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An innovative scheme to attract more talent into the built environment sector is being extended after a successful first year.

Last year Gateshead College teamed up with a powerful partnership of architects, designers, contractors and engineering specialists to launch PlanBEE in a bid to tackle an industry skills shortage.

Together they developed a unique, flexible training programme designed to attract and retain the brightest new talent in the region, plug skills gaps, and create a more flexible workforce capable of working across various construction disciplines.

An initial cohort of 13 students enrolled on the scheme last September and all have been retained having completed a Higher National Certificate (HNC) qualification. They will now work towards a Higher National Diploma (HND) in year two and an honours degree in year three and these qualifications will help them secure a guaranteed job on completion of the programme. 

Now a recruitment drive has begun to hire a second tranche of students, who will start on the programme this September.

Rather than follow a traditional training model where students complete their qualifications while working in one company, PlanBEE gives trainees the chance to work across several companies and therefore gain a more rounded understanding of the built environment industry.

Working with Gateshead College, the group has created a bespoke higher level skills programme that provides budding professionals with study and off-the-job training at the college’s construction facility on Team Valley, along with a job working with some of the region’s leading companies. It has been tailored specifically for and by the North East construction sector, providing students with a starting salary of £10,700 per year, a professional qualification and a guaranteed job opportunity on graduation.

Established by Ryder Architecture, the scheme has already attracted some high-profile names, including Brims Construction, Sir Robert McAlpine, Xsite Architecture, Robertson, 3e Consulting, Cundall, Arup, FaulknerBrowns, Sadler Brown Architecture and Tolent.  

Matthew Hardman, 19, from Gateshead, initially spent time with Cundall and has been with Sunderland firm Brims Construction for the last few months.

He said: “I was keen on a career in construction but was not sure what discipline I wanted to pursue and did not want to get to the end of university and realise I hadn’t really enjoyed my choice, while having amassed £30,000 of debts.

“So I’m really pleased to have secured a place on this course through Gateshead College. My first placement was mainly office-based, learning CAD drawing and BIM and I’ve really enjoyed the site engineering experience with Brims including the quantity surveying side. This has definitely been the right choice of course for me.”

Brims director Richard Wood said: “We are a fast-growing business and realise how important it is to play our part in nurturing the talent of the future. Matthew is the second placement we have had from PlanBEE and has been a great addition to our team. We look forward to welcoming more students to the company.

“We initially became aware of and involved with PlanBEE following discussions with Mark Thompson of Ryder and so far it has been an excellent programme, which we hope inspires a new generation of bright, talented individuals to consider a rewarding career in construction. It is a real alternative to full time education; one that offers a future with no debt and a job offer on completion.”

Chris Toon, deputy principal at Gateshead College, said: “Employers across the built environment industry have expressed a need for a greater convergence of skills that traditionally sit within the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, engineering, surveying and landscaping. The PlanBEE programme has been designed to equip students with valuable experience in all of these important subject areas.

“This will help to provide industry with a pipeline of work-ready talent that enables companies to become more productive and competitive now and in the long run.”

It will also assist the industry’s attempts to overcome a crippling skills shortage. A lack of skills is hindering construction firms’ efforts to service contracts, according to the latest Construction Market Survey from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

Meanwhile, the Construction Skills Network’s most recent ‘Insight’ report has highlighted a growing skills shortage in the industry. The study identifies that an additional 179,000 UK construction jobs will need to be filled from 2017-2021 to meet rapid growth in demand for infrastructure and housebuilding across the country. Many of these new jobs are graduate level roles in technical, professional and management occupations, rather than traditional craft trades – and the need for higher-level skills is a challenge that PlanBEE aims to tackle.

For more information about the programme, or to get involved, visit http://www.gateshead.ac.uk/planbee/ or contact Helen Whitfield at Ryder on 0191 269 5454.

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