Here’s to the British construction industry, and its ever more skilled workforce, committed clients and partners. Now, here’s how we can improve …

Construction is an industry that gets more than its fair share of media criticism. There are regular programmes on television involving crooks or cowboys ripping off old ladies. That is wretched and needs exposure, but it does not reflect the daily achievements of the industry. We have a high quality workforce. We deliver massive projects for our country and worldwide. We have built Britain.

Ours is a successful and expanding industry. We have grown more than 30% in the past 10 years in output and workforce. We are building the houses, the schools, the hospitals, the offices, the shops and so much else that our people need. That is why there is such a strong demand for skills. Delivering this massive national infrastructure programme calls for the best workforce.

To provide these skills requires partnership between employers, unions and staff, and the active support of government and clients. It also requires the fullest commitment to safety. There are still too many tragic accidents on our sites. The Code of Good Working Health and Safety Practices launched at the recent safety summit is an important signal.

CITB-ConstructionSkills is signing up to it, and the leaders of the industry will doubtless also do so.

The achievement of the widest safety and skills requirements needs real partnership. There is no place for damaging internal arguments, which detract from the massive strides already made to meet the extremely challenging targets of a fully qualified workforce. Let’s applaud what has been achieved by the partnership of CSCS, CITB-ConstructionSkills, industry employers and trade unions. Here are just a few of the milestones since 2001.

More than 650,000 people have passed the CITB-ConstructionSkills Health and Safety Test. Following a root-and-branch review, it is good that the cost of the test can now be halved, allowing another £4m to be reinvested in the industry and in improving accessibility of test sites.

More than 38,000 people have successfully completed the on-site assessment and training process.

More than 600,000 people have registered through CSCS and its affiliated schemes, leading to 72% of people on Major Contractors Group sites holding a card. Good progress has been made in other sectors covered by the initiative.

Our industry has a high-quality workforce. We deliver massive projects. We have built Britain

There is much to welcome. The industry is getting safer, it is expanding and is improving its skills. There is no reason to be negative.

But there is no room for complacency either. There is still a long way to go. Just as real partnering is not solely between client and main contractors, so best practice for skills and safety also requires the full engagement of the whole supply chain on an equal basis. Clients have a real role. They can and should demand full commitment to training and safety from their chosen supply side team. It is very good that the Major Home Builders Group has joined the Major Contractors Group and others in seeking to have their homes built by CSCS cardholders.

There are many migrant workers on British sites. They are welcome, and are enthusiastic and hardworking. We need to be sure that their skills are fully assessed and that their grasp of English allows them to work safely and effectively.

CITB-ConstructionSkills employers and the unions are working with the government to integrate these operatives.

The industry is not just about large employers and trade unions. There is a continual need to reach out to the smaller contractors and the self-employed sector with regard to safety and skills. That will be an integral part of ConstructionSkills’ draft sector skills agreement.

Above all, let’s be positive. Real progress is being made and it can only be achieved through real partnership. There is an old media saying that good news isn’t news. Well, there is plenty of good news around, and if we in the industry do not let it be known, we cannot expect others to do it for us.

My next column will appear 25 years after I began writing for Building. The industry now is quite different to 1980. If we do not trumpet that, we have only ourselves to blame.