Derbyshire workers in new BBC3 television show Brickies show how stacks of money and fun are up for grabs in construction industry

A Derbyshire born site foreman is hoping that a new TV reality show about bricklayers will encourage young people into the construction industry.

Friday, 8th April 2022, 12:48 pm

Jack Smith, who grew up in Ilkeston, features in the new six-part BBC Three series Brickies which includes an episode filmed in Heage.

The series showcases young bricklayers who are building houses – and building lives. They use the money to turn their lives around – from buying houses and flashy cars to supporting their families and developing their own career ambitions.

Bricklayers of all abilities feature in the episodes - from apprentices getting to grips with their new world, to experienced bosses whose job it is to keep their teams on track, with deadlines fast approaching.

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Jack Smith, site foreman, oversees the building of a retaining wall at Heage which features in Brickies (photo: BBC/Button Down/Ollie Bostock)

As site foreman on the programme, Jack Smith, 31, shows the skills he has learned through working for Derby based Hodgkinsons Builders, a company that was founded in Ilkeston by Ian Hodgkinson who was born in the town.

Jack, who has worked for Hodgkinsons Builders for 13 years, said: "A lot of my job is down to people skills. I refer to myself sometimes as like a babysitter looking after them. I have to be there for them most of the time, giving them words of advice and using my experiences from being a bricklayer.”

He is in every episode of Brickies, that launches on April 14, and also features several of his Hodgkinsons colleagues including managing director Ian and star apprentice Zac.

Jack said: “I was working away one day and I got a phone call from Ian saying that they'd been approached asking if any of our bricklayers would be interested in being on a show as they were using our sites. They were looking for someone who was still relatively young, had been an apprentice, been a bricklayer, earned money and then become a manager while still being young. Obviously I fit the bracket for that. From then on they looked for bricklayers, a few apprentices from Hodgkinsons and young bricklayers from elsewhere that worked on the sites.”

Jeorgia Pureser, from Monmouth, and her dad Merv on the site at Heage (photo: BBC/Button Down /Ollie Bostock)

Filmed in the summer of 2021, camera crews captured brickies and managers at work in Heage, Northampton and Stoke.

In Heage the brickies built a retaining wall to protect a new housing development from possible land slips and flooding.

Asked about his first experience of working in front of a TV film crew, Jack said: “When the cameras are around you don’t know what to say and get a bit of a dry mouth. After a while, it becomes second nature. We’re just doing our day to day jobs, being ourselves and saying what we normally say. On a building site there is a lot of swearing and a lot of it is banter!”

The series reflects the difficulties faced by the construction industry. Jack said: "We go through a bit of turmoil with material shortage that was happening in the country and that’s still happening now. There's problems with not getting the job done on time which, in our industry, is a really important thing.”

However, the episodes show that the benefits of being a brickie outweigh the challenges. Jack said: "A lot of people will be surprised at the earning potential of people in construction and the fun they can have on site. Obviously, sites are a dangerous place but as long as you’re sensible you can have a laugh and earn a bit of money.”

When Jack was at school he was told that bricklaying was not a good career but he has proved the doubters wrong. He gained qualifications in construction, served a two-year apprenticeship with a company in Ilkeston and then joined Hodgkinson’s Builders. Jack rose through the ranks and is now on a £45,000 salary with his job perks including a vehicle and a fuel card.

Prior to Covid, company boss Ian took his managers to Benidorm every year for a four-day break with accommodation, flights and food paid for. This year the task of arranging the work’s visit to Spain has been put in Jack’s capable hands. Jack, who lives in Giltbrook, said: “At the minute we've put it on the back burner because people are trying to catch up on holidays. I got married in September last year and seventeen people from Hodgkinsons came to my wedding night in Greece. We’re like one big family, everyone gets looked after.”

Brickies is a co-commission by BBC Three and BBC England. The first episode airs on Thursday, April 14, at 9pm and will then run weekly. The entire series drops on BBC iPlayer on April 14 at 6am.