A bluffer’s guide to … CSCS cards

What’s that – the latest CSI spin-off?

Not exactly. CSCS stands for Construction Skills Certification Scheme. Having a card proves you are competent at your job and trained in health and safety procedures. It’s less about crime scenes and lab geeks than raising standards, reducing accidents and stamping out cowboy builders.

A worthy topic. Doesn’t sound quite as exciting though …

Perhaps not, but making sure everyone in the industry has a CSCS card is going to create a few dramas in the months to come. The target for a 100% card-carrying workforce is 2010, but the firms in the Major Contractors Group have said nobody will be allowed on any of their sites without one from January. Subbies have got a month to prove they have signed up or face exclusion.

How many people have already got them?

As of June 2006, 897,988 out of 2.5 million people in the industry. The MCG says 80% of its workers have applied. The CITB, which administers the scheme, set up a fast-track application service last month and says 12,000 workers have called the hotline so far.

But hasn’t CSCS been around for ages? I’m sure I’ve read about a scandal before …

Since 1995, and yes, it has had its fair share of detractors. In its first 10 years, take up of the cards was low. The industry bodies and unions on the scheme’s board disagreed – often publicly – over how it should be run. Tensions were finally resolved in a seven-year deal between CSCS and the CITB in February. And there have been several discoveries of forged CSCS cards.

What should I say about it?

You’re pleased the industry finally seems to be taking it seriously. Express hope that companies outside the MCG will follow its lead – for example, Balfour Beatty is working to the same deadline. You could add that you’ve heard some people say the test to get a card is not hard enough. And of course, you’ve already called SkillsDirect on 0870-850 5262 to get your one of your very own …