PlanBEE apprentices complete Contructionarium


Our PlanBEE apprentices have been working alongside built environment trainees from across the region in a rare opportunity to develop practical skills and expertise on site.

Students from Gateshead College’s innovative PlanBEE programme along with peers from Northumbria and Teesside Universities, and Newcastle, TyneMet and Carlisle colleges, joined with industry specialists from North East firms to share hands-on experience, building scaled down versions of the popular Millennium Gallery in Sheffield.

Participants, in groups of varied capabilities and academic disciplines, created four metre-long miniatures of the modern arched gallery. They were assessed in management, finances and project delivery as they learned about actual complexities of civil engineering and construction design, particularly in planning, method statements and risk assessment.

Their chance comes through Constructionarium North East, an outdoor event held jointly by industry and academia at Marsden Quarry in Whitburn, Sunderland. The large quarry is owned by the North East based Owen Pugh Group, whose chairman and managing director John Dickson, said: “The North East is asserting itself, punching above its weight, in what it’s doing now in training. Nothing else like this is accessible to students in our region.

“The jump in the number of participants this year shows the need and enthusiasm for this. It wouldn’t have been possible, though, without commitments of support in finance, staff and materials from both industry and academia.”

The main sponsor is Northern Counties Builders Federation, with funding also from Newcastle, Northumbria and Teesside Universities, Northumbrian Water, Gateshead College (via Ryder Architecture’s PlanBEE scheme) and the Newcastle centre of international consultants, Royal Haskoning DHV.

A recent 2017-2021 Construction Skills Network Report by the CITB expects the infrastructure sector to grow by more than 8% short term, with demand for staff in many related occupations likely to rise.

Steve Longworth, a Salford University tutor, was project manager, and industry professionals supervised ongoing work. Before the first sod was turned, the first concrete mixed and the first steel prepared, the teams had induction and health and safety briefings. They were also coached in employability skills and were advised that, as on actual construction sites, random alcohol and drug tests may be carried out.

After a VIP celebration showcasing their work, each participant received a portfolio detailing their work for the information of prospective employers. 

PlanBEE was launched in 2016 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.

It has already attracted some high-profile names, including Brims Construction, Sir Robert McAlpine, Xsite Architecture, Robertson, 3e Consulting, Cundall, Arup, FaulknerBrowns, Sadler Brown Architecture, Tolent, BIM Academy, Desco and NBS.

The funding for Gateshead College apprenticeship programmes is made available via the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) and the European Social Fund (ESF). The Skills Funding Agency are responsible for improving the skills of England’s young people and adults to ensure we have a workforce of world-class standard. The European Social Fund is transforming lives through better skills and better job prospects. 

For more information about the PlanBEE programme and to apply click here.