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Signoff: David Taylor

CAN construction ever be glamorous? A lot of people would like it to be, and I can sympathise.We have a problem enticing young people into construction, and we middle-aged fuddy-duddies think if we tell youngsters construction is cool they'll believe us and join the queue for construction jobs as soon as they have their GCSE certificates.

That was the mistake made by the CITB, which would dearly love construction to be fashionable. It even went so far as to hire real-life models to pretend to be trendy construction workers in a recent ad campaign. It backfired when schoolleavers across the land realised the trendy workers were, in fact, models. So they all decided they'd rather go into modelling than construction.Doh!

Could fish-canning ever be glamorous? What about mushroom farming? If not, then why do people do it? Perhaps it pays well.Or perhaps the perks are good. Certainly not because these occupations are cool.

However, the Crossrail project has decided that, come what may, it will be cool, hip, funky and engage the imagination of London's school children to make this project a success.But why it should have decided that beats me. I'm all for telling kids that there'll be a big building project happening on their doorsteps for the next umpteen years and that they could get a good job working on it.But I wouldn't ask them to compose a rap in celebration of the project. I always thought rap was supposed to be rebellious.

But the Crossrail project has its own youth newspaper, The Link, which has joined up with a new radio station, Capital Disney, to sponsor a competition for the best Crossrail rap. It will be dire, whoever wins.

Why this obsession with kids? The answer is buried in the literature promoting the rap competition: 'The younger generation will be the main beneficiaries because, by the time the railway is finished, they will be the older generation.'

Blimey! I know the project's taken a while to get going but - oh dear - that doesn't bode well at all, does it?

A STRANGE press release plopped into my intray last week. It seemed to have no relevance to the construction industry whatsoever. I noticed the photograph first: it appeared to show actor Alistair Sim, the enigmatic stalwart of the old Ealing comedies of the 1950s, dressed in a turquoise robe and sporting a floppy mortar-board on his head.A graduation photo, of course.But why should I be interested in what appeared to be Mr Sim receiving an honorary degree in Black Humour? But then I thought: who in the construction industry is a dead ringer for Alistair Sim? Why, only Sir Martin Laing! And there it was:

Sir Martin himself receiving an Honorary Doctorate of Science from Kingston University which, if my memory serves me right, used to be Hersham Tech.

I've always been a bit suspicious of honorary degrees.And slightly envious. I toiled for four years to get a simple bachelor's degree when I'd have much rather done nothing and had a doctorate foisted on me.That might explain Sir Martin's enigmatic smirk in the accompanying photograph.

Anyway, once I realised who our honorary doctor was, I was keen to learn why he had been deemed worthy of this honour. So I read on.The former chairman of John Laing was 'a key campaigner for sustainable development' and 'the third generation of the family to hold the position of chairman and successfully [guide] John Laing plc through an intense period of change' I should say so. Kingston University also hails Sir Martin's pioneering work in the field of PFI.

Strangely, the press release said nothing about Sir Martin selling the whole construction business to Ray O'Rourke for a measly £1 when everything went belly-up.

Intense period of change? Certainly. Sustainable?

Well, you'd better ask Mr O'Rourke.