The apprentice CSCS card is used by individuals engaged in apprenticeships within the construction industry. It belongs to the CSCS red card programme, which is designed for those currently studying or training towards a fully-qualified construction position.
Below is a detailed overview of the apprentice CSCS card. As a result of this discussion, you’ll learn about the scheme’s qualifying criteria, how to apply for an apprentice card, and how much it costs to acquire one.
However, before reviewing the red card in detail, it’s worth offering some insight into the over-arching framework of the CSCS programme. The CSCS, or Construction Skills Certification Scheme, has an essential role in the building and construction sector. Within this scheme, there are a number of available cards, which serve to identify a worker’s technical competencies, experience, and level of responsibility. For example, blue CSCS cards are held by skilled individuals, fully capable in their respective trade or discipline. A CSCS card is a useful tool for employers and clients alike, as it clearly and efficiently indicates a worker’s credentials. This means that site leadership team can allocate tasks appropriately, and increases client reassurance in the capability of their contracted workforce. The scheme is trusted throughout the industry, and recognised as an extremely reliable accreditation system.
It is not a legal requirement to have ownership of a CSCS card if you work within a construction or building environment. However, most employers will insist that you possess a CSCS card, and that it is relevant to the job you do on-site.
As the apprentice card scheme is very much at an entry-point level, there is no requirement to have already secured any prior training or qualifications in your field. This is contrary to all other cards outside of the ‘red’ scheme, as you’ll need appropriate certification to apply for all alternate-coloured cards.
In order to successfully apply for an apprentice CSCS card, you’ll need to prove that you’re officially enrolled on a construction-related apprenticeship course. To do this, you’ll need to provide sound evidence of your registration. This can be done by submitting one of the following items:
- A confirmation letter from your employer, mentioning the specific training and type of qualifications you’ll be studying. This can be presented as a hard copy, or in electronic format.
- A confirmation letter from the agency managing your apprenticeship scheme. Again, this must show what learning modules you’ll be undertaking. This can equally be submitted as a hard copy, or via digital means.
- You may also provide a copy of your official apprenticeship agreement. This is a document which should be signed by all parties before commencing your apprentice scheme. If you’re unsure what this is, please liaise with your employer or management agency for more information. This agreement will not only outline your intended training and qualification schedule, but also denote what occupation you’ll hope to move into at the conclusion of your course.
Regardless of the document submitted, the full, official title of the qualifications you intend to sit should be mentioned.
As a fourth alternative, you can apply for an apprentice CSCS card by sharing a confirmation letter written by a private training provider. However, the scheme you’re undertaking through this provider must be present on CSCS’ approved list of apprenticeship programmes. You can see the full list of authorised apprenticeships here. Nevertheless, please note that this method of application is only available to those studying in England.
The CITB test
In addition to producing evidence of your apprenticeship enrolment, you’ll also need to pass the CITB Health, Safety and Environment test. This multiple-choice exam judges whether you have sufficient health and safety knowledge to be able to work compliantly on a construction site. There are three ‘tiers’ of CITB assessments, which are ‘operative’, ‘specialist’, and ‘manager and professional’. As an apprentice, you’ll be required to take the ‘operative’ test, which is pitched at members of the general workforce.
The CITB, or Construction Industry Training Board, are an organisation which supports the building sector in a variety of ways. This includes providing learning resources and training materials, as well as establishing fair and measurable testing criteria. These endeavours help to drive compliance and safety standards across the industry. The Construction Industry Training Board is actually the parent organisation of the CSCS, and therefore these groups are often mentioned in unison. To learn more about the main objectives of the CITB, please visit the organisation ‘About Us’ page via the following link.
Please note that you must have successfully navigated your CITB health & safety assessment within the two years prior to your application date.
There are two scenarios you could face which would allow you to avoid taking the CITB test. If you’ve already begun your apprenticeship scheme, it may be that you’ve already addressed the necessary health & safety information in the early stages of your programme. This will be the case if you’ve already either:
- Completed your one-day health & safety awareness course
- Completed a health & safety module connected to your initial apprentice induction, or tackled an appropriate health & safety introductory qualification.
In both examples, you’ll need to be able to produce a valid certificate which confirms you’ve passed the associated assessments. If you do not submit this documentation as proof, you’ll be requested to provide a CITB H&S certificate in order to progress your CSCS card application.
