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Training : Mark Priestman interviews Gordon Jenkins, CSCS Head of Operations

5 February 2016
Mark Priestman

Mark Priestman is a Partner at Priestman Associates LLP, a leading façade preservation project consultancy. From stonemasonry and heritage skills through to Site Supervision and Conservation Management, the partnership is trusted by the leading brands of the sector as an NVQ provider for experienced, upskiller and apprentice workers.  

Mobile: 07876 687212. [email protected]


Following the exposure by the BBC Panorama programme of fraudulent practices in some training establishments leading to the issuing of CSCS cards to operatives who did not have a legitimate right to them, this time NSS training correspondent Mark Priestman tries to get a clearer picture of CSCS going forward by interviewing its Head of Operations, Gordon Jenkins, about developments of the scheme.  

I commented previously on the BBC Panorama investigation into some training establishments issuing fraudulent qualifications by providing the answers to those being assessed (see that here),  thus enabling them to gain CSCS cards they had not shown they were competent to hold. I am happy to say that it appears CSCS and the CITB are very much on top of this.

Since it may feel as though the landscape of the CSCS system changes frequently, I wanted to bring you an interview I conducted with Gordon Jenkins, the Head of Operations at CSCS. I believe his comments about where the organisation is now and where it is heading will be useful for the development programmes of businesses in the sector.

Hopefully this will inform our sector’s contractors about which direction the scheme is going and how they can prepare themselves for complying and enhancing their businesses’ skills credentials.


Is it true that if one of our craftsmen held a Level 3 construction NVQ and therefore a gold CSCS advanced or heritage skills card, they can supervise on-site without needing the specific Level 3 NVQ in Occupational Work Supervision?

There is a need for industry to be practical here, Mark. If the Advanced Craftsperson was simply operating under the old designation of foreman, perhaps caring for a gang of operatives, then it’s likely a Level 3 NVQ that includes an element of leadership skills would be sufficient if recorded on their gold CSCS card.

If, though, they were the Supervisor for a project or site, then to comply with ‘right card for the job’ they’d need their gold CSCS card also to record achievement of the Level 3 in Occupational Work Supervision (Construction).

So the Site Supervisor Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS) certificate doesn’t necessarily qualify them as a site supervisor alone?

That’s correct. The SSSTS is purely about the safety aspects of acting as a supervisor. There is more to supervision than safety alone. SSSTS might be something groups such as Build UK specify in addition to the NVQ and CSCS Supervisor card on its sites. The CSCS Gold Supervisor Card requires the nationally recognised NVQ in Construction Site Supervision.


Industry Accreditation cards, also known as Grandfather rights, are on the way out, aren’t they?

Industry Accreditation is under review but no decisions have been made yet. Industry Accreditation was introduced in the early days of the scheme and was intended for construction workers who have on-site experience but do not hold a nationally recognised qualification in construction. Since then, industry has made a commitment to achieve a fully qualified workforce. This was reinforced in the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) One Industry Logo action published last year.

The CLC represents a partnership between the Government and the construction industry and aims to provide leadership to take forward the implementation of the industrial strategy for construction – Construction 2025.

Contained within the One Industry Logo action is the requirement to have a plan in place by 2020 to bring skilled occupations up to a minimum standard of NVQ Level 2. For CSCS, this could mean replacing Industry Accreditation with an alternative qualification. No transition process is currently in place and we will be liaising very closely with industry over the coming months and years to understand what this may look like. Should changes be introduced we will ensure cardholders are notified in plenty of time to prepare for the changes.


If ‘grandfather rights’ cards are undergoing that change, what about the profiled routes some construction supervisors and managers can take to achieve a gold CSCS Supervisor’s card or black CSCS Manager’s card?

Good question, Mark. We recently confirmed some significant changes to Profiled Route.

Since 2011, more than 2,000 CSCS cards have been issued via the Profiled Route with applicants only required to submit evidence of their experience for independent review to qualify for a card.

Once again, the Profiled Route does not support industry’s desire to qualify the workforce, therefore CSCS will stop accepting new Profiled Route applications from 1 April this year. Please note: existing cards issued under Profiled Route will remain valid and can be renewed as normal provided applicants renew their cards in line with CSCS scheme requirements.

At CSCS we feel the introduction of this new measure is a practical approach towards industry’s desire for a fully qualified workforce.

By confirming construction workers have the correct training and qualifications, CSCS can play its part in improving standards and safety on UK construction sites.


For years now the list of occupations that can get a card without an NVQ under the Construction Related Operative category has been quite broad. Are there any plans for this route?

Recently we made some changes which will pave the way for the eventual withdrawal of the CRO card.

We know CRO cards are being used by site workers as the fastest route of entry to site without the need or commitment to be qualified.

This means the CRO card is no longer fit for purpose and CSCS consulted with industry to determine the best way to address this issue.

Last year new measures were introduced that mean all CRO issued after 1 October 2015 will expire on 30 September 2017 and are not renewable. Card holders are expected to register for a nationally recognised construction related qualification before the card expires. CSCS will stop issuing CRO cards from 31 March 2017.

We are aware there are existing construction related occupations without nationally recognised qualifications. Where appropriate, work is already underway to develop new nationally recognised qualifications for these occupations.

CRO cards issued before October 2015 that expire after 30 September 2017 will remain valid until their expiry date.

Once again, the introduction of these new measures is a practical approach towards industry’s desire for a fully qualified workforce while improving standards and safety on UK construction sites.


Will the temporary cards for workers registered on an NVQ or Specialist Apprenticeship Programme (SAP) remain in force?

Yes. These are temporary cards, though. They have shorter lives than the regular cards and cannot be renewed without a qualification being achieved.

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