Construction skills

November 1, 2018

An innovative scheme is helping construction firms to develop their workforce, plug skills gaps and position themselves for a prosperous future

PlanBEE was launched to build a skilled workforce for industry employers and, importantly, to provide career opportunities for young people here in the North East.

Two years on, it’s doing exactly that. As a result of the programme, dozens of young people have secured full-time positions in the industry and companies have been able to build a talented workforce for the future.

PlanBEE is also driving collaboration with an alliance of architects, designers, contractors and engineering specialists, led by Gateshead College and Ryder Architecture.

For young people, it offers an opportunity to complete their qualifications while working across several companies. They gain a more rounded understanding of all of the disciplines used by firms across the built environment and construction industries.

But what are the benefits for the businesses involved? What does PlanBEE offer that’s innovative? And how is it helping industry to shape the future workforce?

Gateshead College put these questions to PlanBEE sponsors Black & White Engineering (B&W) and Bowmer & Kirkland:

Steve Horn, director in B&W’s Newcastle office (pictured left)

“The best thing about PlanBEE? It’s led by the needs of industry. We got involved as we had to find ways of bringing new skills into our business. The industry is evolving fast and businesses that fail to adapt tend to get left behind.

“Nowadays, construction staff require a broad skillset because the projects they work on span
a range of different disciplines, such as design, planning, architecture, surveying and landscaping. The big benefit of PlanBEE is that it allows us to recruit people with knowledge and awareness of all of these disciplines.

“Naturally, this benefits students by giving them a greater range of career options but it also has multiple advantages for us. We can build a workforce with a wider skills base, which puts us in a better position to win more business. We can challenge our existing workforce to test new ideas and approaches that make us more efficient, and we can build new partnerships with other companies as a result of the students’ previous work with them.

“PlanBEE also allows us to plan for future growth. The programme is ideal preparation for how we want to develop our staff, which is to give them opportunities to experience different ways of working on various schemes around the world. The design and consultancy services we provide are useful for so many projects, from the construction of high-rise towers and new data centres to hotels, shopping malls and airports. To work on all of these projects, workers need to be armed with a varied skillset, especially as countries have their own way of doing things and different legislation to adhere to.

“One of the key advantages of PlanBEE is its collaborative nature. This really assists us on projects that involve Building Information Modelling (BIM), an approach that helps firms risk-assess projects at an early stage by generating intelligent 3D models of buildings before construction takes place. To run these projects effectively, we need people who can apply design and technology across different construction disciplines. PlanBEE gives us access to those skills, which will help us generate even more value on BIM projects going forward.

“I’ve been involved in previous schemes where the training provider offered us a pre-defined learning programme. While some elements of
the programme were really useful, overall it didn’t really fit with our aims and business goals. With PlanBEE, we’re shaping the agenda along with other companies involved in the scheme. That’s the key to its success.”

Andrew Marshall, commercial manager, Bowmer & Kirkland

“We’ve been a sponsor of PlanBEE for the last 12 months and we see great value in the scheme as it enables us to bring fresh talent into our company.

“The way the scheme is set up, we get to work with numerous students and it enables us to find out who would be a good fit for our business. It’s not a one-way process either. They appraise us just as much as we appraise them. This makes the interview process at the end more seamless as we already have a good idea of each other’s aims, aspirations, skills and competencies.

“While students are getting valuable mentoring and on-the-job training, which gives them vital skills and experience, we’re getting an insight into what they do and what they’re like as people. We recently recruited three PlanBEE graduates, including Jordi Morris, who completed the two-year programme with flying colours. During his placement with us, we quickly realised he was extremely motivated, well-balanced, articulate and willing to learn. He also presented us with a well-polished CV and interviewed well at the end of the process. All of these factors persuaded us to offer him a permanent position as a trainee quantity surveyor at our Sunderland office – and we certainly don’t regret our decision!

“The key benefit of PlanBEE to our business is that we’re recruiting people with a really good grasp and appreciation of our industry. There are many facets to the built environment sector, with lots of different types of projects to work on, and people now need a broader skillset than perhaps they did previously. At Bowmer & Kirkland, we offer a wide range of specialisms from construction-related services to homeland security products. As we grow and develop our portfolio and customer base, we need people like Jordi who have the skills to come on that journey with us.”


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