The provisional CSCS card is a scheme used by individuals entering employment within a construction-related trade for the first time. It identifies these workers as beginners, and therefore affords them the space to learn and develop whilst on site. The card belongs to the CSCS’ ‘red’ card programme, which is specifically designed for those in training. There are four other types of cards associated with this scheme. This article focuses on the provisional CSCS card within this grouping, providing information on its qualifying criteria, the application process, and associated costs.
However, prior to specifically discussing the provisional card, it’s worth shedding some light on the general CSCS framework. The CSCS, or Construction Skills Certification Scheme, is present across all trades and disciplines aligned to the construction sector. As previously mentioned, it serves to identify the capability and experience level of industry workers. There are a vast number of different cards available, which are categorised by colour and title. Each card has its own set list of requirements, which candidates must have delivered prior to their application. Some schemes, such as the blue CSCS card, requires its members to be a fully-qualified, skilled worker in their chosen field. Others are pitched at those targeting supervisory or managerial roles.
The importance of CSCS Cards
Regardless of your level of confidence or competency, CSCS cards are an extremely useful tool within construction and building environments. By advertising your current skill set, site leaders can easily and efficiently determine which tasks you’re able to carry out. As mentioned, those in possession of a provisional card have an ‘entry-point’ status. Therefore, your general duties to start with will be relatively limited in scope and complexity.
Please note that it is not a legal requirement to own a CSCS card in order to gain access to a construction site. Nevertheless, most employers will expect their employees to hold CSCS cards relevant to their rank and occupation. This is because construction companies must demonstrate that they’re taking appropriate steps to deliver safe and compliant working environments.
Well, in all honesty, not a great deal! As emphasised earlier, this scheme is aimed at those with little or no experience in a craft trade.
The card’s main function is to give new workers an opportunity to sample a construction-related discipline. Also, it enables employers the chance to observe candidates in a real-world environment. Therefore, construction companies will often utilise the provisional card scheme as a sort of probationary programme.
The CITB Test
The only fixed requirement associated with the provisional card is that the applicant must hold a valid CITB Health, Safety and Environment certificate. As its title suggests, these are a series of health and safety-based tests that assess your knowledge of on-site compliance. All CSCS card applicants must successfully pass this exam.
The CITB, or Construction Industry Training Board, is a body empowered to establish testing criteria within the construction and building sector. Their certification is highly-respected across the industry, and is accepted as a legitimate measure of a worker’s competency level. The CSCS and CITB are actually partner organisations, so you may hear these terms being referred to interchangeably.
There are three categories of the CITB health & safety test. These are known as Operatives, Specialists, and Manager and Professionals assessments. The specialist test is reserved for those entering the gold card scheme, who will likely move onto highly technical or supervisory roles. The Manager and Professionals test is unsurprisingly targeted at those looking to secure management posts. This will be taken by applicants of the white card scheme, or CSCS black card Managers programme.
If you’re applying for the red provisional card, you’ll need to take the Operatives test. This is pitched at general workforce members, and is therefore the easiest of the three. The exam is in multiple-choice format, and will test your basic understanding of health & safety principles.
Important! This assessment must have been successfully passed within the two years prior to the date of your application. If your certificate has expired, you will not be able to acquire a provisional CSCS card.
There is one, albeit unlikely, scenario that could mean a provisional card applicant is not required to take the CITB test. This applies to anyone who has already received a SOLAS safe pass. This can be earned by passing the SOLAS exam, which is an equivalent assessment to the CITB test conducted in the Republic of Ireland. However, sitting the Irish version of this test would suggest you’ve already commenced your learning journey. Therefore, given that the provisional card is an entry-point scheme, it would be unlikely that you will have already completed some training elsewhere.
Nevertheless, if you do possess a SOLAS safe pass, this must also have been received within the two years preceding your application date.
How long is the Card Provisional valid for?
Due to the nature of the provisional card programme, your card will only have a six-month validation period. Remember, the ‘red’ card programme is exclusively for trainee personnel, and is therefore seen as a temporary scheme. You can’t be in training forever!
The CSCS establishes expiry dates based on the expected length of time you require the card for. For example, the apprentice CSCS card gives cardholders enough time to complete their apprenticeship course, and therefore gain the qualifications required to move onto a different card scheme. In truth, the CSCS also adds a little extra time to what is strictly necessary. This supports those who make need a little additional time to complete all of their training modules.
In the case of the provisional card, six months is deemed to be a long enough timeframe. This should provide ample opportunity for you to decide whether a future career in your current occupation is something you desire. It also gives employers sufficient time to make a judgement on you as a worker. They can then decide whether they want to recruit you on a permanent basis, and support your future learning.
