Project Management

by David Thomson, Head of External Affairs, Association for Project Management

Industry View from

Project professionals: driving economic and social change at a local level

When politicians talk about “levelling up” regions and “rebalancing” the UK economy, it can be easy to overlook the unsung heroes at the forefront of driving the necessary changes – project managers.

Project management has historically been an overlooked profession, so when Association for Project Management (APM) published its landmark research paper The Golden Thread in 2019, many were surprised to discover that the project profession in the UK generates £156.5 billion of annual gross value added (GVA)[1] and employs an estimated 2.13 million full-time equivalent workers (FTEs).


Now a new piece of research, The Golden Thread: The Regional Picture, dives deeper into these findings, providing detailed regional analysis to highlight the connections between projects and economic development across the UK. The findings make it clear that proper investment and planning for future projects at a regional level will be essential to the government’s “levelling up” ambitions.


The South West, for example, is identified in the new report as a regional hotspot of project activity. It employs 331,000 project professionals, or 16 per cent of the profession’s total UK workforce. This is a significantly high proportion, given that the total employment in the South West is 9 per cent of the UK total.

These figures can be explained by significant major projects in the South West, including the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, currently under construction, which has stimulated demand for project management skills and a strong supply chain. Other key drivers for the increased demand for project professional skills centre around aerospace, defence and marine and environmental technologies.


Major projects, buoyant sectors and future opportunities in other regional hubs are also identified, showing how projects, and indeed project professionals can and will play a crucial role in economic development.


At a time when there is considerable focus on the need to turbocharge the economy, particularly through infrastructure investment and strengthening regional economic activity, the importance of projects and project professionals cannot be underestimated.


Project professionals have been the unsung agents of change for too long. As the chartered body for this profession, and its leading source of knowledge and insights, APM is committed to enhancing the capability of project practitioners to deliver improved outcomes. The new data in The Golden Thread: The Regional Picture shows the real contribution of project management to the UK – economically and socially – and shows how project management truly is a “golden thread” that runs through all regions, organisations and industry sectors.

[1] GVA (gross value added) is a measure of total output and income of a sector, region or activity (in this case project and programme and portfolio management, or PPM) in the economy. It is the total value of services produced and is estimated by calculating the total wages and salaries bill of all employees who work in PPM (full-time and part-time).

The Golden Thread: The Regional Picture can be downloaded at

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