An engineering consultancy that has worked on high-profile regeneration schemes around the country has pledged its support for an innovative scheme designed to attract new talent into the built environment industry.

Humphrey M&E (Mechanical & Electrical) Consultants has signed up to become a sponsor of PlanBEE, a unique, flexible training programme that was launched in 2016 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.  

The scheme got off the ground when Gateshead College and Ryder Architecture formed a powerful alliance with a network of architects, designers, contractors and engineering specialists. 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.

Students will now benefit from an even wider range of expertise with Humphrey M&E Consultants on board. An experienced mechanical and electrical consulting engineering practice headquartered in Newcastle, the company has provided quality M&E design and technical advice to institutional and commercial clients throughout the UK for more than 30 years. It has worked on a series of high-profile schemes including heating decentralisation projects at various Ministry of Defence sites across the UK and the Strawberry Place project in Newcastle.

Matthew Huxtable, 18-years-old from Morpeth, is the first PlanBEE student on placement at Humphrey M&E Consultants.

He said: “It’s great to be able to learn my trade at such a reputable company. I’m getting to know all about the different elements of what makes a successful construction project and the mentoring and support system here at the company is fantastic.”

John Lau, joint managing director at Humphrey M&E Consultants, said: “We’re thrilled to become a sponsor for PlanBEE. There’s a shortage of construction industry skills across the board and we want to bring in hungry, young talent to keep us competitive. PlanBEE gives us this opportunity. We’ve not seen a training programme like it in the UK; it’s a great way of giving our staff a broad understanding of the industry and all of the skills needed to be successful in it.”

Working with Gateshead College, the PlanBEE 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 £11,383 per year, a professional qualification and a guaranteed job opportunity on graduation.  

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Established by Ryder Architecture, the scheme has already attracted some high-profile names, including Brims Construction, NBS, Desco (Design & Consultancy), BIM Academy, Sir Robert McAlpine, Xsite Architecture, Robertson, 3e Consulting, Cundall, Arup, FaulknerBrowns, Sadler Brown Architecture and Tolent.  

Chris Toon, deputy principal at Gateshead College, said: “It’s fantastic to have Humphrey M&E Consultants on board as the PlanBEE programme gathers momentum. For too long the construction industry has suffered from unfit-for-purpose training that hasn’t really delivered the right skills for employers. That’s what we do differently at PlanBEE; we give students the opportunity to learn about all of the different elements of a construction project so they can hit the ground running and make a positive difference in the companies that employ them.”

Mark Thompson, managing partner at Ryder Architecture, added: “This is a unique programme that has attracted the interest and participation of many companies across the built environment spectrum. PlanBEE has been hugely successful in the North East of England and is a shining example of best practice that we are currently looking to replicate across the UK.”

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