From education to employment

Three new sponsors back construction skills scheme

Three high-profile national organisations have pledged their support for an innovative scheme designed to attract new talent into the built environment industry.

Digital engineering hub BIM Academy, Sunderland-based engineering consultancy Desco and NBS, which provides technical information, specification and Building Information Modelling (BIM) tools to construction industry professionals, have all signed up to become sponsors of PlanBEE. 

The scheme was launched last year 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 construction disciplines.

The first tranche of students enrolled onto the programme in September 2016 and all have been retained, with a second cohort set to start in the autumn.

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 a wider range of expertise with Desco, NBS and BIM Academy on board.

Newcastle-based BIM Academy, which was established in 2010 through a joint venture between Ryder Architecture and Northumbria University, is looking to take on at least one student from the new cohort who start in September. The organisation helps companies to understand the value of building information modelling (BIM), which can help industry risk-assess projects at an early stage by generating 3D models of buildings before construction takes place.

Peter Barker, MD of BIM Academy, said: “BIM Academy are delighted to become a sponsor for PlanBEE as it allows us to share our expertise in the new world of digital construction with the next generation seeking to enter the increasingly diverse and exciting built environment sector.”

Paul Baker, technical director at Desco (Design & Consultancy) Ltd said: “We are pleased to support PlanBEE, an inspirational, sector-wide partnership that is helping to shape future talent and inspire people to consider a rewarding career in construction. As an award-winning MEP (mechanical, electrical and plumbing) design consultancy, we are proud to be part of an initiative that showcases the industry and benefits of working across several construction disciplines.”         

Helen Whitfield, chief operating officer at Newcastle-based NBS, said: “We’re delighted to sponsor a scheme that allows companies and students to explore the potential of using digital technologies on construction projects. There aren’t many courses that combine the digital world with construction and this gives students a chance to learn several disciplines that will stand them in good stead for their chosen career in the built environment industry.”  

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 £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.  

Chris Toon, deputy principal at Gateshead College, said: “We are thrilled to have BIM Academy, Desco and NBS on board at PlanBEE, which is tailored for and led by the specific needs of industry. We are working closely with the sector to ensure that the training provides companies with vital skills that enable them to become more productive and competitive, both now and in the long run.”

Helen Whitfield, communications director at Ryder Architecture, added: “PlanBEE allows companies to benefit from a greater convergence of skills traditionally sat within the disciplines of architecture, urban planning, engineering, surveying and landscaping. Employers have been saying for quite a while now that the industry needed a new way of working and PlanBEE moves away from traditional, unfit-for-purpose training models to one which directly benefits industry and students.”

Over the course of time, PlanBEE aims to address deep-rooted skills shortages in the built environment industry. The Construction Skills Network’s most recent ‘Insight’ report 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.

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