we look at how to become the proud owner of a CSCS card – and why workers may not be able to get jobs on site without one.
The Construction Skills Certification Scheme was formed in 1995 and is run by a private company headed by independent chairman Tony Merricks. The Construction Confederation, together with the Federation of Master Builders, the National Specialist Contractors Council and the three construction trade unions, are co-owners of the scheme. CSCS currently has about 140,000 registered operatives.

What is a CSCS card?
It's a plastic card that shows a person's name, photo and occupation and contains details of their skills and qualifications, including relevant health and safety information.

How do you get a CSCS card?
For some trades, all that is required is the employer's endorsement of the worker's competence and experience, together with a CSCS-approved health and safety test certificate. For others, evidence of having achieved an appropriate National or Scottish Vocational Qualification, or having successfully completed an approved apprenticeship will be necessary. Once these are in place an application form needs to be completed and sent to the CSCS.

Why is a CSCS card important?
It helps to protect or enhance employees' job prospects. As more companies adopt the scheme, it will become harder to get a site-based job without such a card. It proves to a prospective employer that a worker is skilled and has relevant health and safety awareness training.

The cards should also benefit the industry as a whole, as it aims to raise standards throughout construction, ultimately driving out the cowboy element.

As more companies adopt the scheme, it will become harder to get a site-based job without a CSCS card

How much does it cost?
CSCS charges a fee of £12 for an NVQ-based card. Cards last for five years and cost £20 to renew. Employers can claim grants towards the cost of the CSCS-approved health and safety awareness test from the Construction Industry Training Board, as well as grants towards improving their workforce's skills to meet N/SVQ standards.

Do you need to attend a training course to get a N/SVQ?
No, not necessarily. Many operatives have a great deal of experience in the occupations that they wish to be registered for. The awarding of a N/SVQ happens once an assessor has approved an individual's competence.

There are several ways to get assessment for an N/SVQ. Some larger companies organise this on site and many smaller firms buy-in assessment. The CITB operates an excellent On Site Assessment and Training Scheme, which is grant-aided.