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The ESS Guide of CPCS

Posted on Friday, 9th October 2020

The ESS Guide of CPCS

When working in any construction environment, workers need to have the necessary training and qualifications for any plant machinery they operate. Most equipment used on building sites is incredibly dangerous in the wrong hands. Using them incorrectly can cause serious, and potentially fatal injuries.

One of the most well-established names in plant training is CPCS, a card and training scheme created as part of the NOCN group. In today’s blog, we take a deep dive into their card scheme and explain how workers can get the card they need.

What is CPCS?CPCS logo

CPCS stands for the Construction Plant Competence Scheme. This scheme provides cards that prove worker competency for a variety of plant disciplines in the construction and allied industries. Since being introduced in 2003, these cards have become widely respected proof of competency for workers on construction sites, recognised by all the major contractors in the UK.

CPCS cards are delivered by National Open College Network (NOCN), an awarding body that manages a number of schemes including CPCS and CISRS. NOCN manage applications and issue CPCS cards to learners that have met the qualification criteria. This is why CPCS cards are referred to as ‘NOCN Job Cards’.

What does a CPCS card cover?

CPCS cards cover all the CPCS plant equipment training the worker has completed. Holders do not require a separate card for each piece of training, they can simply have any additional training added to their existing card.

There are three different types of CPCS cards designed for workers with different levels of seniority, experience, responsibilities, and qualifications:

CPCS Red Trained Operator Card

CSCS Trained OperatorThe red operator card is the most basic level of CPCS card. Obtaining the CPCS Red Card will prove their competency in the area of work, allowing them to use this machinery on-site. To qualify, workers need to have successfully completed the CPCS theory and practical test in their specific area of work.

In addition, learners will also need to have completed the CITB Health Safety & Environment (HS&E) test within two years of their application. Red cards are valid for two years and cannot be renewed. This is because the red card is a temporary card used to help workers get on site while they complete their formal vocational training.

CPCS Blue Competent Operator Card

CSCS Competent OperatorBlue cards show the holder has more in-depth knowledge and experience of their discipline. Holding this card may allow the worker to be given extra responsibility on-site, opening up many potential career opportunities for more advanced and senior positions.

To upgrade from a red card to a blue card, workers need to have completed a relevant vocational qualification (usually a Level 2 NVQ or apprenticeship). This is on top of the theory, practical and HS&E tests required for the red card. These cards are valid for five years and can be renewed, unlike the red card.

CPCS Tester Card

CPCS Tester Cards are for workers who need to assess the competency of workers inside or outside their organisation in meeting CPCS’s standards. To take on this role, individuals need to be able to prove their extensive knowledge and experience of their field.

Applicants will need to complete a Record of Category Experience (RoE) and apply directly to CPCS with proof of the necessary qualifications for the role. To see a full list of valid qualifications, visit the NOCN Job Cards website.

Do I need CSCS if I have CPCS?

No, you do not need to have completed any form of CSCS training to apply for a CPCS card. All CPCS cards feature the CSCS logo and are approved by the body, so completing additional CSCS training is not necessary.

The CSCS logo is now required by all construction site cards to prove the workers level of training is up to current industry standards. Managers should not accept any cards without this logo as valid evidence for the worker to get on site.

What is a CPCS renewal test?

When it comes to renewing a CPCS Blue Card, workers will need to complete the card renewal test. Renewal tests are 15-minute assessments where the worker operates their equipment under the supervision of a tester to check they are meeting the necessary standards set by CPCS. Workers can use the online CPCS Renewal Test Tool to book their renewal test.

Workers and managers can also use the CPCS Card Checker to check the validity of cards, and see when they need to retrain or renew their training. This is a database which includes all the training details for workers who have any form of CPCS card. Information on the card holder is automatically added to the database when they complete training or apply for a card.

CPCS training

How do I get a replacement CPCS card?

If you have lost, damaged, or had your card stolen, you will need to contact NOCN directly to be issued with a replacement. You can call them on 0300 999 1177, or email [email protected]. You will have to pay a small fee to be issued with a new card.


CPCS training with ESS:

At Essential Site Skills, we deliver a huge variety of over 30 CPCS courses covering a wide range of plant disciplines and equipment. These include:

To find a full list of courses, head over to our dedicated CPCS course page.

Further information:

If you want to find out about alternative plant competency card schemes, check out our blog on NPORS. This looks at some of the NPORS training courses we provide, such as the NPORS Telehandlerand how to get your NPORS dumper ticket. If you want to understand the difference between the two schemes, you can read our blog that looks at whether you should complete CPCS or NPORS training.

If you’re looking for more courses, you can check out our online course index to find the training right for you. You can contact the ESS team directly by calling 0115 8970 529. You can also drop us an email at [email protected].

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