CSCS responds to rise of counterfeit cards claim


A construction boss has claimed the requirement to achieve a national qualification to retain CSCS card privileges could lead to counterfeit cards becoming more common as seasoned workers weigh up the ‘time and cost involved’ to requalify. 

Let’s see what the CSCS had to say in response and what the changes will mean for you…

Credit: Construction Skills Certification Scheme.

What’s happening?

As of 30 June, the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) will no longer renew Industry Accredited (IA) cards.  

The reform, announced in 2019, effectively dispenses with workers being able to obtain CSCS cards on the strength of an employer’s recommendation, or so-called ‘grandfather rights’.   

Workers who intend to renew their CSCS card must reapply in 2024 and acquire a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ/SNVQ) or equivalent competency.   

Further, all IA cards issued from 1 January 2020 will expire on 31 December this year and not be reissued. 

To date, the number of IA cardholders has fallen from 60,000 when the announcement was made to 17,000. 

The CSCS card is sanctioned by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), to ensure competency across the industry, and the credential is requisite by most employers. 

The strategy has become even more relevant since the introduction of the Building Safety Act 2022. 

What’s been the response? 

The industry response to the reform has been mixed, with some arguing in favour of it saying it is right to ensure a level of competence in safety and accountability on site – while others claim the move will disproportionately affect long-serving workers whose livelihoods could suffer.  

Others still say the responsibility of having to requalify could place a financial burden on workers and cause stress.   

One site supervisor, working in the Midlands, posted publicly on social media he has started to see “older qualified trades” appearing on site with labourer’s cards because they cannot get the applicable trade card. 

He is concerned this pattern will increase when the new measures come into play in December – and that it could create a new market for bogus credentials among certain individuals. 

“For over 30 years we were considered ‘competent’. Now we are not,” he said.  

“Those of a certain age […] will remember in the 1960s and 1970s […] you could not work in some industries without being a member of the relevant union.  

“Basically, this was called a ‘closed shop’. This is exactly what these two organisations are attempting to do now, by refusing to let us take a 30-minute ‘safety’ test, despite having far better safety qualifications. 

“This is effectively preventing trades and managers from carrying out the jobs that [they] have been doing for most of their lives with Tier One and Two companies. 

“I am already getting older qualified trades coming to site with labourer’s cards because they can no longer get the relevant trade card.  

“We let them on site because they have an in-date card and, more importantly, we need them.  

“This is happening more frequently. Come December, this will no doubt become worse. Counterfeit cards will also become common.” 

In response to the new measures coming in, the CSCS said: “CSCS are keen to point out that this isn’t a finger pointing exercise. These individuals have done nothing wrong; they followed the rules as set by the industry at that time.  

“However, the standards required of the industry have changed. Even in the context of a skills shortage, no one wants another Grenfell. It’s non-negotiable: you must have the appropriate qualification for your occupation to get on to a construction site. 

“Gone are the days of simply sitting the CITB health, safety and environment test.” 

In response to the emergence of counterfeit cards, the CSCS said: “CSCS cards should always be checked using CSCS Smart Check […] a single platform, providing employers with a quick, easy, and secure way of ensuring everyone has the correct card, training, and qualifications for the job they do on site and if that card is genuine – Smart Check will alert employers to counterfeit cards.” 

It’s all about experience? 

One of the arguments made by those less in favour of the change is the material consequences, as they see it, often describing the requirement to requalify as “costly and time-consuming”, as did the Midlands supervisor.  

One senior project manager in the South West of the UK told Construction Wave last year that while he acknowledged a properly trained and qualified industry is a “commendable” aspiration, he had hoped the CSCS would consider an extended timeline for workers to acquire the NVQ, adding too an ‘experience-based criteria’ should also be on the table for certain trades instead of the national qualification.  

He said: “Another example I would like to give is for […] a different type of card that recognises experience and skill but not that which the NVQ could have created.” 

Some of those sentiments were shared by the Midlands supervisor, who also would like to see the timeline pushed back in the face of a dwindling workforce.  

“What I cannot understand, is why these two organisations are unwilling to extend the industry accreditation to allow us to remain in employment until we retire,” said the Midlands supervisor.  

“Our industry is already suffering from a chronic shortage of good labour. They are only making this situation worse.”  

What needs to happen 

In response, the CSCS said: “Many will find it a straightforward process to replace their cards, such as moving across to the Academically or Professionally Qualified Persons cards. In addition, those who no longer attend site or are in non-construction related occupations will not require a card. 

“The expectation is these workers will put plans in place to move off IA cards, and if required, register for the appropriate qualification for their occupation before their cards expire. 

“Some who require a qualification remain under the misapprehension that it will involve experienced workers forced off site to return to college. The reality is entirely different as the process of gaining an NVQ is not as onerous as you might think.  

“IA cardholders are not required to attend college and it may be as simple as completing an on-site assessment (for the trades) or having a skills assessment discussion for those in site supervisory or management roles.  

“In addition, CITB have made unprecedented levels of grant available; up to £1,500 on completion of the N/SVQ to support the phasing out of IA. In most cases this will cover the entire cost of the qualification.” 

CSCS has published guidance for those on IA – to view visit: www.cscs.uk.com/ia. 

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If you have a tip or story idea that fits with our publication, please contact the news editor rory@wavenews.co.uk 

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