Focus, Higher Education, and Human Resources

Competition gives first look at future project managers

Seven collegiate teams will vie for title.

March 22, 2013
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Western Michigan Project Management Institute’s Collegiate Challenge “The Project” is back for its second year, giving future project managers the unique opportunity to show their talents to local businesses.

This year, seven teams from five schools are participating in the challenge. The schools represented are Davenport University, Grand Valley State University, Kalamazoo College, Michigan Tech and University of Phoenix.

Teams began developing their projects in January with the help of company mentors, who are project management professionals, as well as a faculty member from their school.

Companies with mentors participating with teams are Dematic, Jacobs Engineering, Wolverine Worldwide, Amway, Stryker, Grand Valley State University, Davenport University and GE Aviation.

On April 16, the teams will meet at Davenport to present their final projects to the panel of project management judges and the executive judging panel.

“In the morning, all seven teams will present to the PMP panel,” said Ted Kallman, vice president of marketing for WMPMI and consultant at Unified Vision Group. “They will be judged by the panel, and the final four will present in the afternoon to the executive panel of judges, and then in the evening we will announce the winner.”

The four finalists will receive prize money, with the winning team earning a $5,000 cash prize.

In addition to the competition, students will participate in a “reverse career fair.”

“All of the students who are competing that day will have a table where they will set up with their résumé, bio, profile and business cards,” Kallman said. “The HR departments for these companies are actually coming through and interviewing the students. So it’s a career fair where the students are actually hosting the tables, not the companies.

“We did this last year and it was just great. Actually, about 70 percent of the students from last year’s competition either got an internship or a full-time job as a result of the competition.”

Companies that provided donations for the event will receive information about the participating students prior to the job fair so they can target their interviews that day.

Kallman said that at least 20 businesses will attend the reverse career fair, including all those that participated in 2012.

Bringing students and companies together has created great benefits for both and helped WMPMI meet what previously had been a challenge.

The organization was looking for a way to communicate the value of project management to employers as well as college students that would not only be educational but also fun.

“Obviously, all of the teams said that they learned a ton about real life business projects that they didn’t have a clue (about) prior to going through the process,” Kallman said. “And the fact that 70 percent of them got jobs or internships in a market that was not all that strong last year says a lot about the ability to set you apart as a student by having this on your résumé.

“I think three or four of the students from last year changed their major in order to begin to pursue project management as their focus for their career.”

Michigan Tech has made the competition part of its curriculum for its senior project management course for engineering degrees.

Kallman said the competition reinvigorated WMPMI’s membership and substantially raised the chapter’s rate of success. It has seen an increase in attendance, volunteer hours and income.

“Every single metric that they have, our chapter went up by between 20 and 200 percent,” he said.

“As a strategic focus for our chapter, the impact that it had for us with our members who all of a sudden were paying attention and wanting to get involved (was beneficial).”

Kallman said that he already expects next year’s competition will be larger, with more schools sending teams. He said that other PMI chapters are holding their own competitions following WMPMI’s successful model.

Anyone interested in attending the competition or the dinner can find more information at wmpmi.org. The student presentations are all open attendance, while the dinner costs $40 to attend.

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