JIB CSCS Card for Plumbers

For workers and stakeholders operating in the plumbing industry, the JIB-PMES CSCS registration programme is an extremely important initiative. This scheme allows plumbers to advertise their skill-set, experience, and capability level. They can do this by gaining ownership of various JIB-PMES CSCS cards. These cards are issued in a variety of colours, with each colour representing that the holder is trained to a particular standard within their respective field. Some coloured cards are also directly linked to an occupation or specific job role. For example, as we’ll see later, the black PMES card is reserved for those holding management and senior leadership positions.

The JIB-PMES scheme, and its relationship to the CSCS

The JIB-PMES, or Joint Industry Board for Plumbing and Mechanical Engineering Services, is an organisation empowered to provide training and support for workers across these focused industries. This body has consolidated its position as a reputable and highly-respected organisation since its establishment over fifty years ago. Therefore, employers recognise possession of an official JIB-PMES card as sufficient proof that a current or prospective worker is appropriately trained to carry out the tasks and duties aligned to their chosen field.

The PMES card scheme is affiliated with the CSCS card programme, and utilises the CSCS’ organisational framework to structure its own processes and procedures. The format of issuing variously coloured cards, based on a worker’s occupation and knowledge level, is a system originally implemented by the CSCS.

A level of consistency

The CSCS, or Construction Skills Certification Scheme, is the core programme for skills identification across the construction sector. However, as per the JIB-PMES scheme, many trades and disciplines adapt the CSCS model to their own industry characteristics and requirements. This adaptation is usually quite subtle, as many of the key ingredients of the core programme are consistent across each respective trade.

In most trades, the same card colours are used to identify those who are in equivalent occupations and are equipped with similar skills and experience. This level of consistency can also be applied when reviewing each coloured card’s respective qualifying criteria. Each coloured card, regardless of the trade in which they feature, tends to have very similar accompanying requirements and conditions.

Therefore, for example, if you own a blue CSCS card and work in the plumbing industry, you’ll likely have gained a comparable level of knowledge and experience to a blue CSCS electrician card holder. In essence, the trade is different, but the general capability level remains consistent. This means that different types of workers can be efficiently and effectively-identified across various construction environments.

These consistencies are largely due to the fact that the CSCS considers all construction trades when developing qualification requirements for its various card schemes. These criteria are produced as a result of a generic industrial strategy sponsored by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) board. Therefore, most CSCS card programmes, irrespective of trade or discipline, inevitably share some strong similarities.

Our focus

This article provides an overview of the JIB-PMES card programme. Within this discussion, we’ll touch upon the varying PMES card types available, each of these schemes’ respective qualifying criteria, and the physical card application procedure. As already mentioned, there is substantial crossover between this scheme and the overall CSCS card model. Therefore, absorbing this article’s content should allow you to also gain a better grasp of the general function of the CSCS. There are two separate programmes within the JIB-PMES CSCS framework. These allude to what is termed ‘Core PMES trades’, and ‘PMES-related occupations’. Plumbing job roles are exclusively affiliated to the ‘Core PMES trades’. Therefore, this article will only focus on the CSCS cards produced within this particular programme.

The CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test

In order to possess any JIB-PMES CSCS card, regardless of its rank or associated occupation, you must pass the appropriate health and safety-based assessment. The Joint Industry Board encourages applicants to demonstrate their safety knowledge by sitting the CITB’s Health, Safety and Environment Test. However, completing a JIB-approved health & safety course or training module will also prove a suitable level of understanding in this area.

The CITB, or Construction Industry Training Board, aims to drive quality standards across the building and construction sector. To do this, the CITB provides training materials and learning resources to industry workers and employees. It also looks to achieve this objective through establishing fair, consistent and challenging testing criteria. This serves to not only benchmark performance, but also gives employers a credible, industry-recognised measure of an individual’s knowledge and experience level. It’s worth noting that the CITB is the parent organisation of the CSCS, and therefore these bodies are often referenced interchangeably.

The CITB adjusts the nature of its specific Health, Safety and Environment testing series dependent on the particular trade in question. Indeed, for example, the CITB have developed a group of these tests specific to the PMES CSCS cards attached to the plumbing discipline. The assessment you take is entirely contingent on the type of card you’ve applied for.

Assessments available within the CITB test series

The CITB testing profile for JIB-PMES cards takes on a reasonably similar form to the template used by the general CSCS card programme. Each has three different versions of the CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test. Furthermore, in both cases, the higher graded cards, such as the gold supervisor and black manager card, requires applicants to take a more complex test than those affiliated to schemes which represent members of the general workforce.

