North East Connected

New sponsor signs up to construction skills programme

An engineering consultancy that has worked on high-profile regeneration schemes around the country has pledged its support for an innovative scheme designed to attract new talent into the built environment industry.

Humphrey M&E (Mechanical & Electrical) Consultants has signed up to become a sponsor of PlanBEE, a unique, flexible training programme that was launched in 2016 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 scheme got off the ground when Gateshead College and Ryder Architecture formed a powerful alliance with a network of architects, designers, contractors and engineering specialists. 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 an even wider range of expertise with Humphrey M&E Consultants on board. An experienced mechanical and electrical consulting engineering practice headquartered in Newcastle, the company has provided quality M&E design and technical advice to institutional and commercial clients throughout the UK for more than 30 years. It has worked on a series of high-profile schemes including heating decentralisation projects at various Ministry of Defence sites across the UK and the Strawberry Place project in Newcastle.

Matthew Huxtable, 18-years-old from Morpeth, is the first PlanBEE student on placement at Humphrey M&E Consultants.

He said: “It’s great to be able to learn my trade at such a reputable company. I’m getting to know all about the different elements of what makes a successful construction project and the mentoring and support system here at the company is fantastic.”

John Lau, joint managing director at Humphrey M&E Consultants, said: “We’re thrilled to become a sponsor for PlanBEE. There’s a shortage of construction industry skills across the board and we want to bring in hungry, young talent to keep us competitive. PlanBEE gives us this opportunity. We’ve not seen a training programme like it in the UK; it’s a great way of giving our staff a broad understanding of the industry and all of the skills needed to be successful in it.”

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 £11,383 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, NBS, Desco (Design & Consultancy), BIM Academy, Sir Robert McAlpine, Xsite Architecture, Robertson, 3e Consulting, Cundall, Arup, FaulknerBrowns, Sadler Brown Architecture and Tolent.

Chris Toon, deputy principal at Gateshead College, said: “It’s fantastic to have Humphrey M&E Consultants on board as the PlanBEE programme gathers momentum. For too long the construction industry has suffered from unfit-for-purpose training that hasn’t really delivered the right skills for employers. That’s what we do differently at PlanBEE; we give students the opportunity to learn about all of the different elements of a construction project so they can hit the ground running and make a positive difference in the companies that employ them.”

Mark Thompson, managing partner at Ryder Architecture, added: “This is a unique programme that has attracted the interest and participation of many companies across the built environment spectrum. PlanBEE has been hugely successful in the North East of England and is a shining example of best practice that we are currently looking to replicate across the UK.”

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

To find out more about Gateshead College and the courses on offer, visit:

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