How To Get A CSCS Card – All Your Questions Answered
CSCS Cards – The Colours, The Costs and What You Need To Do To Get Your CSCS Card Sorted Out
What does CSCS stand for and why do I need a card?
CSCS stands for “Construction Skills Certification Scheme“, originally created in 1995 to provide an easy means of ensuring all people working on building sites had a basic understanding of Health & Safety issues.
The card contains personal details of the holder and a photograph. In addition, the holder’s CSCS Registration Number and designation of the card is on the front – with the trade for which the holder is qualified shown on the rear.
The construction sector found the scheme beneficial in that production of a card would signify the worker concerned was competent in general health and safety issues relevant to building sites and many employers started to adopt an “all carded” approach so they could be reassured as to the basic standards their staff could be expected to know.
Over the years, the CSCS has developed, partly to deliver enhanced benefits to employers and site agents – such as the addition of a “smart” chip so cards may be easily verified – and also to drive the construction sector’s migration to a fully qualified workforce.
In 2012, the basic Health & Safety test was enhanced to include environment issues and it is now called the “Health, Safety & Environment” test. This was in response to the development of the “Considerate Construction” scheme and has broad reaching effects, preventing disturbance to wildlife, unnecessary noise and the risk of pollution of waterways and drains from work taking place nearby.
However, whilst the original scheme was also intended to signify the trade competencies of the holder, the vast majority of cards issued were either Green “Site Operative” or White “Construction Related Occupations” cards – which obviously did not reflect any specific trade skills.
Much of this was due to resistance on the part of the workforce, many of whom objected to having to “be tested for the job they’d been doing for years”. Additionally, Site Agents under pressure to get work completed were often tempted to turn a blind eye to workers whom they knew could get the work required done.
Clearly, further rigour needed to be applied to the scheme. The first step taken in 2014 was to withdraw and replace the Green “Site Operative” card, which was re-designated “Site Labourer” and which required the holder to undertake a Level 1 Health & Safety in a Construction Environment qualification.
Unsurprisingly, this caused people to seek out a card they could get easily and without the expense of qualifications and there was a rush to “Construction Related Occupations” cards, originally intended for people who were responsible for cleaning finished properties or similar non-trade tasks associated with building.
The CSCS and employers reacted swiftly – the “Construction Related Occupations” card was withdrawn in 2017. At the same time, the “Visitor” card was also designated for withdrawal and will be out of use by August 2020.
What has been less noticed, but very welcome, has been the reduction in both injuries and in particular deaths on construction sites. One death is too many, but in the latter 2000’s hundreds of people were being killed on construction sites every year, with many more seriously injured.
Can I get a CSCS Card without an NVQ?
The position now is that more and more sites are “fully Carded” and you need a CSCS Card to work on them. Additionally, you won’t be able to undertake “trade” work without the appropriate card – usually a Blue “Skilled Worker” card. To get the Blue CSCS Card, you will need a “nationally recognised construction related occupation” for that trade at Level 2. Sometimes this is misinterpreted to mean the National Vocational Qualification, but that’s not the case – many other qualifications may be recognised and it is always worth checking with CSCS before spending more money. See also our post on “How To Get Your NVQ”.
How do I get a CSCS Card?
If you have taken the CSCS Health, Safety & Environment test (often called the CSCS Skills Test or CSCS Touch Screen Test) within the past two years and you have the relevant qualification, all you need to do is call and you can get one over the phone.
Where do I take the CSCS Touch Screen Test?
Whatever you do – don’t just “Google” it! You’ll probably end up paying a booking fee. Click here and you can book in online for £21.00. There are test centres all over the country. You will need to take in-date photo identification with you.
If you have taken the CSCS Test in the last two years – you can get a new card without taking it again.
Which CSCS Card do I need?
The easiest way of finding out is by going to the CSCS Card Finder (link opens a new window). Generally, you will need either a “Site Labourer” Green Card or a Blue “Skilled Worker” Card. However, there are Supervisor, Manager and Professionally Qualified Person cards – always check and you can’t go wrong.