Plumbers will either take the ‘specialist’ plumbing exam, the ‘supervisor’s’ assessment, or the ‘manager’s and professional’s’ test. In the sections below, we’ll highlight which test is linked to which card, and therefore demonstrate which types of individuals typically sit these various assessments. It is vitally important that you undertake the correct test, aligned to the PMES CSCS card you’re targeting. If not, your application will be automatically rejected (regardless of whether you’ve passed the test you’ve taken in error!). Furthermore, you’ll also need to pay an additional fee to then take the proper assessment. Therefore, opting for the wrong test will undoubtedly result in waste time, money, and effort!

Nevertheless, as previously mentioned, there are some alternative courses which are accepted as proof of a candidate’s adequate health and safety awareness level. In most cases, this will be demonstrated through the acquisition of an NVQ/SVQ (Scotland). If a construction-related Level 2 or Level 3 NVQ has been achieved within the last two years, this will be considered suitable enough evidence to suggest you have substantial, and current, working knowledge of health and safety guidelines. Therefore, in this instance, you won’t need to take the relevant CITB test accompanying the card scheme you’re applying for. However, if the NVQ was completed over two years ago, this exemption does not stand.

Possible exemptions

There is an extensive list of available, alternate courses that can be used to demonstrate your proficiency in this field. However, these qualifications/learning modules are not accepted as legitimate proof of competence for all of the card schemes in operation. Unsurprisingly, the more challenging a card’s general criteria, the higher the expectancy in relation to the level of training completed.

The below list provides an overview of all health and safety courses which offer an exemption to taking the CITB test. Guidance on which completed courses act as suitable, alternate qualifying measures for the varying card schemes is also provided.

Accepted alternative qualifications

  • Client Contractors National Safety Group (CCNSG) Passport to Safety. This can be used as evidence when applying for any ‘operative’ card scheme i.e., all cards excluding the gold supervisor and black manager cards.
  • Client Contractors National Safety Groups (CCNSG) Leading a Team Safely. This can be legitimately included in applications for the gold supervisor card.
  • IOSH Working Safely. Please note that this qualification is only valid as a piece of supporting evidence for three years from the point of award. Again, this will support applications for all operative card schemes.
  • IOSH Managing Safely. This can be deployed as evidence of an appropriate level of health and safety knowledge when applying for a gold supervisor or black manager card.
  • National Examination Board in Occupational Health & Safety. Please be aware that this can be used as an alternative qualification for a period of five years from the module pass date. However, this can be ‘topped-up’ by taking the refresher course. This provides an alternative route for those applying for a black manager’s card.
  • SOLAS/FAS Safepass. This is an equivalent health and safety-based assessment to the CITB Health, Safety, and Environment Test, deployed in the Republic of Ireland. However, your pass certificate must have been accrued within the two years prior to your card application date. This pass can only be used as a qualifying measure when applying for one of the operative-based card schemes.

An important additional consideration

In all cases, providing the course was navigated within the last two years, it will remain usable as evidence of having an appropriate level of health and safety knowledge for the duration of your card’s validity. As you’ll see in future sections, this is usually a five-year term. If you acquire one of these qualifications, but do not use it as contributing evidence towards the acquisition of a JIB-PMES card, your certificate will only remain valid for a period of two years.

Card Types

There are a nuber of available JIB PMES card types. These cater for all kinds of occupations and experience levels, and have their own respective sets of qualifying criteria. Clearly, its harder to acquire cards aligned to more senior job roles, as their accompanying requirements are more challenging.

Throughout this next section, we look at each coloured PMES card, exploring their key characteristics, and identifying the different types of workers that apply for each scheme.

Green Labourer/Plumber’s Mate Card

This card scheme is clearly targeted at those operating in labouring and plumber’s mate roles. Labourers are tasked with moving plumbing materials and equipment to designated areas on construction sites. Plumber’s mates are on-hand to assist fully-qualified plumbers to carry out works, and will provide any type of support as necessary.