As is expected, you’ll move onto a different card scheme/role before the card’s expiry date, the provisional card (as is the way with all five red cards) is not suitable for renewal.
How do I apply for a Card Provisional Card?
The most effective way to apply for any CSCS card is via the organisation’s online application service. You can access this service by registering for a personal CSCS account. Once you’ve gained entry to your personal portal, you’ll be able to see various pieces of information. This will include progress on current applications, cards you’ve previously owned, and the expiry date of any cards currently held.
If you’d prefer to apply in a different way, you can submit your application over the phone. To do this, simply call 0344 994 4777, and follow the instructions given to you by the advisor. Please note that if you’re calling on behalf of a friend or colleague, they’ll need to verbally give their consent for you to manage their application process. Furthermore, you’ll also need their CSCS registration or national insurance number to hand. These measures have been put in place for security purposes.
If you’ve lost, damaged or had your provisional card stolen, you can easily replace it using either of the communication channels above.
We would encourage you to take plenty of time to consider which card is most appropriate for you. As provisional cards are explicitly for those just commencing their career in the construction industry, it should be relatively straightforward whether the card’s criterion is reflective of your current experience level. However, if you’re unsure which card to select, you can find out further information about each scheme here.
How much does a CSCS Provisional Card cost?
All CSCS cards are priced at £36.00. Considering the scheme’s importance in the industry, this is a relatively modest charge. You’ll also need to pay £21.00 to take the CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test. However, please be aware that this price only applies when booking directly through the Construction Industry Training Board.
If you’re currently studying with a private learning provider, they may charge extra to book this on your behalf. If they do not provide any additional benefits or support as part of this cost (or what is on offer isn’t worth the fee), then we would encourage you to book the test independently.
Future training costs
At this stage, there are no formal training requirements or expectations. However, before taking your first tentative steps into the construction environment, make sure you’re comfortable with the potential costs to come. To progress your career, it’s highly likely that you’ll need to undertake at least a few chargeable learning modules. For those looking to venture onwards towards senior leadership positions, the financial outlay will be significant. Therefore, please ensure you’re fully committed to the particular learning pathway you’re looking to engage. This will not only include considering the financial burden, but also preparing yourself for the substantial mental and physical effort that needs to go into your training. Of course, a career in a construction-related discipline is extremely rewarding. However, you’ll need to put in the hard yards before you gain permanent employment!
Before commencing your training, it’s worth understanding what financial support could be available to you. If you move onto an apprenticeship scheme after a successful probationary period, it’s likely that your employer will sponsor your learning. Companies often can support apprentices via funds they receive from the government, and may also have access to other investment schemes. Therefore, it’s worth finding out whether your employer is in a position to financially support you moving forward.
It could also be the case that you’re eligible for a personal government grant or bursary. This is means-tested under clear criteria, so it’s easy to check whether you would qualify for this financial aid. The government often runs these initiatives through partner organisations. For construction-related industries, this will often be done through the City and Guilds. To find out more information about this, please head to the direct.gov website.
If you’re just starting out in a trade, a provisional CSCS card will likely be an essential part of your toolkit. Not only will it enable you to comfortably gain entry to a construction site, it will also clearly advertise your current limited experience to piers, employers, and clients. This will create space for you to learn, and ensure you’re not asked to conduct tasks that you’re not trained to do.
The six-month validation period may well feel quite short. However, this should give you enough time to really understand what your potential future occupation has to offer. It also will allow employers to get a steer on your current and potential capability level.
Please absorb the application process instructions given, as this will help you acquire your card efficiently when ready. Remember, in order to successfully apply for the provisional card, you’ll need to have a valid CITB Health, Safety and Environment ‘operative’ certificate. Do not apply without this, as this will invariably waste time, money and effort. It may also frustrate a prospective employer!
Lastly, please ensure you’re aware of all of the costs involved. Clearly, the initial outlay for a provisional card is relatively insignificant. However, it’s extremely likely that you’ll need to tackle a series of qualifications in the future, which usually come with a considerable price tag. Again, check whether you can receive any financial assistance before beginning your training plan, whether that be through your employer, or an individual government grant.
If you require any additional information on the provisional card, we would recommend you speak to a course tutor, or an appropriate industry professional. Alternatively, you can follow the CSCS website link provided earlier, which includes a section on provisional cards.
We wish you the best of luck in your application for a provisional CSCS card, and hope it’s the first step towards a long and fulfilling career in the construction industry!