Why CSCS cards are undergoing major changes
The Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) is getting a major shake-up, with two cards being withdrawn completely. Alan O’Neile explains why
The CSCS card provides proof that individuals working on UK construction projects have appropriate training and qualifications for the jobs they do on site. By ensuring the workforce is qualified, the card plays it part in ensuring industry standards and safety are upheld.
Recently, in response to the government’s industrial strategy document, Construction 2025, CSCS has been undergoing significant changes, with some cards being withdrawn from circulation. This is part of the government’s ambition that the construction industry should move towards a fully qualified workforce.
Published in 2013, the industrial strategy includes a section on the role of skills cards and highlights the inconsistencies that exist across the 37 independent card schemes. There are two key problems here. One, lack of consistency across standards for training and qualifications, and two, the inability of site managers to verify details on cards, leading to often inadequate visual inspections.
One Industry Logo
So what have we done to remedy this situation? In 2015, we were given a big nudge by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) through the ‘One Industry Logo’ action. This meant that the whole industry, including trade associations, contractors and clients, could only accept cards displaying the CSCS logo, providing a consistent means of recognising individuals have achieved the agreed standard of qualification and skills.
Other card schemes would only be allowed to show the CSCS logo if they met certain requirements by end of 2020. This had three major implications.
One, the card must have a nationally recognised qualification sitting behind it. Two, the qualification must be a minimum of NVQ Level 2 or equivalent. And three, all cards must have adopted smart technology so they could be scanned on site.
Since 2015, there has been a flurry of activity among these card schemes and now all 37 have signed up and agreed to meet these requirements.
CSCS has also made changes. Some cards have been withdrawn and the cardholders moved to other schemes.
Two recent card scheme closures
More recently, we have announced that two widely used card schemes will be closing.
One of these is the Construction Site Visitor Card. We announced it would be discontinued back in 2018 and formally withdrew it in February this year. Why? Because it doesn’t map to the CLC’s requirements: there is no qualification scheme behind it.
This affects 120,000 cardholders. They will have to register for the appropriate card for their qualification. The issue here is that some contractors follow the ‘100% Carded Workforce’ policy, meaning every individual must have a CSCS card when coming through the site gates, even if they have non-construction occupations.
So we are calling on these contractors to scrap this policy and instead, put in place a plan to manage non-construction workers when they arrive at the site gates. What that plan looks like is up to them, but they will need to operate some form of site induction to ensure these individuals remain safe on site.
The other card being withdrawn is Industry Accreditation (IA). We announced last year that all cards issued from 1 January 2020 under IA would expire in 2024. Current IA card holders will be able to get one more, but that will expire at the end of 2024. At which point they will need a plan to move on to another card scheme.
Again, this is because the card does not meet CLC requirements. Historically, IA cards were issued on the back of a recommendation from employers. There is no qualification behind it.
Although we haven’t issued a new IA card in 10 years, we do have legacy card holders who will be impacted by this announcement. Many of these should have a recognised vocation qualification, in which case there is a clear route for them to get the appropriate CSCS card. For those that do not, we are looking at how these individuals are affected. Once we have established that, we will hold discussions with the CITB about how we can support these individuals beyond 2024. That is a work in progress.
Alan O’Neile is head of communications for the Construction Skills Certification Scheme.