Since mid-July 2020, this scheme was split in two. Now, workers are able to apply for either a specific ‘labourer’ or ‘plumber’s mate’ card, dependent on their industry role. If you received your card prior to this date, and are still therefore in possession of the combined labourer/plumber’s mate card, you’ll be able to pick your particular card pathway upon renewal. However, you must be able to once again produce evidence that you’ve acquired the required certification. The qualifying criteria for each of the ‘new’ cards is exactly the same. This is as follows:

  • Have completed a relevant plumbing/PMES-related ‘Technical Certificate’ qualification. For example, this could be the City & Guilds Level 2 Diploma- Basic Plumbing Studies, or the City & Guilds 6035 NVQ Diploma or BPEC/EAL/LLC equivalent qualification.
  • Have completed the ‘specialist plumbing’ CITB Health, Safety and Environment test within the two years leading up to your card application date. Alternatively, you may have sat one of the qualifying health & safety modules referenced earlier, so long as it is appropriate to an application for an ‘operative’ card.
  • On top of the CITB test (or recognised alternative), you must have also successfully navigated either a Level 1 Award in Health & Safety in a construction-related trade, or an equivalent qualification. For example, the CITB also runs a SSP Health & Safety Awareness Course which would be eligible for this required criterion.

Important additional points

Please note that this card has a five-year validation period. Many labourers/plumber’s mates will target the plumber blue or gold card as a next career step. To do this, they’ll need to assess the card(s) qualifying criteria, and take appropriate action to address these requirements during the tenure of their green card ownership.

However, should a worker wish to continue in their current role, they will be able to renew their membership to this scheme towards the end of their card’s five-year timeframe.

Plumber Blue Card

As is the case in the core CSCS programme, a blue card is often referred to as the ‘skilled worker’ card. This denotes that the card holder is fully-qualified to conduct the activities denoted in their job specification. These individuals will likely be relatively well experienced, and be able to work independently with little support or additional guidance.

In order to successfully apply for this card, you must have:

  • Gained a Level 2 NVQ/Level 2 NVQ Diploma in a plumbing-related discipline, or earned a JIB-approved equivalent qualification. The full list of authorised, alternate qualifications is as follows:
  1. City & Guilds 6189-11 Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Plumbing & Heating
  2. BPEC Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Plumbing & Heating
  3. EAL Level 2 NVQ Diploma in Plumbing & Heating
  4. LCL Level 2 NVQ Diploma in the Installation and Maintenance of Plumbing & Heating Systems
  5. British Shipbuilders Certificate of Apprenticeship in Plumbing
  6. City & Guilds 596-1 Craft Certificate in Plumbing
  7. City & Guilds 603-1 Craft Certificate in Plumbing
  8. City & Guilds 617-1 Craft Certificate in Plumbers’ Work
  9. EAL NVQ Level 2- Mechanical Engineering Services – Plumbing
  10. FETAC National Craft Certificate- Plumbing
  11. Level 2 6004 NVQ in Mechanical Engineering Services – Plumbing
  12. Level 2 6009 NVQ in Mechanical Engineering Services – Plumbing
  13. Level 2 6019 NVQ in Mechanical Engineering Services – Plumbing
  14. Level 2 6024 NVQ in Mechanical Engineering Services – Plumbing (Oil)
  15. Level 2 6089 NVQ in Mechanical Engineering Services – Plumbing
  16. SCOTVEC modules
  • Completed the ‘specialist plumbing’ CITB Health, Safety and Environment test within the two years leading up to your card application date. Alternatively, you may have sat one of the qualifying health & safety modules referenced earlier, so long as it is appropriate to an application for an ‘operative’ card.

Important additional points

NVQ qualifications graded at Level 1, and Level 2 vocational-related courses are not accepted as suitable qualifying criteria for this card. Vocational modules would include courses such as the City & Guilds Basic Plumbing Studies 6129, or the City & Guilds 6035 Diploma (or equivalent BPEC/EAL/LCC qualifications).

Furthermore, if you’re not planning to progress onto a Level 2 or 3 NVQ qualification (or equivalent BPEC/EAL/LCC course) at any stage of your learning journey, you’ll be limited to applying for the aforementioned green labourer/plumber’s mate card.

If you’ve applied as a NARIC/UK ENIC member, you must provide a valid ‘Industry Skills Statement’, which is inclusive of primary source verification, as part of your supporting evidence. Please note that the previous ‘Statement of Comparability’ is no longer deemed to be appropriate proof of your skills and experience. If you do apply using this documentation, your application will be instantly rejected.

Please note that the blue PMES card is valid for five years, and eligible for renewal at the end of this period.

Plumber Gold Card

The next step up from the blue ‘skilled worker’ card is the plumber gold card. This demonstrates that the holder has a higher level of technical capability, and is able to conduct more complex plumbing works. Therefore, you’ll need to have passed a more advanced standard in order to acquire this card.

