- 1 The CSCS
- 2 The CITB test
- 3 Available CSCS cards
- 4 Red CSCS Card(s)
- 5 Blue Handyman CSCS Card
- 6 Gold, Black, and White CSCS Cards
- 7 Summary
The handyman CSCS card is an important programme used by workers operating in the multi-trade and handyman industry. It serves to identify a handyman’s skill set, experience, and competency level. This is because each available CSCS card, which is distinguished by colour, has a defined set of qualifying requirements. The higher the grade of the card, the more challenging these requirements are. The handyman sector, as per many trades, has adapted the CSCS framework to make it more specific to its own field. Therefore, the qualifying criteria set out for the different types of cards in the general CSCS programme, are similar, but not the same, as the demands listed for the schemes specific to the handyman trade.
The CSCS, or Construction Skills Certification Scheme, is an extremely useful tool for stakeholders right across the construction and building sector. As it is an industry-approved scheme, holders of these cards can efficiently prove their working credentials just through their ownership of a specific card. CSCS cards are not necessarily index-linked to specific occupations. However, most people who apply for a CSCS card will either currently be in, or aspiring towards, a role that is befitting of the card’s rank and stature.
The CSCS card programme helps employers to effectively allocate tasks on a construction site, as workers can easily advertise their capabilities to on-site leadership teams. This means that workers can be tasked with delivering works that they’ve been appropriately trained to complete. This clearly helps to stop workers being asked to conduct activities that they’re not qualified to undertake, and therefore by extension helps to hugely reduce the risk of accidents occurring.
The CITB test
Regardless of the Handyman CSCS coloured card you apply for, you’ll need to sit a CITB Health, Safety, and Environment test in order to successfully apply for your chosen scheme. As per its title, this is purely a health and safety-based assessment. It’s designed to ensure that you have a level of safety and compliance knowledge appropriate to your on-site role.
The CITB, or Construction Industry Training Board, are an organisation primarily focused on driving standards throughout construction trades. They look to achieve this objective in a number of different ways. One of the key methods they adopt is via the establishment of fair testing criteria. This acts as an extremely useful measure when assessing a worker’s level of capability.
Different types of CITB Health, Safety, and Environment Test
The organisation has multiple assessments in circulation; however, the most frequently used is the Health, Safety, and Environment testing series. There a three different versions of this exam available, the Operatives, Specialists and Managers and Professionals (MAP) tests. These tests are taken in conjunction with the CSCS card you’re applying for. Therefore, you’ll need to take the appropriate assessment dependent on the card scheme you’ve applied for.
The Operatives test is typically taken by those who hold cards associated with general workforce positions, or are currently operating in a training capacity. The Specialists assessment is sat by highly-technical workers and those in supervisory roles. Lastly, the Managers and Professionals test is undertaken by those applying for white and black CSCS cards. The two white cards are reserved for workers who have either achieved advanced, further education qualifications, or who are registered to a CSCS-approved professional body. The black ‘manager’ card is pitched at those holding management and senior leadership positions within the construction industry.
Available CSCS cards
We’ll now review each available card within the handyman CSCS framework. Please note that the entry and ‘lower’ graded cards (i.e., all cards except for gold, white, and black cards) are specifically aligned to the multi-trades and handyman sector. The more senior cards will likely require the applicant to focus on a particular trade or discipline. This is because there are limited supervisory and management roles that are directly linked to the handyman industry. Indeed, most leadership roles involve presiding over large operations or projects, equipped with workers who are proficient in various individual fields. Handymen are a limited population, and therefore, should they wish to progress into a managerial position, would need to be prepared to lead groups of workers who are dedicated to just one individual trade.
In the brief descriptions below, we’ll cover each card’s qualifying criteria and validation period, and review the types of workers generally affiliated with each card scheme.
Red CSCS Card(s)
There are six different types of red handyman CSCS cards available. Red cards indicate that the owner is undertaking some form of training. Each card’s validity length is based on the duration of its associated training plan. Once all learning modules have been completed, the candidate will then apply for a different, higher-graded card. For this reason, red card membership is not renewable; indeed, there would certainly be no reason to continue your status as a trainee once fully qualified in your field!
If the qualification linked to the red card in question has not been completed within this timeframe, the individual will need to progress their career via other means (potentially through a different red card scheme). However, don’t panic! The CSCS provides more than sufficient time to complete your required training before your card expires. Some additional breathing space is also added should you run into any difficulties when trying to get through your course(s).
The various red card schemes currently in circulation are as follows:
Provisional CSCS Card
The provisional card facilitates workers to undertake a probationary working period operating as a handyman. This card, therefore, offers employers the opportunity to assess a new starter’s credentials, and judge whether they have the talent to progress in the industry. Similarly, for the holder, it affords them the space to experience what it’s like to work in the handyman sector, and consider whether working in the trade would be a desirable career path. This card is valid for six months, which is deemed an adequate length of time for both the employer and employee to make up a decision on the next steps.
