A unique apprenticeship established in North East England to give young people a solid foundation for a career in the built environment has proven so successful it has expanded nationally and internationally.
The industry-driven PlanBEE programme developed by Ryder and Gateshead College to plug a skills and talent gap in the built environment sector is expanding to Vancouver, Canada and London.
The award winning higher apprenticeship was developed in 2016 to encourage young people to join and thrive in the industry. They learn multiple disciplines, working in a variety of roles including architecture, engineering, quantity surveying and construction – all with a strong emphasis on digital skills.
Alongside academic study, the apprentices are employed to learn on the job and rotate across employers including Bowmer + Kirkland, Sir Robert McAlpine, Cundall, – Mott MacDonald and Ryder.
Following its initial success in the North East, Manchester City Council joined forces with Ryder Architecture and Gateshead College in 2021 to launch PlanBEE in the city. Since then, the number of apprentices and businesses involved in the programme have increased by 122 percent and the first PlanBEE Manchester apprentices have recently graduated. All of them secured full-time roles with companies including Buro Happold, Eric Wright Construction, Purcell Architects, and Ramboll.
Ayman Abdulgabar, who recently started his role as a trainee quantity surveyor with Turner & Townsend after successfully completing PlanBEE in Manchester, said: “What attracted me to PlanBEE was the fact that it provides extensive exposure to the various skills involved in the construction industry.
“All I knew was that I wanted to work in the industry. I would definitely recommend the course. Instead of attending university for a degree in an area that I might not have enjoyed, PlanBEE gave me an insight into the various disciplines so I could understand better what I wanted to do in the future.”
Building on the success of the programme, PlanBEE has now expanded to London, in partnership with the London School of Architecture (LSA) and supported by several London boroughs, with the first apprentices starting this September (2023).
Neal Shasore, Head of School and Chief Executive at the LSA, said: “There is a pressing need in the built environment to develop the best talent and equip them with the tools to address our current and future challenges. PlanBEE is a proven and innovative apprenticeship providing an excellent opportunity to support this need.”
In Vancouver, British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) was introduced to PlanBEE by Ryder which has led to the creation of an adapted version of the programme with the new industry led apprenticeship and micro-credential for schools launching in July 2023.
Wayne Hand, Dean of the School of Construction and Environment at BCIT said: “BCIT is excited to be spearheading this unique initiative that offers motivated high school students a deeper understanding of career opportunities in architecture, construction, and engineering enabling them to make informed decisions about their future careers.”
Mark Thompson, managing director at Ryder, said: “It’s wonderful that our PlanBEE programme, created in North East England, has received not only national but international attention. This highlights just how successful it’s been in shaping the future workforce for the built environment. It’s a very transferable course and we’re confident it will prove just as successful in London and Vancouver.”
Since 2016, there have been over 500 industry placements and 74 students have graduated, with 97% progressing to permanent jobs within the sector.
Chris Toon, deputy principal at Gateshead College, said: “PlanBEE has been phenomenally successful, attracting attention from UK industry and overseas. The global recognition is great news for the sector and the development of the future workforce.
“The apprenticeship has directly improved talent development in the industry and brought great benefits to employers across the North East and Manchester. We’re confident London and Vancouver will experience the same impact.
“We’re also pleased that PlanBEE has created opportunity for those from underprivileged and underrepresented backgrounds increasing diversity and inclusivity in the sector.
“Apprenticeships like PlanBEE are vital to future proofing key industries and equipping workforces with the work ready skills they need to succeed.”
If you’re interested in finding out more about being involved in PlanBEE, visit www.gatesheadcollege.ac.uk/planbee