Applicants must have:

  • Completed a Level 3 NVQ or Level 3 NVQ Diploma in plumbing, or gained an equivalent qualification. All accepted courses in relation to this card scheme are as follows:
  1. Plumbing and Domestic Heating Technician Apprenticeship Standard
  2. BPEC 603/4526/3 Level 3 Diploma in Plumbing and Domestic Heating
  3. EAL 602/4028/9 Level 3 Diploma in Plumbing and Domestic Heating
  4. BPEC NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Plumbing and Heating
  5. EAL NVQ Level 3 Diploma in Plumbing and Heating
  6. FAS National Certificate (Plumber). This is a course facilitated only in the Republic of Ireland.
  7. FETAC Level 6 Advanced Craft Certificate- Plumbing
  8. Level 3 6009 NVQ in Mechanical Engineering Services- Plumbing
  9. Level 3 6019 NVQ in Mechanical Engineering Services- Plumbing
  10. Level 3 6024 NVQ in Mechanical Engineering Services- Plumbing (Oil)
  11. Level 3 6089 NVQ in Mechanical Engineering Services- Plumbing
  12. SCOTVEC modules

City & Guilds specific qualifications

  1. City & Guilds 9189-03 Level 3 Diploma in Plumbing and Domestic Heating
  2. City & Guilds 6189-31 Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Plumbing and Heating
  3. City and Guilds 596-2 Advanced Craft Certificate in Plumbing
  4. City and Guilds 603-2 Advanced Craft Certificate in Plumbing
  5. City and Guilds 617-2 Advanced Craft Certificate in Plumbers’ Work
  6. City and Guilds 617-3 Supplementary Certificate in Sheetwork for Plumbers
  7. City and Guilds 617-4 Supplementary Certificate in Bronze Welding
  8. City and Guilds 617-5 Supplementary Certificate in Welding of Mild Steel
  9. City and Guilds 631 Plumbing Technician’s Certificate Part One
  • Completed the ‘specialist plumbing’ CITB Health, Safety and Environment test within the two years leading up to your card application date. Alternatively, you may have sat one of the qualifying health & safety modules referenced earlier, so long as it is appropriate to an application for an ‘operative’ card.

Important additional points

Please note that any Level 2 NVQ qualifications, or Level 3 vocational-related certificates are not deemed as suitable proof of required credentials.

In alignment with the blue ‘skilled worker’ card, if you’ve gained one of the above certificates but are not readying yourself to move onto an appropriate graded NVQ qualification (or equivalent BPEC/EAL/LCC course), in this case, a Level 3 NVQ Diploma module, then you’ll not be able to possess a card other than the Labourer’s/Plumber’s Mate green card.

The rules associated with NARIC/UK ENIC applicants are exactly the same as those noted in the ‘blue plumber card’ section.

As per any card pitched at fully-qualified workers, this scheme is valid for five years. Membership is renewable at the end of this timeframe.

PMES Gold Supervisor Card

This card is aimed at workers who are currently working in a supervisory capacity within the plumbing industry. Supervisors are accountable to ensure plumbing teams deliver works safely and efficiently, and in compliance with all industry regulations. They will also perform routine health & safety checks, and ensure the labour force is organised and an appropriate size for the task at hand. They will usually report directly to a Plumbing Manager, and therefore support the overall delivery of projects. In this way, they enjoy a reasonably high level of on-site accountability.

Applicants to this scheme will need to have:

  • Successfully completed a PMES-related Level 3 or 4 NVQ or equivalent qualification. If this award relates to an open-ended ‘supervisory’ course, then a pass certificate for a plumbing-related Level 2 or 3 NVQ or equivalent qualification must also be produced as supporting evidence for your application. Examples of an exclusively ‘supervisory’ course would be the Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Occupational Work Supervision, and the Level 3 NVQ in Construction Site Supervision.
  • An ‘employer endorsement’ note, which stipulates that you’ve been operating as a plumbing supervisor in alignment with the JIB-PMES supervisor job specification (as articulated in the PMES supervisor application form- more on the application process to follow).
  • Passed the CITB Managers and Professionals Health, Safety, and Environment Test. Alternatively, you may have navigated one of the exemptions appropriate to applications for this card scheme. These have been listed previously.

Important additional points

In years gone by, there was an alternate ‘Industry Accreditation’ programme that also supported applications for this card scheme. If you gained your card through this initiative, you are still eligible to re-apply for gold card supervisor membership when your renewal is due.

However, if you’ve submitted your renewal application after 30th October 2020, you’ll notice your new card’s expiry date will not be later than the end of 2024, despite this card usually having a standard five-year validation period. This is because it has been planned that the ‘Industry Accreditation’ scheme will be completely phased out by 2025. Therefore, on renewing your card after the final day of 2024, you’ll need to pass the qualifying criteria listed above, rather than rely on the endorsement of the original accreditation scheme.

