An innovative training programme designed to tackle construction skills shortages has reached a notable milestone, the first students to graduate from the scheme all securing full-time positions in the industry.

The students have been offered positions with some of the sector’s leading companies, including Bowmer & Kirkland, 3E Consulting, Sir Robert McAlpine, Ryder Architecture, Patrick Parsons, Tolent and Brims. They will be employed in various roles including quantity surveying, civil engineering, design and project management.

PlanBEE was launched in September 2016 when Gateshead College and Ryder Architecture formed a powerful alliance with a network of architects, designers, contractors and engineering specialists. 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 disciplines in the construction and built environment sectors.  

The first group of twelve students enrolled onto the programme back in September 2016 and, having now completed it, have been offered permanent positions at firms involved in the scheme. A second group of students embarked on the programme last September and the plan is to enrol a new group every year so that construction firms can continually recruit people equipped with the skills they need.

Madeleine Lees, from Teesside, landed her dream job as an assistant structural engineer at full-service consultancy Patrick Parsons.  

She said: “I always wanted to go into construction but I didn’t want to specialise in any particular discipline. That’s why PlanBEE was so appealing; it allowed me to learn about several different elements of the industry.

“While on the programme I completed work placements at 3D Consulting, Ryder and Tolent – a consultancy, an architect and a civil engineering specialist – so I got to work on all sorts of projects. This is really important because in my new role at Patrick Parsons many projects cover more than one discipline.”  

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, industry leaders have created a bespoke higher-level skills programme that provides budding professionals with study and off-the-job training at the college’s Skills Academy for Construction 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 £11,383 per year, a professional qualification and a guaranteed job opportunity on graduation.

Mark Clasper, director at Ryder Architecture, said: “This inspirational partnership is radically reshaping the way we go about attracting new talent into the industry and providing a pathway for young talent to forge a career. Employers across the built environment sector are no longer acting in silos and this new collaborative approach is helping to drive efficiencies and tackle key skills shortages.”

Chris Toon, deputy principal at Gateshead College, said: “The key benefit of PlanBEE is that it’s tailored to and led by the specific needs of industry. Employers say they need a better way of working – particularly in relation to recruitment – and this programme is a revolutionary diversion from traditional training models that have become unfit for purpose.

“It’s well known that the sector has suffered from serious long-term skills shortages. This makes it even more important that companies have access to a skilled pool of talent that enables them to become more productive and competitive, both now and in the long run.”

A report by the Construction Skills Network said an extra 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.

For more information about the programme, or to get involved, contact Helen Whitfield at Ryder on 0191 269 5454.

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