Despite border closures, domestic demand in Australia remains strong and with job vacancies at record highs, the project management skills shortage is having a big impact.

It’s putting pressure on employers to find the right people to deliver their projects, and at the same time, it provides great opportunities for advancement for individuals. But the shortage isn’t across the board, meaning some industries and skills are in higher demand than others. Let’s dig deeper to find out where the gold lies.

The current state of the job market for project managers

The job market is currently strong for project professionals. Domestic demand is high and job vacancies are at unprecedented levels. This is driving wages growth as companies are forced to pay a premium for the skills they need to deliver their projects.

Christian Vanezi, Manager, Project & Change Management at Hudson says, “since the start of the year, it’s just gone gangbusters for hiring, particularly in the Banking and Finance sectors.”

What is contributing to the project management skills shortage?

Organisations across Australia are reporting major project management skills gaps. They have big project plans but not enough staff to deliver them. In some ways, it’s driven by the trend for project management to be a central function no matter what the industry, from Construction to Telecommunications to Education.

Look inside the organisations in those industries, and every department is likely to be running major initiatives. IT, HR, and Marketing are now all competing for scarce project management skills.

It’s also driven by supply and demand. With international borders closed, supply is tight. There are industry-specific trends that are driving demand, for instance with the huge investment in Infrastructure, demand is high in the Construction industry. And a crackdown on cybercrime is driving demand in the Finance sector.

Which roles are in demand?

In June 2021, the National Skills Commission released its annual Skills Priority List. The report helps pinpoint exactly where the current shortages are and what the outlook is.

1. Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Project Managers

  • Current assessment: Shortage
  • Future demand: Strong
  • Salary: $2,766 pw
  • Market: 37,800 workers
  • Average age: 42 years
  • Gender split: 24% female

About the role: An ICT project manager plans, organises, directs, controls, and coordinates ICT projects. They are responsible for resourcing, scheduling, prioritisation and task coordination, and meeting project milestones, objectives, and deliverables within agreed timeframes and budgets. You usually need a Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology or another related field and extensive experience in the ICT industry to work as an ICT Project Manager.

2. Construction Project Manager

  • Current assessment: Shortage
  • Future demand: Moderate
  • Salary: $3,450 pw
  • Market: 42,100 workers
  • Average age: 42 years
  • Gender split: 11% female

About the role: Construction Project Managers manage civil engineering and building projects. Tasks are varied, including working with architects, managing resources, procurement, compliance, and safety. A formal qualification in building or construction management is desirable, or at least 5 years of relevant experience.

3. Program or Project Administrator

  • Current assessment: Shortage in NSW, no shortage across the rest of the country
  • Future demand: Strong
  • Salary: $1,660 pw
  • Market: 88,500 workers
  • Average age: 42 years
  • Gender split: 57% female

About the role: Program or Project Administrators plan and undertake administration of organisational programs, special projects, and support services. A formal qualification in business and management, project management, engineering, ICT, or accounting and relevant industry experience is desirable.

Source: Skills Priority List and Job Outlook. Data correct as at 17 August 2021.  

Salaries as a measure of demand

We recently published our 2021 Project Management Salary Report Australia. It tracks our members’ reported salaries against other factors like industry, location, job title, and experience. It was clear that certain industries were achieving higher salaries because of the scarcity of the niche skills that they needed.

For instance, AIPM members in the Banking sector (AU$170,001-$180,000) and the Mining sector (AU$180,001-$190,000) reported the highest mean salaries.

“In the Banking industry they have to find people with experience in regulatory programs and financial crime programs…they need people with experience in mergers and acquisitions. There’s just not a huge abundance of people in the market with those sort of skill sets… that’s naturally going to drive prices up.”

Christian Vanezi, Manager, Project & Change Management, Hudson


How project managers can change industries

Project managers have a set of recognised transferable skills. This allows them to move more freely between industries than some other professions that rely on niche technical skills.

So, what can you do if you’ve found yourself in an industry where your skills aren’t in such tight demand? If you’re keen to spread your wings, the good news is that it’s definitely possible and there are plenty of pathways for you. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Do your research: If you’ve got a target industry in mind, it’s important to understand where your skill gaps might be.
  2. Lean on industry networks: You can build networks and gain access to industry knowledge through memberships with peak professional bodies like the AIPM.
  3. Gain qualifications: There are plenty of courses availablethat will help build your skills.
  4. Get certifiedNational certification from an industry body is your stamp of approval. It gives employers from other industries confidence in your skills, and it will help your chances of employment.
  5. Professional development: Address your skills gaps by attending events and conferences, accessing OnDemand webinars, participating in awards programs, and even volunteering.
  6. Be patient: Be prepared to take a sideways move to gain some experience, as it will pay off in the long term.


The importance of transferable project management skills

If you are thinking about targeting a role where there is a skills shortage, it’s not all about the niche industry skills. At every stage in your project management career, you’ll need a solid foundation in both technical and behavioural skills.

Take our project manager self-evaluation quiz to assess your project experience and where you stand in your career, or check out our mentoring program to access guidance and advice from experienced industry leaders. Then get out there and make the most of the project management skills shortage while it lasts!