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Construction workers told to get an NVQ or get off site

Construction workers told to get an NVQ or get off site

Cards will not be automatically renewed in 2025
Cards will not be automatically renewed in 2025

The Construction Skills Certificate Scheme (CSCS) will cease renewing industry accreditation cards from 30th June 2024. In addition, cards issued from 1st of January 2020 will expire on 31st December 2024 and will not be renewed.

Those seeking to renew their CSCS card will have to reapply for new cards in 2024 and demonstrate their credentials by acquiring an appropriate National Vocational Qualification (NVQ, or SNVQ in Scotland) or other recognised qualification. You don’t have to go back to school, but you will need to be assessed by an independent assessor for a period of time, for which you or your employer will have to pay.

CSCS cards are required by employers on most major construction sites in the UK. However, they are not a legal requirement and the scheme has no force of law behind it. Rather, it is the UK construction industry’s attempt to improve competence across the sector, sanctioned by a group of trade associations and a committee of political appointees, the Construction Leadership Council.

According to CSCS, there are 60,000 workers in construction that currently hold a card on the strength of employer recommendation rather than the achievement of a recognised qualification. These are the people being targeted by the ending of so-called grandfather rights. There are questions as to how many of these experienced workers will choose to take early retirement or leave the industry rather than having to go back to school to do an NVQ and, if self-employed, pay for the privilege themselves.

CSCS chief executive Sean Kearns insisted it would all be very simple. “Industry accreditation (IA) cardholders will not need to attend college as much of the assessment can be deliver remotely,” he said. “Many IA cardholders will find it a straightforward process to replace their cards, such as moving across to the Academically or Professionally Qualified Persons cards. In addition, those who no longer attend site or are in non-construction related occupations will not require a card.”

The Construction Leadership Council said that this week’s announcement should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention. It said back in 2015 that all construction industry card schemes would have to operate with nationally recognised qualifications (usually NVQ/SVQs) by 2025. Ten years’ warning is surely enough…?

The CLC said this week: “Building Safety and competence are two of the CLC’s priorities. As an industry, and in accordance with various sets of legislation including the Construction Design and Management Regulations (CDM) and the Building Safety Act, we must demonstrate to the regulator, our clients, building occupiers and the wider public that those designing, building, and maintaining the built environment are competent to do so. The CLC recommendation introduced in 2015 and updated in 2017 & 2020 set an expectation of all CSCS cards being achieved via qualification by the end of 2024.”

Sean Kearns continued: “CSCS is committed to playing its part in delivering a fully trained and qualified workforce. The removal of cards issued under IA represents another significant step in achieving this goal. The new guidance and support will help cardholders to either retain their card via the S/NVQ or to easily transition to another CSCS card. We would urge employers, trade associations, awarding organisations and training providers to put plans in place to support these workers ahead of the December 2024 withdrawal.”

The CLC concluded: “It should not be overly onerous for those able to demonstrate their competence and there may be grants available for employers.”

Reactions on social media predictably came thick and fast. Here is a selection from LinkedIn.

Daniel Roche, director of Roche Civil Engineering in Hull, said: “Easy enough for people in offices, not so easy for an industry full of operatives not directly employed who have to pay for their own training & loss of earnings, who won’t take time off for an unpaid holiday let alone unpaid training.”

EcoWorld London HS&E posted : “So if you re new card from black card to PQP or AQP… these cannot be renewed. You have to re-apply, and resubmit the certificates you submitted originally. But surely the successful application by a qualification such as degree/ HND , means you still have this degree/ HND 5 years later? It doesn’t get taken away so why have to re-apply all over again, and pay the fees all over again?

Mick Norton, a retired training consultant, said: “With 74,000 (not 60,000) anticipated industry accredited card holders requiring an NVQ to confirm their occupational competence employers should expect a horde of questionable NVQ assessors to spring out of the undergrowth probably sadly lacking in their own individual competence and requisite site experience.

“Just imagine the scenario with a 55 year old prospective candidate with say 30 years industry accreditation sitting through an NVQ assessment with a professional discussion, knowledge evidence questions, reflective accounts, witness testimonies, product evidence and observations by an NVQ assessor who wasn’t even born when he started out on the tools. It’s a nonsense and the CLC and the CSCS should not be supported in this foolhardy initiative that will lose the sector thousands of highly skilled workers.”

Gordon Sherren, managing director of Kitchen Ventilations Systems Ltd, said: “Why not just let these grandfather rights expire when people leave the industry?”

Ian Hughes, managing director at health & safety consultant Green Dragon Ltd, said: “I am letting my black card expire and I shan’t be replacing it.”

Tim Jones, principal lecturer at Sheffield Hallan University, said:  “Whilst it is entirely appropriate that those working in this industry are suitably qualified and competent, I fear that this could drive even more skilled tradespeople and managers out of the industry. The complete withdrawal of grandfather rights does seem a little draconian. There will be lots of very skilled people who are affected by this. As someone who is highly qualified/experienced & trained, I could not get a black managers card without doing an NVQ at a level below my current qualifications and competence. That makes no sense and just smacks of a money-making scam for the training providers and CSCS. I am still to be convinced that many of the so-called competency schemes are anything other than paying a fee ad turning up. We need a better mechanism for evaluating capability and competence.”

Dave Anders, group health and safety manager at The Emerson Group, said: “This will only lead to more and more companies moving away from CSCS.”

David Smith, a freelance site manager, said: “I would need a Black Card which would cost me circa £2k and I’m self-employed so wouldn’t receive the CITB grant. This £2k for the NVQ plus 12 months of assessment, which I can’t imagine too many companies employing me on an hourly rate to manage their site would be happy for me to have someone coming to site to assess me in the workplace. Added to that I am required to hold a SMSTS £335 plus 2 days without pay and First Aid at Work @ £378 plus 3 days without pay… Where do you guys think people in my situation are going to find the money and the time?”

Suggestions that the whole regime lacks any democratic legitimacy and smacks of a money-making scam may miss the good intentions behind it all. However, in its bid to make the CSCS card scheme work, the CLC effectively forbids any potential rival scheme starting up and offering competition.

“Any new card schemes must occupy a distinct and separate footprint from those currently in operation or be of a higher standard, and must demonstrate support from both the relevant sector and the wider industry,” it rules, despite having no democratic or legislative legitimacy.

Contractors are under no obligation, however, to stipulate CSCS cards as a requirement on their sites, unless required by clients.

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