THE HUGE number of plant operators still needing to get qualifications over the next few months threatens to cause chaos on sites, training specialists have warned.
The Major Contractors Group has said it will not allow operators on their sites without the right card from January, but at the same time thousands of CPCS 'trained' red card holders will need to convert to the blue 'competent' card over the next 12 months. As a result many in the industry fear that the system will not be able to cope.
Holders of CPCS red cards have been told they must upgrade to an NVQ within three years or lose their card altogether, but insiders say in practice this will simply not be possible for everyone, given the number of operators who will need to have an on-site assessment or to have their logbooks processed.
CPCS said that 3,600 workers will need to convert in 2006, but more than 30,000 will be required to upgrade for each of the next two years. But there are only around 60 training centres currently able to provide the NVQ assessment that is required for the upgrade.
One industry expert said: 'I cannot see how all 30,000 can be processed in time. The MCG will not like it, but they will have to decide between turning people with expired cards away or accepting an extended deadline. They will not be able to hold up work to wait for replacement drivers all the time.'
Another added: 'The industry needs to come up with a plan, such as more use of in-house assessors for big companies. But we should be banging down the door of the likes of the Construction Confederation for answers.'
Trainers also warned that the rush to process everyone was bound to have an impact on standards. One said: 'So many new assessors are required that it is hard to believe that every one will have the required level of expertise for all the machines they have to assess.'
One employer in the Midlands pointed out the huge logistical challenge of getting people blue-card qualified.
He said: 'We have to get 20 candidates converted this year and around 80 next year. We have to get paperwork together or arrange assessments, so it is going to be a challenge.
A CPCS spokesman said that more funding would help meet the need: 'Next year will be a challenge, but many operators have successfully converted from red to blue this year with an NVQ and we feel confident that this will continue next year.'