Trainee CSCS Card
Similar to the provisional card, the trainee card is reserved for new entrants into the handyman and multi-trade industry. However, the holder will already be registered to a specific training programme, which must be present on the CSCS’ approved list of vocational, academic, and professional courses. This card is valid for five years, which will provide ample time to gain relevant experience, and navigate your training course(s).
Apprentice CSCS Card
As per its title, this card is targeted at those participating in apprenticeship programmes. To successfully apply for this card, you must demonstrate that you’re suitably registered to a CSCS-approved apprentice scheme. Please note that there are no handyman-specific apprenticeships available. However, you’ll still be able to undertake this module in a closely related trade, before specialising in the handyman discipline after graduating from your programme. This card is valid for five years. On average, most apprenticeships last between three and four years. However, timeframes are entirely dependent on the trade you’re pursuing, and your personal learning pace.
Work Placement Card
Red work placement cards are perfect for those currently studying at a college or training centre, and are keen to gain some valuable experience in a construction-based environment. To qualify for this card, you must be participating in a ‘high-quality’ work placement programme, which demands you spend at least 30 hours a week at the workplace. Furthermore, you’ll also need to be engaging in a relevant training scheme, such as a T-Level or Trainee Skills Development Programme. This card has a validation period of three years.
Experienced Worker CSCS Card
If you’re studying towards a Level 2 NVQ/SVQ (Scotland), and have been working as a handyman for at least one year in the last three, it’s likely that this is the right card for you. This card expires after twelve months.
Experienced Technical, Supervisor or Manager CSCS Card
This has exactly the same specification as the experienced worker card, except for the fact that you’ll need to be enrolled onto a Level 3 NVQ, as opposed to a level 2 graded qualification. However, this card is valid for two years longer than the experienced worker card, given the extra time required to complete the more detailed NVQ.
Blue Handyman CSCS Card
If you’ve navigated through your training, and become fully qualified as a handyman or multi-trades worker, you’ll be eligible to apply for the blue CSCS card. This card is often referred to, across all CSCS frameworks, as the ‘skilled worker’ card.
In order to successfully acquire this card, you’ll need to have completed the following specific NVQ course:
Level 2 NVQ for Multi-Traders and Handymen
At the end of this module, you’ll sit a competency-based assessment that focuses on two trades within a typical handyman’s working remit. You’ll be able to select which trades you would like to be assessed on, but these must be included in the following list:
- Carpentry & Joinery
- Painting & Decorating
- Wall & Floor Tiling
- Maintenance Roofing
- Maintenance Bricklaying
Once in possession of a blue CSCS card, you’ll be classified as a suitably trained handyman, and be able to conduct professional works on behalf of contractors and clients.
Gold, Black, and White CSCS Cards
As previously mentioned, there is no dedicated pathway within the handyman sector which relate to these cards. This is largely because there are no specific NVQ courses aligned to the industry beyond the aforementioned level 2 module. Therefore, if you come to apply for one of these schemes, it’s likely that you’ll be involved in projects whereby most workers are aligned to a particular trade.
Hopefully, you’ll now have a clearer picture of what the Handyman CSCS card programme entails. If you’re looking to apply for a CSCS card, it’s vitally important that you select the correct one, which will be dependent on your current occupation or technical skill level. If you’re unsure about what card you should apply for, the CSCS has a fantastic Card Finder Tool, which will allow you to hone in on the most suitable card for you. Simply click the link, and enter either your occupation or any qualifications you’ve gained so far to get started.
If you’re looking to become a fully-qualified handyman, and operate exclusively within the multi-trades sector, we would encourage you to target the blue ‘skilled worker’ card. If this is your plan, it’s worth starting to think about which trades you would like to address in your NVQ Level 2 assessment. If you have aspirations of progressing your career beyond this, you’ll need to either specialise in a certain discipline or profession, or ensure you receive appropriate leadership training.
Remember, when applying for any CSCS card (unless you qualify for one of the few exemptions), you’ll need to pass a CITB Health, Safety, and Environment Test. Please make sure that the version of this assessment you take is relevant to the card you’re applying for. Clearly, the very highest graded cards have the most challenging accompanying test.
If you require any further information in relation to CSCS cards in general, we would recommend that you liaise with your course tutor or a trusted industry professional. Alternatively, the official CSCS website has plenty of guidance notes on the general card programme’s framework.
Lastly, we wish you the best of luck in your pursuit of a Handyman CSCS Card, and hope that it serves to provide the next step towards you fulfilling your career ambitions in the handyman and multi-trades industry!