Groundbreaking Project to Build Skills

A dynamic private sector led partnership in North East England is working with education to develop a new way of attracting talented young people into construction.

The innovative skills and careers programme, a first for the UK, is set to shake up the traditional way people are recruited and trained in a sector which shapes towns, cities and communities.

A powerful partnership of designers, builders, and project managers who operate in the ‘built environment’ have come together to campaign for change, to address the skills gap while also creating more valuable people through a new architectural engineering and management programme.

PlanBEE (Campaign for Change in the Built Environment) was launched by Ryder Architecture in 2013 and the campaign now also includes the support of Arup, Brims, Cundall, Desco, Esh, FaulknerBrowns, Napper Architects, Sir Robert McAlpine, Summers Inman, Surgo, Turner and Townsend, Xsite, 3eConsult, NELEP, RICS and ICE. Further partners are joining.

They have joined forces with the region’s leading further education organisation, Gateshead College to help devise a new way of recruiting and training young people for a career in the construction sector.

The new higher skills apprenticeship programme will be formally launched at Ryder’s home at Cooper’s Studios, Newcastle on July 25, 18:00-20:00.

Mark Thompson, managing partner at Ryder, said: “We’re delighted to have Gateshead College on board, alongside a number of universities. The facilities and staff at the college will provide valuable support throughout the course, ensuring cohorts receive the right balance of quality in-house educational content and hands on training with our business consortium members.

“We believe PlanBEE will inspire a new generation of bright, talented people to consider a rewarding career in construction.  The blended learning approach, which includes residential elements alongside traditional day release, aims to deliver work ready graduates with the creative, practical and entrepreneurial ambition the industry needs to evolve.”

Gateshead College has devised an outline programme that gives new recruits a broader set of skills to ensure greater inter disciplinary working across the construction industry.

Chris Toon, deputy principal at Gateshead College, explained: “This is a genuinely exciting and innovative programme we’ll be offering people from this September.

“It’s a great example of how Gateshead College is taking its strong links with regional employers, listening to their concerns and then working in close partnership to find innovative solutions for complex issues. You have to be responsive and that is how we work.”

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, engineering, surveying and construction.

Meetings between Gateshead College and businesses have fine-tuned the higher skills apprenticeship programme that launches this autumn. The programme provides study and off the job training at the college’s modern construction facility on Team Valley 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. It provides students with a starting salary of £10,000 per annum, a professional qualification and a guaranteed job opportunity on graduation.  The degree stages will be provided by a regional university starting in 2018.

The college and PlanBEE are also liaising with a regional university so students can study up to degree level.

Chris Toon added: “Gateshead College is delighted to be able to offer young people interested in the construction industry a new way to build a career in this dynamic sector. It’s a real alternative to full time education where you have the opportunity to study up to degree level whilst earning and coming out with no debt but with a job offer – it’s an exceptional way to progress your career.”

For more information about the programme, contact [email protected] or visit

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