Groups team up to help solve skills gap in NE construction sector

Paul Baker, technical director at Desco, Peter Barker, MD of BIM Academy, Helen Whitfield, chief operating officer at NBS, Helen Whitfield, communications director at Ryder Architecture and Chris Toon

Groups team up to help solve construction skills gap

Three high-profile national organisations have united to back an innovative scheme designed to attract new talent into the built environment industry in the North East.

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 an alliance with a network of architects, designers, contractors and engineering specialists to develop 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.

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.

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 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.”

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.