From education to employment

Robertson signs up to construction skills initiative PlanBEE

A national infrastructure specialist has signed up to a scheme that has developed an innovative new way to attract talent into the built environment industry.    

Robertson, one of the country’s largest independently owned construction, infrastructure and support services companies, has joined PlanBEE in a bid to tackle skills shortages across this sector.   

PlanBEE is a powerful partnership of architects, designers, contractors and engineering specialists who have teamed up with Gateshead College to develop a unique, flexible training programme designed to plug industry skills gaps, attract and retain the brightest new talent in the region and create a more flexible workforce capable of working across various construction disciplines.

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.

Robertson joins a scheme that has already attracted some high-profile names, including Ryder Architecture, Sir Robert McAlpine, Xsite Architecture, 3e Consulting, Cundall, Arup, FaulknerBrowns, Sadler Brown Architecture, Tolent, BIM Academy, Bond Dickinson and Northumbria University. 

Neil Kennedy, commercial director at Robertson, said: “We’re delighted to be involved in this fantastic initiative, which will radically reshape the way we go about attracting new talent into the industry. Traditionally, construction companies have acted in silos but that’s probably one of the key reasons why there are so many skills shortages across the built environment industry.  

“PlanBEE gives students the chance to gain valuable experience of different subject areas, such as architecture, planning, design and building processes, and the industry will be able to benefit from their all-round expertise.”  

The first cohort of students started last September and interviews are currently being held for the second intake, who will start this September.

Mark Thompson, managing partner at Ryder Architecture, added: “Employers across the sector have increasingly felt that current qualifications and degree courses are no longer fit for purpose. There needs to be a greater convergence in the skills traditionally sat within the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, engineering, surveying and landscaping.

“That’s why we campaigned for a change in the way training is delivered and we’re encouraged by the positive response from businesses and education providers.”

Gateshead College said PlanBEE had produced a strong calibre of students so far and helped them to get a foot on the construction career ladder.

Chris Toon, deputy principal at Gateshead College, said: “This is a genuinely innovative programme that showcases the benefits of working in partnership to deliver tangible industry solutions. Gateshead College is working with PlanBEE businesses to adapt the training to their needs and make it easier for them to develop a pipeline of work-ready talent.

“The aim is to help these vitally important industries become more productive and competitive now and in the long run.”

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

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