Brickies' ad aims to push right buttons

Ian Nash

BUILDERS are seldom associated with political correctness. Now, the official body charged with setting standards and promoting jobs admits unashamedly that it will "press the sex button" to turn young people on to the trade.

A poster of bricklaying in Ibiza (opposite) is one of nine in a campaign launched by the Construction Industry Training Board this week to attract 16 to 19-year-olds receiving GCSE and A-level results.

The poster has raised eyebrows and drawn criticism from feminists and the Equal Opportunities Commission. But CITB communications director Jerry Lloyd defended it, saying it was "right-on politically, though I accept that some people will find it difficult to deal with".

Attention-grabbing headlines on posters for 618 sites in England and Wales include: "Mark did a lot of laying in Ibiza"; "Adam really dug the Eden Project"; "Trev got the whole pub plastered" and "Nina directed a pound;10m box office smash".

The campaign - devised following interviews with teenagers and their parents - aims to promote a positive image for women and ethnic minorities who are under-represented in construction management posts.

But Jenny Watson, deputy chair of the EOC, said: "It's hard to believe that the CITB, having recognised that it needs to boost the number of women it recruits, would think it was OK to use this kind of imagery in a recruitment campaign."

Angela Phillips, feminist, academic and author of The Trouble with Boys, said: "It is a shame that they are reaching for old and outdated stereotypes." She cautioned against "humour failure" when judging it and said: "It might have been better having a woman not a man in the bricklayer's role."

This was originally planned, and Mr Lloyd regretted not including it. But he stands by the poster. "There are a lot of preconceptions about builders' bums and wolf-whistles from the scaffold.

"Yes we are pressing the sex button. It is a fact that Ibiza is a place where people go to pull or be pulled. But we are also pressing them for pubs, shopping, clubs, healthcare and the environment. People have to look and ask, 'is it sex or is it sexist' ?"

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Ian Nash

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