- 1 The various card schemes
- 2 Prerequisites
- 3 The CITB Test
- 4 How long is a CSCS Experienced Worker Card valid for?
- 5 Taking control of your NVQ training plan
- 6 How much does an Experienced Worker CSCS Card cost?
- 7 How do I apply for a CSCS Experienced Worker Card?
- 8 Summary
Before probing specifically into the experienced worker card, it’s worth reviewing the framework of the CSCS card programme. The CSCS, or Construction Skills Certification Scheme, is an essential component of the building and construction sector. The scheme serves to efficiently and effectively identify different types of workers on a construction site. This is achieved through issuing different coloured cards, based on an individual’s skillset, experience, and level of seniority. Some of the cards, such as the blue skilled worker variety, may also indicate an individual’s specific occupation.
The various card schemes
The experienced worker card is one of the five CSCS ‘red’ card programmes. Red cards are reserved for workers currently conducting some form of training. They offer a temporary card solution until an individual becomes fully qualified in their particular job role. At this stage, they would suitably advance to a ‘higher’ graded card scheme. The vast majority of workers will then target either a green labourer’s card, or one of the blue skilled-worker cards. They may also directly progress toward the black or gold schemes, however, this would be extremely rare. This is because the level of accountability in occupations fit for members of this scheme is considerable. Therefore, it’s very unlikely that someone at this stage in their training would be far enough along their learning journey to warrant applying for either the black or gold programme.
However, you may target one of these cards in the future. If so, it would make sense to acquire a blue skilled worker card (or green labourer’s card) first anyway. This way, you’ll be able to secure a firm grasp of the technical elements of your chosen field. Therefore, you’ll be better placed to support and manage others as you’ll know exactly how to do their job role yourself. This will also likely gain the respect of your team members, and have a better appreciation of the challenges they’re facing into.
For those working regularly on building sites, owning a CSCS card is not a compulsory legal obligation. However, an overwhelming number of construction companies expect their employees to possess a CSCS card relevant to their occupation. This is because the CSCS card programme is seen as an extremely trustworthy marker of capability. It’s endorsed by all key industry stakeholders, and therefore offers an agreed, sector-wide framework to assess a worker’s credentials.
The qualifying criteria for the experienced worker card are relatively modest. In order to successfully apply, you must have worked in your current, on-site role for a consecutive twelve-month period. This stint also must have been completed within the last three years. Therefore, holders of this card will have already accumulated considerable experience within their trade.
Furthermore, as we know already, the scheme is ultimately a stop-gap until the relevant training has been undertaken. Therefore, workers will also need to prove that they’re suitably registered for the appropriate NVQ-level course. As previously mentioned, this would be a construction-related NVQ, linked to their trade or area of expertise. For example, if you’re a long-term electrician, you may want to undertake the C&G (City & Guilds) 2365 Level 2 Diploma in Electrical Installation. This would validate your skills within the electrical industry, and ensure you’re up to pace with current regulatory requirements. There are a number of appropriate NVQ Level 2 courses across a number of disciplines. You can find an extensive list of relevant qualifications here.
Please note that during the application process, you’ll need to show evidence that you’ve successfully enrolled on your NVQ course. This can be done, dependent on the nature of your training journey, via either an official confirmation letter from your employer, educational institution, or learning provider. You’ll also be required to demonstrate the required, one-year experience mentioned previously. Again, you can do this by providing a written confirmation letter from your employer.
The CITB Test
In addition to submitting proof of NVQ registration and work experience, you must also successfully navigate the CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test. This is a fairly straightforward multiple-choice exam. It assesses whether you’re sufficiently aware of the health & safety procedures which should be in operation across all construction sites. The assessment is industry-recognised, and accepted as a way to endorse a worker’s understanding of health and safety compliance.
This is because the CITB, or Construction Industry Training Board is a trusted organisation, and is regarded as a force for consistency and integrity. As well as establishing testing criteria, the CITB is also focused on driving sector standards. It does this by providing learning materials, advice, and support to all those operating within the construction industry. The CSCS actually sits under the CITB structure, and therefore these organisations are sometimes mentioned interchangeably. Further information on the Construction Industry Training Board is available via their website.
