International Project Management competence as a bridge to success

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Anzelika Krastina, MEd., Senior Lecturer, School of Northern Well-being and Services, Lapland University of Applied Sciences (Finland)


This article aims to look at how can global education is a part of teaching at Lapland UAS and how can its results be seen. It provides a case study of former International Project Management specialization study programme worth 60 ECTS and current training within KATOS project aiming to increase EU funded project competence among relevant regional stakeholders.

International Project Management training in demand

In times of global transformation, digital transition and worldwide connectivity international project managers are in high demand in working life. PMI expects organisations worldwide will need 87.7 million professionals in project management related roles by 2027 (PMI, 2017). Project management is rapidly expanding field, putting project managers at the forefront of innovation and change in global environment. The world needs the leaders that are able to work cross-borders and deliver a success working in the environment that is becoming increasingly complex. International project managers today need to be able to work across the cultures, apply the most agile project methodologies, manage projects through its lifecycles with strong leadership and teamwork skills, creating inclusive environments and incorporating sustainability mindset. In addition to the formal international project management competencies, the context of the global and regional dynamics adds to the complexity dimensions and requires from international project managers forward looking approach in their
work. Successful international project management requires specific competences and training of these competencies is crucial nowadays.

Lapland University of Applied Sciences and its predecessor Rovaniemi University of Applied Sciences in Finland have always stressed great importance on the training of professional international project managers. The training has taken many forms, including one year International Project Management IPM specialization study programme of 60 ECTS or shorter term study units as well as incorporated various training forms into existing education programmes. Currently, among other, region wide training across the Lapland region in Finland is taking place. Within the EU funded project KATOS ( Kansainvälisen TKI-osaamisen kehittäminen Lapissa, 2021) on international RDI competence development in Lapland, large group of professionals in different areas and representatives of different organisations are taking place in IPM training that lasts for about a year. University staff, teachers, municipality managers, business representatives and many other joined the training realising the importance of IPM competence especially after the introduction of new EU funding programmes 2021-2027. It is known that in new EU funding programmes there are opening so many new windows for Lapland in Finland as well as for entire Barents Euro-Arctic region.

Boomerang and network effect of IPM training

The studies in IPM specialisation programme has proved to be a good foundation not only for the professional development of people, but also for a creation of strong, valuable network, that can benefit also Lapland UAS. For example, special feature of the KATOS training is that Lapland UAS alunmi of IPM specialisation studies are directly contributing to the training by sharing their knowledge and skills that are enriched with the years of experiences in the field in addition to their earlier IPM studies at Lapland UAS. It can be considered as positive boomerang effect when former IPM students, now professionals in the field train future new IPM professionals and regional actors and authorities across entire Lapland region. On the other hand many international project managers with formal training in IPM specialisation studies nowadays directly serve RDI activities in Lapland UAS as employees. International network of our graduates is truly global and accelerated careers of IPM graduates prove the importance and added value of IPM training that should be further developed to meet the needs of growing demand for IPM specialists in the labour market.

Picture 1. Training webinar for students at Lapland UAS, KATOS project, delivered by IPM specialisation study programme alumni K.Mackiewicz, K.Cornfield, M.Scott.

Once IPM, always IPM

It is the most valuable to bring actual stories as examples of our alumni with their experiences and to create a better prospective on the training and education that Lapland UAS provides. The following stories are collected from few former IPM students of our university, who gladly shared their insights regarding the importance of IPM training and their current career advancements. Most importantly, also Lapland UAS is benefiting from alumni network, as seen in these stories, one way or another all of them have contributed to Lapland.

Karolina Mackiewicz originally from Poland, currently living in Finland works at the European Connected Health Alliance as an Innovation Director. IPM has become a big part of her career. Currently she is managing the team of project management experts, that is dealing with the Horizon 2020 and Horizon Europe projects, Erasmus+ and Interreg Europe projects in the domain of digital health. Prior to joining ECHAlliance, Karolina worked 10 years at the Baltic Region Healthy Cities Association – World Health Organisation ( WHO), Collaborating Centre for Healthy Cities and Urban Health working mainly with Interreg Central Baltic and Intrerreg Baltic Sea Region programmes and projects. Karolina graduated from IPM specialization studies programme at Rovaniemi UAS in 2009. Fun fact: Karolina came to Finland in 2008 and just after two weeks in Rovaniemi the global financial crisis started. It was a terrible time to look for an internship which was a part of IPM studies, but somehow, thanks to the networking, things worked out and Karolina found a place in Turku, the same where she then worked for 10 years.