The second instance where an exemption may apply, is if you’ve already acquired the SOLAS safe pass. The SOLAS health and safety assessment is the Irish equivalent of the CITB test. Therefore, if you’ve trained in the Republic of Ireland prior to applying for an apprenticeship scheme, it’s worth checking to see whether you’re eligible to skip this exam! However, in similarity to the rules in relation to the CITB test, you must have acquired the safe pass within the last two years preceding your application.
How long is the Apprentice CSCS Card valid for?
The apprentice card has a validation period of five years, which is the same length of time most other CSCS cards. Indeed, the only cards which are not consistent with this five-year term are several attached to the ‘red’ CSCS programme (there are five red cards in total).
However, unlike many other schemes, but in similarity to all red cards, the apprentice CSCS card is not renewable. This is because the CSCS determines that five years is ample time for apprenticeship courses to be completed. Therefore, there is an expectation that towards the end of this timeframe, you’ll have moved into an industry job role. From this position, you’ll then be able to apply for an alternative CSCS card. This will most likely be the blue skilled worker card, awarded to those who are fully qualified in their technical discipline.
You may feel that the five-year expiry date puts you slightly up against a ticking clock. However, don’t fear! Most apprentices conclude their learning within two to four years of commencing, so it’s most likely the case that you’ll have completed your apprenticeship programme, and dispensed of your apprentice card, well before the card’s expiry date.
How do I apply for an Apprentice CSCS Card?
The easiest way to apply for an apprentice CSCS card is online. You can do this by registering for a CSCS account, and using their online application service. Through your personal account, you’ll also be able to check the progress of your application, track your membership to previous card schemes, and check expiration dates for current cards held.
Employers are advised to also use this service, as it offers a convenient method for making numerous applications on behalf of their employees. If employers are looking to equip their workforce with CSCS cards, they should do so by completing the online Employers Application Form. This will be available to them after registering for an employer’s CSCS account.
Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak to a human when making your application, you can contact the CSCS directly. To do this, please call 0344 994 4777, and follow the instructions given by the advisor. Please note that if you’re applying for a card on behalf of a friend or colleague, they’ll need to be present to give their consent for you to progress their application. Furthermore, they’ll also need to have their CSCS registration or National Insurance number available to hand. These two procedures are in place for security purposes.
In the unfortunate event that your card is lost, stolen, or damaged, you can also seek out a replacement via your online account, or call the number provided above.
How much does an Apprentice CSCS Card cost?
The standard cost for all CSCS cards is £36.00. The CITB Health, Safety, and Environment Test is priced at £21.00, but only when booked directly through the Construction Industry Training Board. Please be aware that some learning providers may offer to book this assessment on your behalf. However, it’s likely they’ll charge an additional fee to do this. We would recommend checking to see whether your provider offers any additional benefits as part of this service, and subsequently deciding if this option is something worth pursuing.
If you’re undertaking an apprenticeship in the construction industry, owning an apprentice CSCS card is pretty much essential. Not only will it support you to comfortably gain access onto site, it will also confirm that you’re aware of the health and safety principles which must be adhered to when working in a construction environment. Furthermore, your employer may make ownership of a relevant CSCS card compulsory.
Please ensure that you’re familiar with the documentation that must be submitted as part of the application procedure. Failure to provide the correct evidence will subsequently delay your application. This could potentially frustrate prospective employers, and prevent you from starting your apprenticeship scheme on time. Therefore, please ensure you acquire your confirmation letter or agreement, along with your CITB test certificate, at your earliest convenience. Remember, in exceptional cases, some individuals are exempt from the CITB health and safety assessment. Therefore, check your own status in relation to this matter prior to sitting your exam.
As mentioned, the card’s validation period should outlast the conclusion of your apprenticeship training programme. Therefore, there’s every chance that you’ll be identifying a new CSCS card to apply for towards the expiry date of your apprentice card. When considering your next CSCS scheme, ensure you take time to review the card’s qualifying criteria, and that it complements your future career ambitions. You can find out more about the different types of CSCS cards here.
Please familiarise yourself with the aforementioned application process, as this will make sure you acquire your card efficiently when ready.
Lastly, please note that although your apprenticeship programme will most likely be financially sponsored by your employer, you’ll most likely need to be in a position to pay for costs associated with this card. This includes the initial card fee, and the price of your CITB assessment. However, given the critical importance of this scheme, its accompanying costs are extremely modest.
We wish you the best of luck in applying for your apprentice CSCS card, and hope that it represents the first step of a long and rewarding career in the construction industry!