There are actually three different ‘tiers’ of this particular CITB health and safety test. These are the Operatives, Specialists, and Managers and Professionals assessments. As the experienced worker card is accessible to general workforce colleagues, applicants are required to take the Operatives exam. This test is the least challenging out of the three available exams. The Specialists assessment is reserved for those hoping to attain supervisory or highly technical roles. Alternatively, the Managers and Professionals test is aimed at workers stepping into managerial and senior leadership positions.
Please be aware that you’ll need to have successfully passed the CITB H&S and Environment test within the two years preceding the date of your application. This is a compulsory requirement for all CSCS card applicants.
In the unlikely event that you’re in possession of a SOLAS safe pass, you will not be required to take the CITB assessment. This is because the safe pass is the Irish equivalent of a CITB health & safety certificate. Therefore, if you originally commenced your training in the Republic of Ireland, it’s worth checking whether you qualify for this exemption!
How long is a CSCS Experienced Worker Card valid for?
The experienced worker card has a validation period of three years. This is slightly different to the overwhelming majority of CSCS card programmes, which usually permit five years of use. However, several of the five various red cards have shorter expiry dates. This is because the length of a red card’s validity is determined by the expected time taken to complete the relevant learning modules. After the training has been navigated, it’s assumed individuals will then apply for a card scheme for fully-qualified workers.
Therefore, all red cards are non-renewable. Indeed, it’s extremely pointless re-applying for trainee status, when you’ve already secured the qualification you were originally training for! For those unable to complete their training schedules in the allocated timeframe, they’ll need to find another route to advance their careers, outside of the red card scheme.
However, don’t panic! It may feel like you’re against the clock, but the time given to conduct your studies is more than sufficient. Most NVQ Level 2 courses will usually take around twelve months to complete. Therefore, the three-year experienced worker card framework provides ample time to complete your qualification.
Taking control of your NVQ training plan
Although most candidates will achieve their NVQ within a year or so, this doesn’t mean that you must follow suit. An increasing number of delegates now opt to progress through the course at a slower pace. More individuals are conducting studies with respect to their current personal circumstances or commitments. As a result, they’re taking stronger ownership of their own training schedules.
Most learning providers will accommodate this approach. Private course convenors are keen that students feel comfortable during their qualification. This will more than likely result in higher pass rates, and encourage more favourable customer reviews.
Greater usage of digital platforms supports a greater level of candidate convenience. The coronavirus pandemic accelerated the movement towards deploying online tools more regularly across a number of societal sectors. In a training context, this helps delegates who require a stronger degree of flexibility when it comes to attending courses in person. Therefore, if you’re in a position where transportation to a training centre is an issue, or you have childcare considerations, using a more remote method of studying might be extremely advantageous. Regardless of the way you train, the resultant NVQ will have carry exactly the same weight and standing.
Take time to select the right training programme for you, thinking about both timescales and learning environment when making your decision.
How much does an Experienced Worker CSCS Card cost?
All CSCS cards are charged at a fee of £36.00. Given the importance of the scheme, and the fact you’ll likely need one of these cards to commence employment with a construction firm, this is an extremely reasonable price.
The compulsory CITB test costs £21.00 to sit. However, this price only applies when booking your assessment directly through the Construction Industry Training Board. Your learning provider may offer to book this test on your behalf, although they may charge you more to do this. However, they’ll most likely also offer some additional support, or an alternate extra benefit as part of this price package. We would encourage you to review each option, and decide which is best for your personal situation.
Please also remember that you’ll need to factor in costs relating to your NVQ Level 2 qualification. For those who have worked in the construction industry for an extended period, you’ll most likely by aware that NVQ courses come with a substantial price tag. Before launching into your training plan, ensure you have the adequate financial means to fund your studies. Terminating your qualification halfway through because of a lack of funds will clearly waste considerable time, money, and energy.
Possible funding routes
It’s also worth investigating whether you’re eligible for any financial support. The government facilitates a grant system for workers who are physically unable to pay their full training costs. A partner to this initiative is the City & Guilds, who we mentioned earlier during our discussion on relevant qualifications. The City & Guilds is a highly-respected body, empowered to help train and certify individuals across a vast range of sectors and industries. Their courses are prevalent in construction-related disciplines.
