With a number of old systems being phased out, the Construction Skills Certification Scheme has accelerated plans on ensuring the industry is 100 per cent qualified rather than 100 per cent carded.
Over the last few years the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) has been on a mission.
Supported by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), the scheme has put in place a structured plan to return to its original purpose: to ensure that all people carrying out construction-related roles on site hold the appropriate qualifications.
The move follows a period, starting in the early-to-mid 2000s, when the scheme lost its focus and, at the behest of the industry, moved to issuing cards for everyone who needed to access a construction site, rather than ensuring only those working in construction-related roles required a card. The result was that even those visiting a site to refill a vending machine were issued with a card.
However, the pendulum is once again moving decisively back towards the CSCS’ original purpose.
“In the last few years the scheme’s strategic direction has been firmly focused on the achievement of nationally recognised construction related qualifications,” says CSCS head of communications Alan O’Neile. “There have been a number of changes over the last few years to ensure card holders achieve a qualification.”
Probably the most well-known of those changes was the introduction of the Labourer card back in 2014, requiring an applicant to achieve a level 1 qualification.
More recently, CSCS withdrew the Construction Related Occupation (CRO) card in March last year; a move that affected over 350,000 card holders. Those card holders are now obliged to put a plan in place to move from the CRO card and, where appropriate, register for a recognised qualification.
Now CSCS is taking the next step towards full qualification by withdrawing the Construction Site Visitor card. The card was intended for those people who from time to time visit sites but weren’t in construction roles. “The only requirement was to pass the CITB Health, safety and environment test,” Mr O’Neile says.
“What’s different to the withdrawal of the CRO card is that a large number of these people should never have had cards in the first place”
Alan O’Neile, CSCS
“We have 120,000 people holding the Site Visitor card – it is relatively easy to obtain and doesn’t require a construction-related qualification. People obtain the card because their employers tell them to in order to satisfy their 100 per cent carded policy. Far more cards were issued than was ever intended because the industry was insisting that everyone had a card, so many non-construction-related staff got themselves one.”
Last month, CSCS set out a timeline for the withdrawal of the Site Visitor card. From 3 September this year all Site Visitor cards issued will expire in August 2020, thereby introducing a two-year lifespan as opposed to the previous five-year period. Furthermore from 28 February 2020 CSCS will stop issuing the card entirely.
“Much like the withdrawal of the CRO card we want to give the industry time to get used to this change,” Mr O’Neile says. “The idea of this timeline is to give the industry, individual card holders and employers sufficient time and the right amount of information to put plans in place to move off the card with the minimum of fuss.”
For many Site Visitor cards holders, the process will involve no action on their part. Technically, they never needed a card anyway. “What’s different to the withdrawal of the CRO card is that a large number of these people should never have had cards in the first place – they don’t work in construction-related occupations,” Mr O’Neile says. “So the likelihood is that a large number don’t need another CSCS card.”
However, quite apart from the need to communicate the change to card holders, CSCS also needs principal contractors to engage with it.
“One problem we face is that many principal contractors still have 100 per cent carded policies,” Mr O’Neile says. “That indicates a misunderstanding of the scheme. It undermines industry’s desire for a fully qualified workforce, as opposed to a fully carded workforce. We’re calling on the industry to scrap its 100 per cent carded policies.”
However, that does not mean that contractors won’t need to take action.
“We’re asking the industry to have plans in place to look after non-construction-related people,” Mr O’Neile adds. “The withdrawal of the Site Visitor card will see more people arriving on site without a card and the industry needs to have the plans in place to manage these individuals. What that plan looks like depends on the individual site but it would normally include a site induction so that the individual will be aware of the dangers on that particular site.”
Moving from a 100 per cent carded workforce to a 100 per cent qualified workforce is not without its challenges. But it should result in a safer and more productive construction workforce with appropriate supervision for non-construction workers.