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Investing in infrastructure key for North East’s economic recovery

By Darren Laybourn, Director and Regional Strategic Lead at Turner & Townsend, and North East LEP Business Growth Board member.

Manchester’s skyline is often used to illustrate how well the economy is performing in the North West. The sight of tower cranes and new buildings appearing across the city suggests a high level of confidence from inward investors, and a vibrant, growing business community.

The construction industry can be a good indicator of a region’s economic health, which is why there has been so much focus on infrastructure and building back better from the coronavirus pandemic.

During the first national lockdown, the construction sector was one of the few areas of industry able to fully continue working. Government further bolstered the sector by investing millions of pounds in supporting infrastructure projects across the UK, including here in the North East, through the Getting Building Fund.

A booming construction sector gives confidence to the business community, particularly startups and SMEs. It encourages businesses to continue to invest in staff, which is vital in helping retain skills and talent in the region.

The UK’s exit from the EU has brought about new labour regulations that if not managed correctly, may result in a shortage of skills in some areas of the country. At a time when we’re looking to recover quickly from the coronavirus pandemic, it’s important we don’t develop a regional cold spot in terms of skills and labour.

The construction industry in the UK accounts for 10% of total UK employment – approximately three million jobs.* It also supports a wider ecosystem including delivery partners, supply chains – even coffee shops that serve workers on their lunch breaks. And it doesn’t stop there. The construction industry is the catalyst for creating new jobs in the longer term too, be that through new office spaces, business parks, enterprise zones, etc.

Cities like Manchester, and Leeds have gained the confidence of investors and the business community. That’s reflected in the amount of investment in new infrastructure projects across both destinations. If we’re going to compete with that we must maintain a good base of capital projects in the region and build back from the coronavirus pandemic.

There are already some fantastic examples of regeneration in North East England. Newcastle Helix has helped grow the region’s health and life science sector by creating an environment where academia and business can collaborate and drive forward innovations in data science, urban science and life science.

In Newcastle upon Tyne, work is beginning at pace on the transformation of East Pilgrim Street. The £100m project will introduce new offices, bars, restaurants, car parks, and housing in the city centre. The first phase of the project will see the creation of a new landmark, 14-storey, Grade A office building.

Across the river in Gateshead, the £290m NewcastleGateshead Quays regeneration scheme is expected to create around 2,000 new jobs in the North East and provide a £60m annual boost to the local economy.

Projects of this scale and ambition have increased confidence in the North East, resulting in more inward investment and more job creation, which maintains and, in some cases, grows those important skills.

The focus of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership on investment and infrastructure is at the heart of the region’s Strategic Economic Plan. Moving forward, we need to continue the successful delivery of funding programmes in the North East – including the Local Growth Fund. We also need to develop a regional project pipeline and support SMEs in the North East to bid for local work.

Earlier this year the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group – which comprises the North East LEP, CBI, North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities, the region’s universities, with the support of industry – submitted its North East Recovery and Renewal Deal to government, asking for a £2.8bn investment to support the North East’s economic recovery from COVID-19.

Building infrastructure to lead transformation and encourage future investment is a key theme in the deal. It is this that will help the region bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic and support future growth and investment in the North East.

Darren Laybourn is Director and Regional Strategic Lead at Turner & Townsend, and a Business Growth Board member at the North East Local Enterprise Partnership

*(source: https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/UK_construction_industry)

Home / construction

Ground breaking project to build professional skills in construction sector

Unique North East England initiative to develop new careers and skills

A dynamic private sector led partnership in North East England is working with education to develop a new way of attracting talented young people into construction.

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

PlanBEE (Campaign for Change in the Built Environment) was launched by Ryder Architecture in 2013 and the campaign now also includes the support of Arup, Brims, Cundall, Desco, Esh, FaulknerBrowns, Napper Architects, Sir Robert McAlpine, Summers Inman, Surgo, Turner and Townsend, Xsite, 3eConsult, NELEP, RICS and ICE. Further partners are joining.

They have joined forces with the region’s leading further education organisation, Gateshead College to help devise a 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, 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 business consortium members.

“We believe PlanBEE will inspire a new generation of bright, talented people to consider a rewarding career in construction. The blended learning approach, which includes residential elements alongside traditional day release, aims to deliver work ready graduates 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 across 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, engineering, surveying and construction.

Meetings between Gateshead College and businesses 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 degree stages will be provided by a regional university starting in 2018.

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.”

For more information about the programme, contact [email protected] or visit www.joinplanbee.com