For Karolina IPM programme was an important boost. Before joining IPM she graduated from Political Sciences in Poland and worked in marketing. To change the career path and get qualifications in the project management, she took IPM and it was a great choice. Later she did her second Master at the University in Turku where she graduated from Futures Studies in 2016. According to Karolina in today’s world, understanding the dynamic and specifics of the project work, especially its international dimension, it’s very important. IPM has been a unique programme providing quality education in project management, that is extremely useful. Karolina together with other colleagues has been actively involved with the current IPM training provision in KATOS project and in the training this fall has in particular emphasized the importance of cross-cultural management and networking principles in EU funded projects.

Niko Niemisalo is working at Lapland University of Applied Sciences, school of Responsible Business and Services as a project manager. He works particularly with European projects in the field of sport and well-being. He evaluates projects and coordinates multidisciplinary team in the field of sustainable snow. He is active member of European movement international and in several regional and national working groups that develop EU policy making in Finland. His attitude towards European integration is critical but constructive. Niko graduated from IPM in spring 2008 and he suggests that IPM supported his career since it gave be formal training in the highly appreciated field of project management, and gave be tangible knowledge and practical point of view to the European integration (adding to background education in Master of Social Sciences, majoring in international relations). As an additional training to Niko´s M. Soc. Sci degree the IPM training gave best possible benefit. Niko said, once IPM, always IPM. He is grateful to the IPM community and the other senior colleagues in increasing professional skills and giving him genuine and realistic career in the northern dimension of EU.

Martin Scott is Head of European Innovation Management at University College London (UCL) in the United Kingdom. His role is to maximise UCL’s engagement with companies and other research organisations in order to deliver successful EU “Horizon Europe” research and innovation projects across many different sectors. UCL remains the most successful academic organisation engaged in collaborative EU actions, and Martin delivers support to the whole institution via an in-house Innovation Management service, and by working with collaborators across Europe and beyond to take great ideas from labs to markets. Outside of UCL Martin is a co-founder of Crowdhelix, an Open Innovation platform connecting an international network of universities, research organisations and companies. Martin graduated from the IPM programme in May 2009, and it gave him an incredibly valuable start to his career in the field of international research management, both through the development of a strong academic foundation but also by imparting the confidence to deploy the practical professional skills learned in the course’s workshops and visits. Martin also has been involved as a lecturer in KATOS project IPM training sharing insights related to Crowdhelix as an open collaborative platform for RDI initiatives where potential partnerships can be built for the EU funded projects.

On a final note

I have been involved with IPM training for more than 20 years by now and therefore some thought and conclusions come to my mind. Entire community of IPM alumni can be counted now by over 200 people. Not everyone has become international project manager, but I am sure almost everyone would acknowledge the value of the IPM training, for some it has been a bridge to success, for some it became a life profession, for some it added to extraordinary experiences.

Being in the field as IPM educator and also as IPM practitioner, I clearly see the trend for increasing demand for well trained professionals in this field. The importance of IPM competence with every day is increasing. Our university and our region needs more IPM professionals for the success in regional development and for that we need to re-establish substantial IPM training in the form of certified or even degree programmes.

As can be seen from the article earlier, IPM incorporates greatly global education function and demonstrates grate results – we get excellent RDI specialists to our institution and region, attract and retain international talents in Finland, create global network that benefits our university and the region. Through IPM network Lapland becomes connected to almost any part of the world: USA, Germany, Spain, Russia, Uzbekistan, China, Pakistan, Belgium, Thailand, Poland, Czech Republic, Moldova, Latvia, Estonia and many more parts in the world and of course wide network in Finland adds to our global network.


PMI (2017). Project Management Job Growth and Talent Gap 2017–2027. Retrieved 11.10.2021

Kansainvälisen TKI-osaamisen kehittäminen Lapissa – KATOS. . Retrieved 8.10.2021

Interview notes with IPM alumni Karolina Mackiewicz, Niko Niemisalo, Martin Scott


Keywords: project management, international, work life skills, international project management training