Project & Programme Management

Best practice project management for Nuclear Engineering Services

Find out how QA delivered project management skills benchmarking and training, and helped NES to achieve APM corporate accreditation.

Meet our client: Nuclear Engineering Services

Nuclear Engineering Services (NES) specialise in the design, manufacture, assembly, test, installation and commissioning of bespoke solutions for the nuclear decommissioning, defence, and nuclear new-build markets.

NES wanted to secure the success of a growing number of complex projects. To achieve this, it engaged QA to benchmark and enhance its project capabilities using best practice to develop its people and processes. In doing so, it helped NES to achieve APM corporate accreditation.

We wanted to work with an accredited provider to achieve a robust, sustainable approach to project management.” Mark Kelly, Business Improvement Manager, NES

The challenge:

Following a period of rapid growth, NES wanted to ensure its project management processes were robust and scalable enough to support the increasing levels of work it was engaging in. With contracts to perform large-scale projects for many high-profile customers, NES wanted to safeguard its success by aligning its activities to project management best practice.

To support this, NES sought an APM-accredited learning provider to assess and develop its project management capabilities. After reviewing the market, it chose QA to provide an end-to-end engagement to benchmark its capabilities and deliver targeted training against identified areas for development. As a final measure of success, NES wanted to achieve APM corporate accreditation, confirming best practice had been adopted.

The solution:

The first task was to benchmark NES’ current capabilities against APM standards. This was completed through the following two activities:

→ Baseline assessment

A Project Management Consultant visited NES’ sites to observe its project practices and interview staff with project responsibilities. This provided insight as to how projects were run at NES and identified key areas for the training to focus on.

→ Online competency assessments

Project staff completed online questionnaires to measure their capabilities against APM-defined
project roles. The tool established which key competencies individuals held, as well as pinpointing any skills gaps. Each individual received a personal report detailing their strengths and areas for development.

Next, the output from both benchmarking activities was used to identify general areas for development, to which subsequent learning was aligned to provide maximum benefit for NES.

To achieve best practice, a programme of tailored APMP training was rolled out across NES’ community of project staff, with additional focus on the specific areas for development identified. Pre-course reading was provided in an eLearning format. As well as being concise and interactive, this self-paced format also enabled project staff to dedicate extra time and attention to personal areas for improvement identified during the initial competency assessment.

The 6-day APMP course was delivered in 2-day instalments, broken up by work-based assignments. The work-based assignments took two forms:

→ Extended learning assignments

Project staff worked in groups of three to explore a specific project area within their business, presenting their findings back to a joint NES/QA project management team for discussion.

“We believe we have an optimum training programme, ensuring we’ve got the best project management in our organisation. The accreditation is an industry standard, giving our customers confidence that we're doing things in the most appropriate and professional manner.” George Andrews Program Director and Deputy MD, NES

→ Trainer-marked assignments

Individuals submitted written assignments on how APM practices apply to NES, which were assessed by a QA Project Management Consultant. This structure enabled attendees to
implement the learning back in the workplace between sessions, encouraging them to embed best-practice in their day-to-day activities.

To support the programme, QA worked with NES to develop a project handbook aligned to the APM body of knowledge. This tool, along with the ongoing improvements to the processes, gave project staff access to best practice guidance as required.

The outcome:

Following the initial benchmarking of the training and development programme, which was underpinned by in-house systems such as CPD, project forums and mentoring, NES achieved corporate accreditation, receiving the exceptionally high score of 23/25. As well as confirming APM best practice had been achieved, this also made NES one of just 34 companies in the country to be awarded this accreditation, and the first within the nuclear supply chain. NES has strengthened its profile as a project-led organisation, attracting and retaining individuals with a desire to work in project roles.

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