There are three different types of CPCS card available, each are equipped with a validation period. At the end of this term, should cardholders want to retain membership to their respective scheme, they must renew their card. This article focuses on the CPCS card renewal process. It will discuss the differences between the renewal procedure attached to each card, and explain how candidates can physically apply for a new card. However, before offering an analysis of the CPCS renewal system, it’s worth providing some wider context on the CPCS card programme itself.
The CSCS vs. CPCS
Whether you’re a plant operative, signaller, appointed person, or another role connected with the plant sector, your occupation will be expressly linked to the operation of equipment and machinery.
The CPCS, or Construction Plant Competence Scheme, supports workers in the plant industry. Its chief objective is to drive standards across the plant trade, which it does via a number of initiatives. One of these targeted efforts serves to illustrate a key difference between the CPCS and broader CSCS card programmes.
A chunk of the qualifying criteria for all CPCS cards, is earned through successfully navigating a number of ‘internal’ CPCS courses and assessments. This differs from the broader CSCS approach, which focuses purely on ‘external’ qualifications, such as NVQ’s, City & Guilds certification, and NEBOSH diplomas.
The CSCS, or Construction Skills Certification Scheme, might lend its identification card framework to the CPCS, but the Construction Plant Competence Scheme is technically operated by the NOCN (National Open College Network). The CITB is the parent organisation of the CSCS, and plays an important role in the CPCS card programme.
The CITB, or Construction Industry Training Board, is a highly-respected organisation throughout the trades sector. It works to support construction workers in various ways. Whether it’s through the provision of learning materials, facilitating relevant courses, or establishing testing criteria, the CITB always acts with the interests of industry workers at heart. The CITB’s Health, Safety and Environment Test is used as an assessment tool in the process of gaining any CSCS card. This includes all cards linked to subsidiary trade schemes, such as the CPCS.
Who are the CPCS?
Established in 2003, the CPCS is recognised as the main representative body of the plant industry. Its main purpose is to provide plant workers with regulatory guidance on how to execute the operation of equipment and machinery in a compliant fashion.
It regularly updates these regulations to reflect the prevailing views of industry experts, and to address feedback given by key sector stakeholders. As a consequence, their regulations account for the development of new technologies and technical discoveries.
Any substantial changes are then reflected in the training courses and qualifying requirements attached to CPCS cards. Therefore, it’s absolutely critical that you keep your CPCS card valid, as this demonstrates that you’re aware of the latest, industry advancements.
CPCS training courses serve to upskill workers in various elements of the plant trade, and are delivered in both practical and theoretical formats.
The three CPCS card types are as follows: the ‘Trainer Operative’ Card, the ‘Competent Operator’ Card, and the ‘Tester’ Card. This next section will review the renewal criteria attached to each scheme, and in turn cite the validation period of each card.
Trainer Operative Card
As per all CSCS-related training cards, the CPCS trainer operative card is red in colour. If you’ve joined the industry relatively recently, and only gained modest experience of the plant industry, this will likely be the right card for you. The main purpose of the card is to ensure entry-point workers can comfortably access construction sites, allowing them to be upskilled on practical tasks. The red card scheme comes accompanied with a set training schedule. This covers all of the key skills and knowledge that a fully-qualified plant worker needs to be equipped with. As part of this training sequence, you’ll need to pass both the CPCS Theory and Practical Tests, within a six-month window.
There are actually two cards within the red ‘trainee’ programme. Each card is valid for an eighteen-month period, splitting the schemes three-year training duration in half. At the end of this three-year timeframe, the CPCS expects that all students will have completed all of the required learning modules. Therefore, they will be in a position to apply for a competent trainer card. If they were to be successful in this application, this confirm that they’re now a fully-trained plant industry worker. For that reason, this card is not renewable. Indeed, once you’ve achieved fully-qualified status, there would be no point in re-applying for a training card scheme!
Therefore, if you do not complete your training prior to the three-year cut-off point, you’ll unfortunately need to find another avenue to progress your career. However, don’t panic! The CPCS permits more than enough time to comfortably finish your studies. So, even if your personal circumstances change or you’re struggling to complete a certain part of the training, it’s likely you’ll still be able to pass within the allotted time.
As a result, there is no formal renewal process for the Trainer Operative card.
Competent Operator Card
This is a blue-coloured card, issued when you’ve successfully completed the red card scheme. Across all trades, blue cards denote that the holder is a ‘skilled’ worker. In simplistic terms, ownership of the Competent Operator Card shows that you’ve been appropriately trained to carry out the tasks associated with your occupation.
As previously mentioned, there are different variations of general CPCS cards, directly connected to the role an individual is undertaking. Therefore, to use the same examples as referenced above, this may mean that you become a plant operative, signaller, or appointed person blue card holder.
