Mark Thompson (left) with Chris Toon of Gateshead CollegeA dynamic private sector led partnership in the North East is working with education to develop a completely new way of attracting talented young people into the construction sector.

The innovative skills and careers programme, a first for the UK, is set to shake up the traditional way that people are recruited and trained in a sector that ultimately 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, addressing the skills gap while also creating more flexible employees through a new architectural engineering and management programme.

PlanBEE was launched by internationally renowned Ryder Architecture in 2013 and the campaign now also includes the support of Arup, Cundall, Desco, Esh, FaulknerBrowns, Napper Architects, Sir Robert McAlpine, Summers Inman, Surgo, Turner and Townsend, Xcite, 3eConsult, NELEP, RICS, CIOB and ICE. Further partners are joining.

They have joined forces with the region’s leading further education organisation, Gateshead College to help devise a completely 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, 6pm-8pm.

Mark Thompson, managing partner at Ryder, said: “We’re delighted to have Gateshead College on board as PlanBEE educational partners, 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 professional industry consortium members.

“We believe PlanBEE will inspire a new generation of bright, talented individuals to consider a rewarding career in construction.  The blended learning approach aims to deliver work ready individuals 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 in 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, urban planning, engineering, surveying and landscaping.

Meetings between Gateshead College and employers 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 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.”