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NCW lacks wow factor


Why is National Construction Week so annoying? Its aims - to promote construction's successes and improve the public's perception of the industry - are laudable. But for the third year running, it has me wanting to pack my bags and flee the country for the week of 3-9 April.

Good riddance probably. But as I haven't gone yet, I thought I'd try and analyse my resistance to what should be a good cause.

Could it be that the national events are again downbeat parochial and with none of the wow factor that would impart the excitement and vitality that is the reality of the industry perhaps.

Let's have a look at what we have to look forward to.

The launch of Respect for People 'attended by senior construction executives and key industry players' - is bound to be a dreary do, with born-again builders castigating themselves for being horrible to their staff but with no plans to invest real money in becoming better employers.

Publication of a Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions report on sustainability; and even more unexciting . . . the unveiling of the next set of Key Performance Indicators. Worthy, industry focused stuff but I don't think we'll be turning people away at the door.

A modern materials campaign which again might be a bit specialist. And a 'red-nose type day' to raise money for homeless charity Crash - which is obviously a good cause - but is hardly very original.

It's not the greatest list. But what really leaps out at me is: where is the civil engineering? The builders have hijacked National Construction Week and turned it into a forum to discuss internal problems, at least at the national level.

What the event needs is an injection of big civil engineering issues that would get the public involved. Where are the railways and roads, water supply, flood prevention, contaminated land and the infrastructure that make modern life possible and that media and public alike are focusing on right now.

What about the work of engineers overseas, like that of Mr Cliff overleaf in the Letters pages. Or the Register of Engineers for Disaster Relief.

Where is the Wheel? That is one construction project that has captured the imagination of just about everyone.

Why no competition for local papers and radio stations to fill a pod with readers or listeners with accompanying explanations of who built it and how?

The NCW organisers have got it right in bringing in Bob the Builder as mascot. The TV character has captured the hearts of the underfives who can be seen toddling to nursery in their yellow hard hats.

If we want their big brothers and sisters and parents to feel the same, NCW needs to think bigger and broader; and it needs to put civil engineering in the forefront.

Jackie Whitelaw is managing editor of NCE

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