looking to go into a career in childcare is to be passionate about the job. If an apprentice is not passionate about the prospect of working in childcare, there’s no point pursuing it. And companies like to work with people they know are enthusiastic about their work. It is also important that the candidate has a good understanding of children’s needs, since a big part of their job will be interacting with and looking after children, so the main priority should always be their needs and requirements. And, of course, patience, reliability, and being caring are all necessary qualities to possess when working with children.
Do candidates need to have any prior knowledge or experience in childcare?
No, is it definitely not a requirement. In fact, some nurseries prefer to employ less qualified people so that they can be moulded and trained in the specific ways of that company. So long as the candidate demonstrates the necessary ambition and dedication to working in childcare, anyone can become an apprentice.
Would you be more inclined to take someone on as an apprentice if they had prior knowledge or experience?
Again, not at all. It depends purely on the requirements of specific workplaces – if they are looking to employ someone with a level three qualification then of course someone brand new to the apprenticeship with no qualifications would not get the job. But as I mentioned above, some places do look for less qualified people to employ. So no, the apprentice selection programme is not inclined either way.
Many people associate apprenticeships purely with teenagers and young adults. Are they open to a wider age group? If so, do you see many older apprenticeship candidates?
As a company, Parenta does specialise in the training of 16-18 year olds in apprenticeships, so we do tend to see a lot more people of this age group, but they are open to people of any age. For example, we see some older candidates, who have been inspired to pursue a career in childcare after having children themselves.
What would you say are the advantages of doing an apprenticeship?
I would say the main advantage of doing an apprenticeship is that there is no better way of learning how to do a job, than to do the job. And that is exactly what an apprenticeship enables you to do. It’s a very hands-on experience. Apprentices also get the benefit of more personal training than you would down other learning pathways like college, since they’re not in classes which divide the attention of the person teaching them.
Lastly, if you were to describe the ideal apprenticeship candidate in three words, what would they be?
Hard-working, committed, and bubbly.
Would you like to find out more about doing a childcare apprenticeship?
Unlike the UK, Uganda is classed as a Less Economically Developed Country (LEDC), which means that it has low levels of development based on economic indicators. This is evident in that only 3.2% of the country’s public spending was allocated to education in 2013, while in the same year 13.2% was assigned to education in the UK.
Equipment and Resources:
As well as being economically evident, the differences between nursery classrooms in the UK versus Uganda are visually clear, even through the number of students. In the UK the size of nursery classes is often small and divided between rooms and teachers, whereas in Uganda the available space and staff are so meagre that classes are often overfilled. While schools having a large number of students is a very positive step it means that the school’s space and resources can be stretched very thin. In contrast, equipment like books are in abundance in the UK, and more can be brought in with very little difficulty. In Uganda, schools often only receive enough resources for the number of students through generous donations, as the government rarely fund enough to supply whole schools due to lack of available subsidy.
Appearance and Building:
Another difference is the appearance of the classrooms themselves. In the UK, in order to engage and enthuse the children, classrooms are often colourful and decorated with posters and other effective learning aids. While schools funded by Parenta Trust aim to make this a reality in Ugandan classrooms as well, not all schools are quite so fortunate. The differences even run as deeply as the buildings themselves, in that the materials and resources are simply not available in Uganda as they are in the UK to build classrooms to the high quality that would be expected here. The walls are often unpainted and the floors uncovered, which is the opposite of the comfortable, vibrant appearance of classrooms in the UK.
Despite all of this, Ugandan students and teachers simply feel privileged to be able to have access to education at all, no matter how humble their buildings and classrooms seem to us in the UK.
Would you like to find out about child sponsorship?
In daily family life, there are not many guarantees. Often, the very opposite event happens in place of the expected, but for a family with children the one thing that can be counted on is school. At first, for those children and parents newly introduced to the education system, school is an exciting new novelty. Then a few terms go by and it slips into tedium, into the routine, and all of a sudden it is no longer a precious commodity but an enforced chore.
In fortunate countries like our own, schooling is regularly taken for granted, and the advantageousness of the fact that it is obligatory is almost overlooked altogether. In less fortunate countries than this, however, the dream of compulsory education is still far away from becoming reality. In countries like Uganda, as few as 17% of children are not part of youth employment. In many cases disadvantaged families simply do not have the money to pay for their children to go to school, particularly as the majority of Ugandan families have many more children than the UK average.
This is where sponsorship becomes invaluable to the young people of Uganda. Without a sponsor, it is very likely that the child would never have the opportunity of an education, which would severely hinder their prospects in later life. Without sponsorship and without schooling, children would likely be put to work in order to bring in an income for their family which, while it is a short-term help, is not a long-term solution to the enormous issue of poverty in Uganda and similarly underprivileged countries.
Sponsoring a child enables them to strive for more out of life than manual labour, or marrying and starting a family at a very young age. The gift of sponsorship is the gift of education, and this means that these children are able to set bigger and better goals for themselves, such as completing their education, moving on to university, and even getting a well-paying job in the future. Sponsoring a child opens a vast number of doors for them which would be otherwise closed, and kickstarts a real and genuine chance to change a child’s life, and the lives of their families, for the better.
Would you like to find out more about sponsoring a child through Parenta Trust?
According to the British Heart Foundation National Centre’s (BHFNC) Early Years Advisory Group, as shockingly few as 9% of children between the ages of two and four are as active as they should be. In what the group calls children’s “vital” years, they are encouraging the incorporation of three hours daily exercise to, according to Loughborough University, “positively benefit their health and establish healthy behaviours that carry on into adulthood”.
Experts claim that, when it comes to exercise, even young children should be treated in the same manner as adults in terms of their needs, as physical activity in children has been proven to have many benefits in terms of their development. This includes the support of brain development, enhancement of bone health and muscular development, as well as having non-physical benefits to the development of social and cognitive skills and emotional wellbeing.
Elaine McNish, the director of BHFNC, states that “it’s vitally important to get it right at the beginning to give children opportunities to play from a young age and develop a lifelong love of being active.” To support this, the BHFNC released a manifesto at the beginning of this year to encourage greater physical activity in children, named The Best Start in Life – a manifesto for physical activity in the early years.
The manifesto calls for four specific areas of awareness in order to introduce the changes they propose. These areas are:
- Raising awareness of the Chief Medical Officer’s physical activity guidelines for the early years among health and education professionals, and families with young children.
- A greater emphasis on physical activity within the curriculum for young children, and clear guidance given to educators on how to achieve this.
- Ensuring the accessibility of safe, exciting physical activity areas and opportunities in the communities of young children.
- The tracking of physical activity levels by health professionals, and co-operation between health professionals and parents in order to increase activity where necessary.
Lisa Young, project manager in prevention and behaviour change at the British Heart Foundation, said, “We know that physical activity is an important component of a healthy lifestyle for everyone and the under-fives are no different.”