PMES Black Manager Card

Plumbing Managers, and therefore black card holders, have ultimate accountability over the operation of a plumbing project. Therefore, it is expected they have a strong level of health and safety compliance knowledge, have a high degree of technical capability, and are equipped with the leadership skills to engage, motivate, and mobilise a team of plumbers and plumbing supervisors.

To apply for this card scheme, you must have:

  • Navigated a Level 4 or higher PMES-related NVQ /Management-orientated NVQ or equivalent qualification. This alternate course could be a BTEC, degree, or ILM or CIM-sponsored management programme.
  • An ‘employer endorsement’ note, which states that you’ve been in your role as a PMES Manager for at least twelve months, and are hitting all the necessary requirements as noted in the JIB-PMES management criteria (again, these requirements are referenced in the PMES manager application form).

Or, alternatively, you need to:

  • Be in possession of a JIB-PMES gold card
  • Have an ‘employer endorsement’ note confirming the same information as referenced above.

For both application routes, you’ll need to have either passed the CITB Managers and Professionals assessment, or sat one of the JIB-approved alternate health & safety courses. Clearly, this qualification must be eligible to count towards applications for this specific card scheme (again, listed in the previous section).

The same rules regarding the ‘Industry Accreditation’ scheme apply to the black manager card. Therefore, if you’ve recently renewed your card, you’ll only have validity until the end of 2024, at which point you’ll need to apply using the latest method described above.

The ‘red’ JIB-PMES card scheme

The joint industry board also facilitates a red card programme, which is specifically targeted at those currently undertaking some form of training. There are five ‘red’ card types available. Each one is pitched at a different audience, designed for workers at various stages of their learning journey. As these cards are exclusively used for the purpose of supporting training initiatives, they will be discarded as soon as the relevant learning modules have been completed, and a suitable level of experience gained. Each card’s validation period corresponds to the expected required time to complete the training modules typically undertaken by cardholders of each scheme. Therefore, as qualifications and course lengths differ, so do these cards’ eligibility timeframes.

If the relevant training hasn’t been completed before the end of this period, then newcomers to the industry will need to find an alternative route to progress their career (this could be through a different red card scheme). This is because, as it is expected that all training will be appropriately navigated before the card expires, membership to red card schemes is not renewable. Indeed, if you do complete all of the required training as expected, and therefore progress to being fully qualified in a particular plumbing discipline, there would be no point in return to an ‘in training’ status.

You’ll be fine!

Please don’t feel as if you’re up against the clock here. The timeframes allocated to these schemes by JIB-PMES are more than long enough to successfully engage in all learning activity. Indeed, there is already time factored in for unforeseen issues, such as delays caused by changes in personal circumstances, or if you’re perhaps finding it particularly challenging to get through a certain module. For example, most plumbing apprentices take roughly four years to conclude their studies. However, the plumbing apprentice card is valid for a duration of five years.

As per the ‘fully-qualified’ cards, we’ve provided a brief overview of each ‘red’ scheme below:

Apprentice Card

As per its title, this card is reserved for those participating in apprenticeship schemes. This must be an industry-recognised apprentice programme, affiliated with either the plumbing or mechanical engineering service sectors.

Furthermore, you’ll need to have passed the CITB Health, Safety and Environment ‘plumber’s specialist’ test within the two years prior to your application date. You may qualify for an exemption to this test, providing you’ve already navigated the health and safety units included in the NVQ or NVQ Diploma you’re studying as part of your apprenticeship scheme. Alternatively, you’ll also be able to skip the CITB test if you’ve engaged in a JIB-PMES-approved one-day safety course. If you’re unsure as to whether the course you’ve taken qualifies for JIB approval, please contact the Joint Industry Board directly for further clarity.

If you’re a plumbing and heating fitter apprentice, facilitated by the JTL Managing Agency, you must contact JTL to acquire your card. This is because this organisation is empowered to deliver JIB-PMES CSCS cards for their own registered apprentices.

As mentioned in the previous section, apprentice red cards are valid for a five-year period.

Trainee Card

If you’ve recently entered the industry but already signed up for a PMES-related qualification, it’s likely that the ‘trainee’ card is the most appropriate card for you. In order to acquire this card, you must have passed the same health & safety assessment criteria as referenced in the apprentice card notes.

Trainee cards are also distributed to those who have significant experience in a closely-associated industry. Employers will encourage workers in this situation to apply for trainee cards, as it affords them the time to upskill themselves in their newly chosen discipline.

