Construction skills shortages can only get worse as regeneration hits fever pitch in Birm ingham, with around £5 billion of major new developments and schemes taking shape over the next seven years.

That forecast comes from Simon Marks, a leading regeneration expert at EC Harris, at a time when plans for the long-awaited redevelopment of Birmingham New Street station have started to create an ripple effect across the city and beyond.

The project not only represents a massive investment in the region's public transport network, says Mr Marks, but will become the catalyst that will link up with other developments and major regeneration projects in and around the city.

He looks forward to the continued transformation of a city that will be characterised b y waterside vistas,

high-quality green public spaces, pedestrian-friendly streets, rejuvenated heritage buildings and modern architectural gems.

The only trouble is finding enough good people to make the blueprints a reality, according to Mr Marks.

"The biggest challenge facing the industry is the fact that the workforce or skills are not yet in place to develop all these new schemes, " he tells Business Property Review.

"But every cloud has a silver lining, and the prospect of excellent employment and high earnings, will hopefully start to steer more graduates towards a career in construction and project management.

"While there will always be a shortage of good technical people with construction and engineering related qualifications, the opportunities for graduates with good traditional degrees are wide ranging, particularly those previously attracted to the accountancy or legal profession.

"A surveying qualification

is no longer a prerequisite to the industry. Those highly intellectual individuals who don't come from an industry background but possess great interpersonal skills, are articulate and numerate, are required to manage projects, clients' demands and expectations.

"Schools, colleges and universities therefore need to be actively encouraging more students to consider the wide range of careers that the construction industry has to offer.

"There's also a need to break down perceptions that the industry is not just about bricks and mortar, but a dynamic and exciting environ-ment requiring first-class business management skills."

Proposed plans to regenerate Birmingham New Street station has started to create an inevitable ripple effect across the city and beyond.

Redeveloping New Street is critical for passengers and business, according to Mr Marks - and essential to the future of the West Midlands.

It will increase connectivity

to other nearby schemes, such as Masshouse and Eastside, changing both the physical shape and perception of Birmingham city centre.

More than half the apartments that make up the Masshouse residential element have been sold and progress with the commercial buildings is now accelerating.

Demand for city living is being fuelled by the development of countless high-quality a partment schemes by Redrow, Chase Homes, Cala and Crosby Homes and Urban Splash and the growth in the professional services and financial sectors.

Further afield, other exciting hotspots on the horizon include Edgbaston and Selly Oak, according to Mr Marks.

Housing the new headquarters of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce will mark the rejuvenation of Edgbaston as what Mr Marks describes as an international business area.

Described by Mr Marks as Birmingham's out-of-town jewel, Edgbaston is to benefit from a development programme by Calthorpe Estates which will create a wealth of mixed-used space.

"The major regeneration of Edgbaston Shopping Centre and the development of the University Science Park at

Pebble Mill will therefore enhance the city's gateway to the west with the added benefit of two new hotels," says Mr Marks.

"These initiatives will spearhead the transformation of the city further south with Selly Oak providing the home to the city's first new £600 million super-hospital, the £325 million Sainsbury's development plus a new canal basin."