What qualifications do I need to get a CSCS Card?
Once again, the Card Finder is your friend in this regard – just put in your trade and it will generate a response of which card you need and the qualification you must hold to get it.
What if I don’t have a qualification?
Within the range of CSCS cards are both Temporary and Provisional Cards.
For example, you can get a card if you are an Experienced Worker but have never held formal qualifications – many people call this “Time Served”. To get the Red “Experienced Worker” card, you must be registered for a qualification and will need to send a copy of your registration to the CSCS to be issued with your card.
Provisional CSCS cards are issued to people who are working temporarily – for example someone who is being considered for a full time job, or as a potential Apprentice and who is on work experience.
Temporary cards cannot be renewed – the CSCS have become wise to their potential misuse. However, they provide a means for people to enter the trade or start work on a “Fully Carded” site – or for an employer to migrate the workforce to fully qualified status.
There is also a CSCS “Trainee” card and one for people undertaking Apprenticeships. Both these are Red and gain access to work on carded sites.
Can I claim “Grandfather Rights”?
To avoid wholesale disruption of the industry, when the CSCS scheme was first introduced, Industry Accreditation, also known as Grandfather Rights, was created so that existing “time served” workers could obtain CSCS cards on the strength of their employers’ recommendation rather than having a recognised qualification.
Whilst people already holding a card are currently able to renew it on the same basis, the Industry Accreditation classification and associated card was closed to new applications in 2010.
There are still about 60,000 people holding these cards, but from January 2020, all cards issued will expire in December 2024 and the card will not be issued for renewal from June 2024.
So if you have “Grandfather Rights” you are OK until 2024, but if you have never applied for them, or have let your card lapse, you will not be able to use this classification to get a card.
How do I get my qualifications?
Remember the good news – the money you spend on qualifications to get your CSCS Card can be claimed back in your tax return for the year.
This applies even if you are employed, rather than self-employed. SuperSkills receives many enquiries from people who want to get qualified in order to move on from their present position, or whose employer does not offer training to staff.
Many calls we receive start with one of two misconceptions…. “I need my City & Guilds” or “I want my Level 3” so let’s start with those.
“City & Guilds” isn’t a qualification, or a qualification standard. It is an awarding body, regulated by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA). Historically, they were associated with trade skills and in particular, construction qualifications. That’s why so many people will have (back in the day) been through apprenticeships or other courses under their brand name.
The Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) developed their own awarding body Construction Skills, delivering similar qualifications and during the 2000’s joined the City & Guilds in the Construction Awards Alliance. Subsequently they parted and CSkills Awards was created, an awarding body owned and operated by the CITB. CSkills quickly became the leading awarding body for the construction sector.
Unsurprisingly, having the sector skills council, the awarding body and the card scheme operator under the same roof drew suggestions of a conflict of interest, so the CITB was forced to sell off CSkills Awards, leading to its purchase by the NOCN Group in 2017.
SuperSkills has been around long enough to have worked with the various awarding bodies throughout this time. Whilst we’re looking forward to a period of stability, we are very happy to be delivering CSkills Awards in the knowledge they present the best opportunity for construction workers to get qualified quickly, simply and conveniently.
What are NVQ’s?
The letters “NVQ” stand for National Vocational Qualification. In Scotland, Scottish Vocational Qualifications, or SVQ’s. They are equivalent and interchangeable.
NVQ’s are regulated by the Qualification & Curriculum Authority (QCA). To award the NVQ, the awarding body has to get approval for how the programme of learning and assessment is designed from the QCA.
NVQ’s start life with a Sector Skills Council, such as the CITB. Employers work with the Sector Skills Council and set standards for every trade at a particular level. A Site Carpenter at Level 2 will be required to have a set of skills and competencies, both personal and job related. At Level 3, these will be for more complicated work and supervisory duties.
For example – Level 2 Site Carpenters are assessed “Installing first fixing components in the workplace”, whereas Level 3 assessment involves “Installing bespoke first fixing components in the workplace”.