Whichever circumstance relates closest to you, you’ll need to be enrolled on either an NVQ, or QCF aligned NVQ Diploma, at grade Level 2 or 3 standard. You must not have already completed any of these courses, as you would then automatically be eligible for one of the ‘fully-qualified’ cards.

Again, trainee cards have a validation period of five years.

Work Placement Card

If you’re currently attending college or a trade-focused training centre, it’s likely you’ll need the work placement card at some stage. Students will need this card when undertaking ‘high-quality’ work experience opportunities. This will involve visiting a professional workplace environment for upwards of 30 hours a week.

For work placement cards specifically tethered to the plumbing industry, you’ll need to be studying towards either a Plumbing & Heating, or BSE-related qualification. To successfully apply for this scheme, you’ll therefore need to be registered on one of the following courses:

  • T Level (in a subject relating to Building Services Engineering)
  • A BSE specific traineeship
  • A BSE specific study programme
  • A plumbing or H&V Technical Certificate or Diploma
  • Built Environment or Engineering Diploma (BSE)
  • NC/HNC/HND in Built Environment (BSE)

A different CITB test option

In terms of health & safety testing, you must have passed either the ‘operative’ or ‘plumbing specialist’ CITB Health, Safety and Environment Test. The ‘operative’ assessment is a more generalised exam used in the core CSCS framework. In this test, questions allude more to the basic health and safety considerations required when working in any construction-based environment. Alternatively, completion of the health & safety training modules included in one of the above-listed courses will provide you with sufficient knowledge to be in possession of this card. However, your college/training centre tutor must confirm in writing that you’ve successfully navigated this part of your qualification.

This card expires after three years, at which point you will have concluded your studies, and hopefully be in a position to progress formally into the industry. If during your work placement, your employer offers you to enrol on their apprenticeship scheme, or you register for an NVQ/NVQ Diploma qualification, you must discard your work placement card, and ensure you immediately apply for either an apprentice or trainee card, dependent on which scenario has materialised.

Experienced Worker Card

This card is pitched at workers who have already accrued a reasonable level of experience in the plumbing industry. However, in order to advance their career, they will have recently enrolled in a PMES-related NVQ or equivalent qualification.

As per apprentice card holders, applicants must have either passed the CITB ‘specialist plumbing’ test, or already concluded the health & safety units linked to their qualification. They also will be required to prove that they’ve completed three years-service in the plumbing or mechanical engineering service fields.

This card is valid for three years, which provides sufficient time for those in possession of an experienced worker card to gain the relevant experience and certification to progress to the next stage of their career.

Operative Grading

The JIB-PMES also applies a grading system, which sits in conjunction with their own version of the CSCS programme. However, it’s important to remember that this is a completely separate classification mechanism from JIB-PMES cards. The two systems complement one another, but the ‘grade’ of a worker is not necessarily linked to the ‘type’ of card they hold.

With a hint of contradiction, one of the three established ‘grades’ is directly linked to the CSCS card model. Those who acquire blue or gold cards, and have attained an NVQ Level 2 or equivalent qualification, are automatically rewarded with the title of ‘basic’ plumber. This is providing that they have also completed a suitable entry-point training module, and by extension have undertaken at least a three-and-a-half-year stint working in the industry. If you’ve completed a JIB-approved apprenticeship programme, both of these criteria will be addressed in unison. The two remaining grades, which are entitled ‘advanced’ and ‘technician’ plumbers, are subject to the worker being able to execute a fixed list of requirements. These relate to specific plumbing-related tasks and technical skills, as well as the acquisition of experience in certain roles and positions.

The personal importance of the grading system

The JIB-PMES CSCS registration and grading scheme work group are accountable for setting grading criteria. A plumber’s grading is incredibly important to their working role. This is because, in similarity to the CSCS card programme, it serves to clearly demonstrate a worker’s capability level. All employers who operate in plumbing and mechanical engineering service sectors, utilise the grading system to propose rates of pay, allowances, and benefit packages to prospective candidates. Therefore, a plumber’s respective grade has a huge bearing on their financial earnings, and reputation amongst peers, employers, and clients.

‘Advanced’ Plumber

To qualify for the grade of ‘advanced’ plumber, individuals must:

  • Have undertaken at least two years of work experience in the PEMS industry.
  • Be able to compliantly deliver a host of advanced, technical skills.
  • Be able to confidently work without regular supervision from the site leadership team
  • Be able to interpret technical drawings and specifications, and organise surmised information into a set of deliverable tasks
  • Be able to understand which materials are necessary in order to meet the demands of a specific installation.
  • Have knowledge, experience and technical awareness level that surpasses the capabilities of a ‘basic’ grade plumber. They will also have gained an understanding of supervisory techniques, and therefore how to effectively engage and organise a group of plumbers in order to achieve project delivery.