If you feel may qualify for a grant, please check out the direct.gov website to find out more.
Employers may also sponsor you to conduct training via their own governmental funding. It’s likely that your employer will be heavily involved in your learning and development, and therefore will have already informed you whether they can offer support towards training costs. However, if you haven’t yet received this confirmation, then please discuss this with your employer prior to commencing your qualification search.
How do I apply for a CSCS Experienced Worker Card?
The most efficient method to apply for an experienced worker card is through their online application service. You can register for a personal CSCS account via their website, which will subsequently enable you to access this service.
Once your registration has been approved, your account will display all the key information relating to your card membership. Here, you can track the status of an application, check expiry dates of any existing cards, and keep a log of your membership to previous card programmes. Alternatively, if you would prefer to speak directly to a CSCS advisor, you can lodge your card application over the phone. You can do this by calling 0344 994 4777, and following the instructions given by the customer representative. If submitting your application in this way, please note that you’ll need to provide either your CSCS registration or national insurance number. This is required to pass a basic security check.
If you’re calling to apply on behalf of a friend, colleague, or family member, please be aware that they’ll need to be initially present when contacting CSCS. This is because the candidate will need to confirm their consent for you to progress their application.
If your card happens to become lost, damaged or stolen, you can seek out a replacement card using the online service, or call the CSCS on the number provided above.
We hope that this article has helped you to understand the key elements involved with the experience worker card scheme.
Remember, this card belongs to the ‘red’ CSCS programme, and therefore, whilst holding this card, you’re ultimately operating in the capacity of a trainee. This may feel a little odd given the volume of experience you’ve already accumulated. However, it’s important you advertise your current training status, as this enables your peers to support you in the right way. Be selfish with your learning and development, and ensure that your employer protects you from being dragged away from your studies. Given that you’ll be an experienced and valued member of the team, it may be tempting for site supervisors to pull you back into the general operation, whilst trying to complete some training.
Furthermore, it indicates to site management that you may not yet be proficient to perform certain tasks and duties. From a safety perspective, workers should only carry out roles that they’re fully trained to do. Possessing the card relevant to your current level of capability will ensure leadership teams do not request you to conduct an activity that you havn’t yet been suitably trained on.
Know the qualifying criteria
In order to apply for an experienced worker card, you’ll need to have completed a decent period of on-site service. Furthermore, you must have successfully passed the CITB Health, Safety and Environment test within the last two years. Please ensure elements have both been achieved prior to your application, otherwise, your submission will fall at the first hurdle.
It’s also worth reviewing the four other ‘red’ card schemes before applying, as these could be more appropriate schemes for your current set of circumstances. To help assess which card is best for you, head to the ‘Types of cards’ section on the CSCS’ official website. Selecting the wrong card could delay your training, frustrate employers, and waste money. Therefore, be sure to thoroughly assess each card before progressing your application.
In relation to your NVQ course, make sure you establish a specific training proposition agreeable to your personal requirements. Whether you need an extended period to finalise your studies, or would prefer to use remote learning tools, it’s important you feel comfortable whilst undertaking your qualification. Talk to your learning provider to see how they can support you to achieve this.
It’s also important to ensure you’re positioned well enough financially to pay all of your training fees. As discussed, course costs can stack up. Therefore, make sure you’re confident that you can meet this financial commitment prior to searching for NVQ courses. Remember, your employer may fund your training for you, or you could be awarded a government grant to help with these costs.
Please familiarise yourself with the application procedure. Understanding this now will support you to receive your card more efficiently when ready.
Lastly, if you could do with some further detail on the experienced worker card, or have any unanswered questions, it’s worth reaching out to your course tutor or a trusted, industry professional. Alternatively, you can e-mail the CSCS’ dedicated customer team at firstname.lastname@example.org to help address any concerns.
We wish you the best of luck in applying for an experienced worker card, and hope that it acts as a first step toward you achieving your career ambitions in the construction industry!