Labour shortages, culture change and European politics
Possibly the single biggest challenge facing the construction industry is whether it can find the enough workers to turn the billions of pounds of public sector investment into better public services. The Construction Industry Training Board estimates that the industry needs more than 150,000 recruits a year for the next four just to be able to cope with its current workload.

This year, the government will launch a skills academy to try to fill the skills gap in construction trades. For it to be a success, new trainees must be welcomed by the industry. And if the CITB targets are to be met, the industry also needs to turn its rhetoric about recruiting and retaining women and ethnic minorities into action.

CITB figures show that only 2% of the construction industry is black or Asian. It is estimated that this percentage will increase as skills shortages intensify and contractors are forced to recruit outside the traditional construction labour market. The strategic forum has already begun to address "people issues" and a key performance indicator for diversity is being worked on.

The caveat, of course, is that the culture of construction is generally sexist and on some sites, racist. Firms will be forced to tighten up their procedures for dealing with racism, bullying and sexual harrassment. Improved site conditions wouldn't hurt, either.

The good news is that the UK's labour pool is likely to be filled by the enlargement of the European Union. This will grant freedom of movement and residence to economic migrants from eastern and central Europe. Foremen with a working knowledge of Slavic languages could find they are in demand …