Each time you’ve been fully-trained on a new piece of plant machinery, or ‘category’, a record will be added to your Competent Operator card. However, you will only receive this additional ‘category’ if you re-sit the courses taken during your ‘red’ card training programme, but clearly this time aligned to the different equipment in use. Therefore, if you’re planning to have a long and varied career in the plant industry, it’s likely you’ll need to re-engage in ground-level training courses on a relatively frequent basis!
Competent Operator cards are valid for a five-year period. Understandably, the CPCS deems that before a new card can be issued, those currently in possession of blue cards must prove that they can still operate compliantly in the plant industry. Within five years, it’s also highly likely that there will have been some changes to sector best practice. Therefore, the renewal process is as much about checking the relevance of knowledge, as it is about remembering ways of working.
Specific renewal requirements
To check that a worker still meets the expected standard, the CPCS stages a Renewal Test, which assesses their proficiency level. If you’d like to renew your blue CPCS card, you must pass this exam!
Candidates will also need to complete one of the following actions:
- Conduct an on-site assessment
- Complete the CPCS Renewal Test (as referenced, this will have been originally taken during your tenure as a red card holder).
- Prove that you’ve delivered over 300 recorded hours of work within each ‘category’ you’re looking to renew. This should be presented using the logbook given to you at start of your membership on the blue card scheme.
Finally, you’ll also be required to pass the CITB Health, Safety and Environment Operatives test. This will already have been successfully navigated during the original application process. This is because the CITB test only remains valid if taken within the two years prior to your latest card application. After this point, it will keep its validity throughout the full duration of your next card membership stint, ready to be re-taken again at the end of the next five-year block.
Please note that card renewal charges are included in the price of your renewal test fee. All CITB tests cost £22.50 when booked directly through the Construction Industry Training Board.
This is the most advanced scheme on the CPCS card programme. Testers are accountable for assessing workers when undertaking the CPCS Practical Test. As this assessment determines whether workers can execute tasks compliantly, testers have a huge level of responsibility on their shoulders. Therefore, the initial, and indeed renewal qualifying criteria, is proportionately challenging for this card.
To renew your membership to this scheme, you’ll need to:
- Own a valid First Aid Certificate
- Pass the Managing and Co-ordinating Plant course. This a management-level training course, designed to support those occupying high-level positions within the plant industry.
- Pass the CPCS Tester CPD course.
- Re-pass the CITB Managers and Professionals test (this is the version of the assessment originally taking to support the initial application for this card). In terms of validity periods for this test in the context of card ownership, the same rules apply to the tester card as they do the competent operator card.
Please note that the cost of a replacement tester card is £25. As mentioned earlier, the ‘manager’s and professional’s’ test is priced at £22.50.
How do I make a renewal application?
Putting the renewal process in motion is relatively straightforward. You’ll first need to ensure that you’ve met your card’s renewal criteria. Once this is done, you’ll need to complete an F1/1 application form. These are available at CPCS-endorsed test centres, and are commonly filled in directly after a CPCS Practical or Advanced Test has been completed. This is because this is often the latest qualifying requirement delivered.
If you do choose to apply whilst attending a test centre, a CPCS advisor will be able to submit your application on your behalf. However, you can also opt to do this independently should you wish.
Providing all of the relevant information is contained in your application form, you should expect to receive your card within a fortnight. However, if you need confirmation that you’re awaiting a certain card to arrive, perhaps due to a job interview or change in employment circumstances, test centres can issue you with a ‘letter of achievement’. This document will confirm that you’ve met all of the necessary criterion for your CPCS card scheme, but are just awaiting card delivery. This temporary certificate is valid for 28 days. Therefore, this provides more than enough time to cover your period without a card.
If you’re card still hasn’t arrived after fifteen days from the point of application, it might be worth giving the CPCS a call to understand if there’s an issue. The CPCS can be contacted on 0844 815 7274.
It’s vitally important to have a valid, in-date CPCS card. This ensures that you’re aware of any changes to the way a task should be delivered, and across any new industry schools of thought.
At the point of renewal, please ensure you consider whether you would like to renew your current CPCS card membership, or whether you’re in a position to make a step-up.
Hopefully, you now feel fully versed in the renewal qualifying requirements for each of the two, renewable CPCS cards. These are more thorough than the typical renewal criteria for many other CSCS-linked card schemes. However, this helps to maintain high industry standards, and keep skills and knowledge relevant. Please ensure you take time to revise topics accordingly for your card’s associated renewal tests. You should also re-review health and safety considerations in preparation for the CITB test.
Even if you’re a little way away from renewing a CPCS card, we would encourage you to familiarise yourself with the re-application process now. This will ensure that when your scheme’s expiry date does start to draw nearer, you’ll be able to effectively and efficiently source your replacement card.
If you require any further information about the CPCS card programme, whether in relation to renewals or otherwise, it might be worth visiting the official NOCN website, or giving the CPCS a call on the number provided earlier. Alternatively, you may want to speak to your course tutor, or a trusted industry professional.
Lastly, if you are currently renewing your CPCS card, we hope that you manage to meet all of your card’s renewal criteria, and receive your replacement card in the very near future!