Stars of the screen

BCIA President Graeme Rees discusses the influence television can have on our career choices

As settings for a television comedy or drama go, building sites are not exactly high up on the list. Sure, a few episodes of Casualty will have featured some scaffolding mishaps at the beginning, but for a running plotline only the 1980s classic Auf Wiedersehen, Pet can lay claim to placing its characters firmly in the building trade. The first series of the much-loved comedy drama followed seven British men, including four bricklayers, a carpenter, a plasterer and an electrician as they found work in Germany. In later series we saw the gang’s private lives intertwine with their jobs which also took them to Spain, Arizona and Cuba. It was a show that many people could relate to as you always felt you were watching real people going about their ordinary lives. This was of course long before the TV listings were awash with reality shows and fly-on-the-wall documentaries. It is probably because of the programme’s popularity that no writer has dared to try and remake it for the 21st century. There have been various reboots of classic shows in recent years such as Dad’s Army, Porridge, The Darling Buds of May and Reginald Perrin with mixed results.

‘Where are you going with this?’ I hear you ask. Well, with the arrival of the aforementioned ‘reality’ TV, it seems every workplace, trade, hobby or product under the sun has had a television show centred around it. In addition to the many talent shows, we’ve had driving schools, airports, hotels, kitchens, restaurants, factories, cooking, baking, knitting, pottery, painting…and even Lego! The building trade has barely got a look in but, as I’m sure many of you will agree, the real life stories behind the construction of buildings could make for fascinating viewing. So maybe there is some potential.

Trailblazers for women

Brickies, a new documentary series on the BBC, features a group of young bricklayers of varying abilities and experience as they discuss their ambitions and explain what inspired them to take up what can be a physically demanding but rewarding career. It is particularly refreshing to note that three of the builders are young women and they are all proving themselves to be trailblazers for women in what has historically been an incredibly male-dominated industry. There are varying statistics circulating about women’s representation in the UK’s construction industry as a whole but none of the percentages are over 20%. There are some signs that things are changing for the better and with the enormous influence television has on audiences I hope that if we see more programmes like this then we might enjoy some welcome assistance in addressing issues such as the gender balance as well as the skills gap. The fact that one of the bricklayers boasts that she is making good money while her friends who went to university are in debt is also a great plug for apprenticeships in general.

Bragging rights

As iconic new buildings are built, blending with some of our more historical landmarks, there is an increasingly diverse built environment of which BEMS will be playing a crucial part in ensuring a greener future. There are undoubtedly some bragging rights to be had for anybody involved in the construction of the next state-of-the-art sports stadium or skyscraper – even more so if it gets some positive media coverage.

With so many TV channels and streaming services available to us now there surely has to be room for a few more series along these lines. OK, I am not rushing to put myself forward to be any kind of Gordon Ramsay or Lord Sugar figure for the building controls sector, but if any BBC, Amazon or Netflix executives are reading, I am willing to provide some advice!