‘Technician’ Plumber

To qualify for the grade of ‘technician’ plumbers, individuals must:

  • Earn a further education academic qualification. This must be on the JIB-PMES’ approved list of courses.
  • Be able to calibrate and execute project works with respect to industry building and water regulations, and appropriate government legislation.
  • Be able to quantify the volume of materials and labour required to deliver specific works.
  • Be able to plan plumbing installations in the most cost-effective way. Ensure project decisions are made with potential budgeting constraints in mind, without compromising the integrity of work delivered.
  • Have knowledge, experience, and technical awareness level that surpasses the capabilities of an ‘advanced’ grade plumber.

Important additional points

Please note that the gold PMES supervisor card sits outside of the JIB-PEMS grading structure. This is specifically linked to the CSCS registration element, and therefore holders of this card will not have an official grading. In essence, their possession of the supervisor card demonstrates their skill-set, experience, and capability level.

As the JIB-PEMS CSCS card programme is generally a separate entity from its grading initiative, it’s possible that some workers who hold the same card will sit in a different grade classification. For example, it could be that a plumber blue card holder is classed as either an ‘advanced’ or ‘technician’ plumber.

If you believe your current JIB grading does not reflect your skill-set or expertise, you can apply to ‘upgrade’. Providing you’ve delivered on your targeted grade’s qualification criteria, you’ll be able to submit an upgrade application at any stage of your career. If the company you work for is a ‘JIB Participant’ employer, you’ll be able to lodge your application completely free of charge. However, if not, this process will cost you £25.00, plus the standard £40.00 charge for a new CSCS card, should the result of your grading upgrade application result in a required change of scheme.

Again, it’s worth re-emphasising that the JIB-PMES card scheme is a completely different service to the grading programme, and therefore no paid fees will simultaneously cover elements of either initiative.

How do I physically apply for a JIB-PMES Card, and how much does one cost?

The card application process is extremely easy. The first step, and perhaps most important, is to select the card most reflective of your current competencies and occupation. If you’re unsure about which card to opt for, it might be worth visiting the JIB-PMES website to review each scheme. Alternatively, you could correspond with them directly using either phone or email. To speak with a dedicated JIB advisor, call 01480 476925. Please note that phone lines are manned 10.00am to 4.00pm, Monday to Friday. If you prefer to communicate via e-mail, please send a message to info@jib.org.uk, with a brief overview of your query.

The application process

Once you’ve picked your targeted card scheme, it’s then time to download an application form and complete it accordingly. Each card has its own application form, which can be found on each of their respective web pages within the JIB-PMES website.

Next, ensure you’ve thoroughly absorbed your intended card’s qualifying criteria. Clearly, if there is still work to do on this front, you should aim to complete this, or perhaps embrace an alternative card scheme. If you can meet all of the scheme’s requirements, then you should ready your supporting evidence for send-off. You can submit your documentation in hard copy or digitised format, which can be sent via post, online (through the JIB-PMES website) or by e-mail. It’s vitally important that you submit certification that is valid, and present within your card criteria’s approved list of qualifications. If not, your application will be automatically rejected, but you will not receive a refund of your application charge.

Cost considerations

All cards, with the exception of apprentice and work experience ‘red’ cards, are priced at £40.00. The two, aforementioned red card schemes cost just £20.00 to join. The service level agreement for receiving cards from the Joint Industry Board is 28 days. However, providing you’ve submitted accurate and relevant documentation, it’s highly likely that you’ll receive your CSCS card well in advance of the end of this timeframe. To renew your card membership, or to replace a lost, stolen, or damaged card, you’ll be charged exactly the same fee as those referenced above (dependent on your card type). The CITB test is charged at £21.00 when booked directly through the Construction Industry Training Board.

You’ll need to ensure you’re in a comfortable enough financial position to pay any associated training costs. Hopefully, if you’re already aware of a card’s rough qualifying criteria, you’ll have already navigated the qualifications involved. However, if this isn’t the case, you may need to braced for a significant financial outlay. Courses do not come cheap, particularly when progressing towards the more advanced training modules. Therefore, it’s worth ensuring you fully understand any costs involved, and are prepared to pay the required fees. If you’re struggling to cover all of your respective course costs, you may be eligible for a government grant. This could either come through your employer, a partner learning provider, or as a result of your own personal financial circumstances. Please visit the direct.gov website for further information.

