Whitehall fears proposal to award cards to workers after they pass safety test may undermine CSCS credibility

Plans by the Major Contractors Group to make CSCS cards easier to obtain have sparked fears in Whitehall that the credibility of the scheme could be undermined.

The MCG has raised the issue of accelerated CSCS cards for partially qualified workers with CITB-ConstructionSkills and the CSCS’ management board, with the plans outlined in the CSCS strategic plan released this summer.

The proposal is that MCG members and their supply chains will be able to obtain partial versions of the cards as soon as they pass a safety test. The move would reduce the scheme’s bureaucracy, but could undermine the card’s reputation as a guarantor of competency.

A senior Whitehall source said: “Essentially, the proposal is that all MCG members and their subcontractors should automatically receive a card as soon as they pass the safety test. This would undermine the credibility of CSCS as it would mean anybody could obtain a card if they passed a test, when CSCS is about skills competence.”

An MCG spokesperson said the organisation was keen to implement the measures to hasten take-up of the scheme. He said: “The MCG has been working with CSCS looking at ways to boost the scheme, particularly in the biblical trades, and we welcome the raft of measures outlined in the strategic plan.” A CITB spokesperson confirmed the body was working with the MCG to further streamline the process of obtaining CSCS qualification.

The new cards would follow the format of Construction Related Occupation cards, also known as unit cards. These enable workers from construction occupations not previously covered by the scheme to obtain a version of the CSCS card as soon as they complete the safety test.

MCG members would receive a card if they pass the safety test. This would undermine the credibility of CSCS

Senior Whitehall source

The MCG’s move accompanies the CSCS board’s announcement last week that cards would be fast-tracked to selected groups to speed up the achievement of a fully qualified workforce. Those whose cards have expired, those holding City & Guilds craft certificates and those who are over 55 can now obtain temporary cards provided they have passed the relevant health and safety test.

In a separate development, questions have been raised over the CITB’s ability to meet government targets for recruiting apprentices. Sources close to the organisation said the housebuilding sector had fallen behind on its pledge to provide apprenticeship placements. This would jeopardise the industry’s target of a 400% increase in apprenticeship completions by 2010.

An industry source said: “The housebuilding sector has not delivered the number of placements it had promised. They are falling far short, and may even be below the number offered last year. The whole of the skills strategy is dependent on the housebuilders and the MCG providing these placements.”

A CITB spokesperson denied the rumours, saying that the Major Homebuilders Group was meeting targets on two of the main apprenticeship frameworks. The spokesperson said: “We are working successfully with the MHBG on our programme-led apprenticeships to deliver 120 potential students onto the scheme next year.

The group is also 6% above its targets on the traditional apprenticeship route.”

Industry targets for qualifying the workforce

  • The Major Homebuilders Group to ensure 200,000 workers fully qualified by 2010
  • 300,000 apprentices recruited and trained by 2006
  • 400% increase in apprenticeship completions by 2010
  • 1000 new apprenticeship starts in 2006
  • 6000 starts by 2009
  • The rate of apprenticeship completions to increase from current 33% to 75% by 2009
  • 50% increase in applications to built environment further and higher education courses by 2007
  • An increase in annual rate of apprenticeship completions to 13,500 from current 3000 by 2010