CSCS Goes Back to Basics

The Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) was set up 23 years ago to ensure that everyone who works on UK building sites has the training and qualifications they need for their role. However, over time that original aim was lost.

“When I joined in 2012 the Construction Site Operative (CSO) card, which required no qualifications to obtain, accounted for half of the cards in circulation, while the Construction Related Occupation (CRO) card, which again required no qualifications, accounted for another quarter,” said CSCS Chief Executive Graham Wren. “This undermined the scheme’s original purpose, which was to certify that the individual had achieved a construction-related qualification.”

Thankfully the CSCS board has ensured that CSCS has returned to its original aim. The CSO card was removed in 2014 and replaced with the Labourers card. This card requires the applicant to obtain a Level 1 qualification. By next summer all the old CSO cards will have expired. Former CSO cardholders will have to be qualified to get new CSCS cards.

The next step was getting rid of the CRO card. There were around 350,000 CRO cards in circulation across more than 300 occupations. Many were unrelated to construction. CSCS worked with sector representatives and standard setting bodies like CITB and TICA to get qualifications in place for all construction related roles. Non-construction related roles were removed from the scheme.

CSCS stopped issuing the CRO card in March 2017. By the end of 2020 there will be no more CRO cards in the industry.

A result of these reforms is the end of the 100% carded workforce requirement held by many contractors and clients. You only need a card if you’re going to be working on-site doing a construction-related occupation. Site managers must have plans in place for non-construction workers. These might include inducting, escorting and supervising these workers.

CLC and Partner Card Schemes

The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has been key in bringing CSCS back to its original aims.

The CLC was created in 2013 to work between industry and government to identify and deliver actions supporting UK construction in building greater efficiency, skills and growth. The CLC saw that there were numerous card schemes within the construction industry. Many of which operated with inconsistent qualification standards.

In 2015 the CLC tackled this issue by announcing (via its Industrial Strategy: Construction 2025) that industry, including trade associations, contractors, clients and government, should specify and promote card schemes carrying the CSCS logo with no equivalents accepted. This is known as the One Industry Logo action.

The CLC listed a number of requirements necessary for a card scheme to qualify for the CSCS logo, which include:

  • Agreeing appropriate qualifications for each occupation
  • Setting a minimum standard for skilled occupations at NVQ Level 2
  • Introducing smart technology by 2020.

That happened in January 2015 and the card schemes have until 2020 to meet those requirements.

Since 2015 CSCS has been working with other card schemes active in the construction industry to develop plans to meet the CLC’s requirements. CSCS has signed agreements with many other schemes enabling them to display the CSCS logo on their cards. These are known as Partner Card Schemes, one of which is TICA-ACAD.

CSCS and the Partner Card Schemes are committed to ensuring construction site workers are appropriately qualified. In doing so they are playing their part in improving standards and safety on UK construction sites.

With these changes from CSCS and the Partner Card Schemes, the CSCS logo will provide the industry with a renewed confidence that the card holder has achieved the required standard of training and qualifications for their occupation. By the end of the decade, holding a CSCS card will mean holding or training for a qualification. CSCS has gone back to basics.