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Start ’em young

Who so neglects learning in his youth loses the past and is dead to the future.

Kids’ TV is great. At least it is when it’s done well.

Watching Cbeebies on Sunday, I was mightly impressed with one programme which showed a lady building a brick wall and then visiting a brick factory to find out how to make the bricks.

It was slightly disconcerting that it was Nurse Gladys Emmanuel that was making the bricks (showing my seventies childhood there), but that not withstanding, it was great to see the hand made and wire cut bricks on the line at Hanson’s Butterley factory.

The programme then went to a building site to see how the bricks are used in housing – no timber frame here, just good, old fashioned British bricks and blocks, being put together by a good, old fashioned British brickie.

The only slightly disappointing thing was that Nurse Gladys (I’m sorry, I can’t think of actress Linda Barron as anything else) was visiting the factory in order to buy some more bricks for repairing the wall she was building in her garden. So we saw a Hanson group lorry turn up at her door to deliver two dozen or so bricks. How much better would it have been for her, having been to the factory and building site, to be seen trotting down to the nearest builders merchants to buy the bricks and have them do the deliveries?

Before we had the credit crunch-driven housing crisis – yes, there was a time before – we were in another sort of crisis, that of a lack of skilled workers. Then the EU borders opened up and we got skilled workers, lots and lots of them, coming over from Eastern Europe. Rumour has it that many of these builders are now heading home, since the lucrative UK building work has dried up.

When things improve – and they will – what are the chances of us finding ourselves in a similar skills shortage? Fairly high I would have thought. So it’s as vital now as it ever was that we get youngsters thinking about the construction industry as a perfectly reasonable career option as opposed to something with computers or being famous for being famous.

While Sunday’s programme probably had a target audience that still wants to be train drivers and fairy princesses, we still need to make sure that anything encouraging youngsters to think about construction careers also includes the merchanting option.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Fiona Russell-Horne
Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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