Other, useful information

If you’re in desperate need of an extremely swift turnaround, you might want to take advantage of the JIB-PMES fast-track service. This guarantees your card will land within four working days from your application date (again, on the assumption that you’ve submitted all appropriate evidence). However, this service does come with an additional £60.00 administration fee.

A top tip is to remember to pay the full postage costs when originally sending off your documentation. If this hasn’t been done, the JIB-PMES will not process your application.

Another benefit of working for a ‘JIB Participant’ Employer is that your plumber CSCS card application will be completely free of charge. This is also the case for ‘Unite the Union’ members. However, if you do qualify under one of these initiatives, please be aware that you will not be able to conduct your application online. Instead, you’ll need to manage your application either over the phone or via e-mail.

There are no restrictions on what types of workers can apply for a JIB-PMES card. So, whether you run your own business, are contracted to an agency, or are currently unemployed, with the right qualifications, you’ll be able to successfully acquire a card. Please note that if you’re not presently working, you’ll need a former employer to confirm you’ve previously worked in the plumbing industry. They must also be prepared to endorse your specific skills/experience in respect of the card scheme you’re applying for.

Scottish & Northern Irish applicants

For those operating in Scotland or Northern Ireland, applications and correspondence should go through the Scottish & Northern Irish JIB (SNIJIB). To contact the SNIJIB for support or further information, please either call 0131 524 1225 (call centre opening hours: Monday-Thursday, 9.00am-5.00pm, Friday 9.00am-4.30pm. Closed on weekends), or e-mail info@snijib.org


Hopefully, you’ll now feel you have a far better grasp of the different available JIB-PMES CSCS cards. Furthermore, you should also now have a decent knowledge of each scheme’s qualifying criteria, and therefore know what you’ll need to achieve in order to acquire your targeted plumber CSCS card.

Remember, it’s crucial to select the right card for you. So, take your time, and review each option accordingly. If you’re just starting out in the industry, it’s highly likely you’ll require one of the red ‘training’ cards. However, ensure you again sift through the available choices, as there are four red cards available, each dependent on a worker’s experience level and intended training journey. For those who have operated in the plumbing and maintenance engineering services sector for some time, and are suitably competent and qualified in the role, you’ll perhaps be targeting either a green labourer’s/plumber’s mate card, or a blue or gold plumber’s card. As discussed, supervisors and managers have their own respective schemes aligned to their occupations. These are the gold supervisor and black manager cards respectively.

The CITB test considerations

To successfully apply for any card, you’ll need to pass an appropriate CITB test. However, if you’ve undertaken a suitable alternative health & safety assessment or training module (the eligibility of these courses is dependent on the card scheme you’re applying for), you’ll be able to circum-navigate the CITB test. In most cases, you’ll need to take the ‘specialist plumbing’ CITB Health, Safety, and Environment Test. However, some workers will either take the more generic ‘operative’ assessment, and others either the ‘supervisory’ or ‘managers and professional’s’ test.

The operative grading system

As we’ve seen, as a supplementary initiative to its CSCS framework, the Joint Industry Board of Plumbing and Mechanical Services Engineering also run a grading programme. This is essential for industry workers, as it provides another method of advertising their talents to peers, employers, and clients. Furthermore, this is used to help calibrate salaries, allowances, and benefits packages. Therefore, your grading is central to what you earn, and the perks you receive as a result of your occupation. There are three main types of grading: ‘basic’, ‘advanced’, and ‘technician’. Hopefully, you’re now aware of the qualifying criteria for each grade. Remember, should you feel that your grading is not reflective of your skills, knowledge, and current role, you can apply to have this ‘upgraded’. However, unless you’re employed by a ‘JIB Participant’ Employer, you will be charged an additional fee for this service.

Getting the basics right

You’ll need to ensure that you’re familiar with all of the accompanying costs for your CSCS card application. This includes the modest card fees, all the way through to the significant costs involved with high-level training courses. If you’re concerned that you may not be able to afford these, it’s worth checking out to see whether you’re eligible for any government support.

Please also make sure you’re completely comfortable with the JIB-PMES card application process. Completing your application form accurately, sending off the right documentation, and paying the appropriate application fee will all help you to receive your card in a swift and effective manner. Furthermore, if you’re in urgent need of a replacement, you’ll equally be able to source a new card with the same level of efficiency.

Lastly, if you are currently applying for a JIB-PMES CSCS card, we wish you the best of luck in your application process, and hope that acquiring your plumber CSCS card is just the next step of a long and rewarding career in the plumbing industry!