Phase one of the project, which came to an end last Friday, was a two-week billboard poster campaign that featured nine images of young workers doing exciting things, like "spending £30m at the mall".
But it was the poster depicting a bricklayer being eyed up by two babes in bikinis under the explanatory slogan "Mark did a lot of laying in Ibiza", that really upset some in the industry. In particular, Sheena Keskin, QS with structural engineer Keskin Komfort in Preston, who argued in Building's letters page that the campaign was "obscene".
By repackaging construction traditional image and giving it a laddish spin, Keskin argued, the CITB was perpetuating the dumb macho stereotypes that were generally agreed to be inimical to site safety, gender and racial equality, the image of the construction industry, the Egan agenda and so on.
Obviously, Jerry Lloyd has a different opinion. He is the CITB's communications director, and the thinking behind the campaign, he says, was to "give people permission to be proud of working in construction". According to Lloyd, the CITB used a mix of ethnic backgrounds and sexes, and its follow-up interviews with 30 young people indicated that the campaign is working.
The next phase will be to place the images in magazines, after which CITB careers advisers will be sent to schools to hoover up the – by now – enthusiastic schoolchildren. Lloyd says: "The acid test will be whether or not they listen more attentively to our careers advisers and pick up careers literature which otherwise they'd assume wasn't aimed at them."
The industry needs 370,000 recruits by 2005. The CITB says that it can compete in the labour market only if it talks to young people in their own cultural dialect and tries, in Lloyd's phrase, to "push their buttons". So Building decided to do a little qualitative research of its own with some of the target market in south London …
What the target market thoughtWill the campaign really attract new young recruits? We went to the site of some billboards at New Cross, south London, to find out what effect they had on young passers-by. We stopped possible school leavers aged 16–19, but also university students, and gave them a selection of the other seven posters to consider. This was their reaction …
Michael Seggie, 16, GCSE student
I wouldn’t take any notice at first. It doesn’t tell me exactly what it’s about. I would be more interested if I was involved in construction. How does the “Mark in Ibiza” poster grab you?
It gets my attention. I’m not sure I’d know what it was about, though. I think it says “if you’re a builder, you can go to Ibiza and you’ll get women”. Do they do anything for the image of the building profession?
It’s a bit more glamorous than the “builder’s bum” image. The guy looks smart – he’s wearing a clean white T-shirt and you wouldn’t normally expect that. Would it encourage you into the industry?
It shows there are a wide range of skills in the industry. When people think of building, they don’t always think of the architects and designers as well. The posters show there’s more to construction than you think.
Hannah Hassan, 20, thinking of doing a college course
There’s nothing wrong with it. The picture of the guy is distracting. It says that the job is fun and you get to meet women. I think younger people will like it. What about “Lucy in the shopping mall”? Does this attract you?
Yeah, everybody wants to make money, so you want to know how she does it. Does this change your perception of builders?
He’s good looking, Mark, and the poster shows that he can pull a lady. They’re looking at him and it shows that the ladies will fall for him.
Stephanie Blackwell, 24, eco-design student at Goldsmiths College
It’s so typical that people go for sex. I preferred the other one (Adam in Eden) because I’m doing eco-design at college. Would you say it’s sexist?
Some people would have an issue with it, but it’s Ibiza and that’s what happens. Does it put across a positive image of the industry?
What I like about all the posters is that people seem to be getting satisfaction out of what they’re doing. Do you like “Mark in Ibiza”?
It’s cheesy. It’s obviously not really going to be like that. This is covering up the reality of it all. Would you consider a career in construction after looking at these posters?
The positions of power available in the industry do attract me and I’m sure it would attract other graduates.
Andrew Reilly, 19, student at Goldsmiths College
It took a little while to understand what it was all about. Do you understand now?
It kind of says to me “come and build with us, there are women available”. The other poster (Adam in Eden) I didn’t even notice. Does it give a positive image of the profession?
I suppose the traditional image is of builders whistling at women, and this sort of reinforces that idea.
Thomas Lambert, 18, A level student
I suppose they say: “You can do anything in the construction industry.” Does this give a good image of the construction industry?
It shows that it’s not just about the building. What about the posters encouraging women to be part of the industry?
It puts women in positions you wouldn’t expect them. What do you think of Mark in Ibiza?
It’s a basic appeal. Men like sex.
David Firth, 18, A level student
I can’t read the writing, what’s it about? If you looked closer would you know what it was about?
No. Well, okay, it’s the CITB. What do you think of the Ibiza one?
The bloke in the Ibiza poster is saying “women are cheap and easy”. Have these posters changed your image of construction industry?
No – but they’re alright.