The supervisory nature of the role is demonstrated – Level 2 “Conforming to productive working practices in the workplace” and at Level 3 “Confirming the occupational method of work in the workplace”.
As a basic rule of thumb, Level 2 qualifications sit with GCSE’s and Level 3 are more equivalent to “A” Levels. Level 2 qualifications will get you a Blue “Skilled Worker” Card and Level 3 a Gold “Advanced Craft” or “Supervisor” CSCS Card.
“I want my Level 3” – Our first question when a customer how to get a Gold CSCS Card is to ask why. More often than not, we learn the potential candidate is (quite rightly) demonstrating his or her pride in trade skills gained over decades and wants them to be recognised. They are “Advanced Craft” workers.
But more often than not, all they need is a Blue “Skilled Worker” CSCS card to get on or stay on site. That’s why our advice – always given freely and impartially – is Level 2 will do. Yes it’s great to have a Gold Level 3 card, but the Level 3 qualification is much bigger and more expensive than the Level 2. Level 2 starts at £900 for a Practical Assessment and nearly every potential Level 3 candidate will be eligible for that “Fast Track” route to qualification. Level 3 will usually be £2600. So we will always find out your reasons for wanting the Level 3 qualification. Otherwise you’re doing the equivalent of putting expensive alloy wheels on your works van. Nice to look at, but won’t pay you back.
Your qualification from CSkills Awards gained through SuperSkills will be delivered by Experienced Worker Practical Assessment or On Site Assessment & Training. On site assessment is available for both Level 2 and Level 3 NVQ’s, but only Level 2 qualifications can be assessed through the Practical Assessment route.
I have a Diploma from XXX College or YYY Training Provider, but the CSCS won’t give me a card – why not?
This is a question we get asked too frequently. It is particularly annoying to us, because the potential customer on the phone is deeply unimpressed. They have often spent a lot of time and money getting a Level 2 or 3 Diploma and only now discover it is not the NVQ they originally needed – or indeed asked for. We’ve written about this before.
Public Sector Further Education Colleges are particular offenders in this – and they should know better. Even if the Administrators in their booking office don’t put somebody on the right course, the Assessors, who after all, have to be tradespeople, should recognise that Harry in his fifties, who’s been painting and decorating since he left school, doesn’t need to do a year or two of evening classes.
Similarly, you can’t go on a six or eight week course and get an NVQ at a training provider. You must be assessed in the workplace. Whilst many people get their skills doing this, they find afterwards the NVQ assessment element is not available in their area.
NVQ’s can be either Certificate or Diploma qualifications and the different names do not relate to value of the qualification, but rather the amount of Units/Credits that have to be achieved for it to be awarded. So there is a Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Wood Occupations (Site Carpentry) and a Level 2 NVQ Certificate in Interior Systems – Dry Lining (Finishing).
Both are NVQ’s. Both will get you the Blue Card. They are just made up of different numbers of Units and Credits. If you ever need advice, just call us on 01845 527 445.
How do I renew my CSCS Card?
You can renew your card from six months before it expires until six months after. If you have left it longer than six months after the expiry date, you will need to proceed on the basis of a new application – submitting your qualification, etc. If you have been getting your card through Industry Accreditation, you will not be able to renew it if it has lapsed, so don’t let that happen!
Prior to renewing your card, you will have to undertake the CSCS Health, Safety & Environment test – this means the industry workforce will stay up to date with the latest trends in avoidance of accidents.
How much does a CSCS Test Cost?
It should cost £21.00 Always book through the CITB directly and you will get the test cheaply. Use this link. Don’t just Google “CSCS Tests” !! If someone wants to charge you more, they have to explain what additional services they are providing.
How much does a CSCS Card cost?
And there it is – your guide to CSCS Cards and we hope it has answered your questions. If you have any more, or ever need FREE ADVICE about getting your NVQ and CSCS Card, just call SuperSkills Construction Training on 01845 527 445. We’re only to happy to help.