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Workers urged to join certification scheme before deadline or face big training bills Firms in skills rush

FIRMS are rushing to sign workers up for the Construction Skills Certification Scheme as the end-of-year registration deadline approaches.

More than 500 workers a day are being signed up for the scheme, which was set up two years ago in a bid to improve workmanship and prevent site accidents, while a helpline for builders after more information is receiving up to 1,000 calls a day.

December 31 is the cut off point for experienced bricklayers, piling workers, partition fixers, roofers, slaters, tilers, painters and decorators. Workers from those trades can currently qualify for the scheme through the 'grandfather rights' system with a written endorsement of their competence from employers. They must also attend a one-day health and safety course.

After the deadline, bricklayers and the other affected trades will have to gain a National Vocational Qualification or Scottish Vocational Qualification to qualify.

Backers of the scheme warn that workers who miss out will face training bills of hundreds of pounds. Scheme chairman Tony Merricks said: 'This is a last-minute plea to get workers to sign up for the scheme while they still can.'

The scheme received a further boost this week as the Glass and Glazing Federation announced its 500 members will be encouraging workers to join up. Federation director David Ballard said: 'This will enable workers to gain recognition of their skills and make it easier for employers to identify competent workers.

'The CSCS is an effective way of banning cowboy operators by giving clients, including members of the public, a reliable way of selecting properly trained people to do the job.'

Almost 50,000 skilled workers have signed up for the scheme. Members are issued with a credit card-style document containing a photograph, national insurance number and trade details.

Initial registration costs £12 for NVQ holders and £20 for those relying on employers' endorsements. The scheme helpline can be contacted on 01485 578777.

See Leader, page 14