The management of the leading construction skills card scheme is in crisis after revelations of card fraud.
This news has left safety managers questioning the credibility of the entire Construction Skills Certification Scheme, a.k.a. CSCS and this has put the whole scheme in tatters.
There have been masses of problems with forged CSCS cards, but a lot of these have been addressed in recent years by using smart card technology. However, it has now been confirmed beyond all doubts that there are official CITB approved test centres that are perpetrating fraud on a mass scale by helping candidates with their tests or actually completing tests on their behalf to enable them guaranteed success.
BBC television’s Newsnight programme used hidden cameras to reveal how the scam worked and indicated that the targeted market for the corrupt test centres is newly arrived immigrant’s, predominantly Eastern European people. These candidates tend to lack English language skills and competence to understand the questions, and it was exposed in these three separate test centres.
CSCS cards are pretty much the norm for most major contractors on most big construction sites throughout the UK. However, these cards are not a legal requirement for the tradesmen, but it is the industry’s own attempt to improve site safety and reduce accidents on sites, and many would argue that it does not make any difference at all and see it as just another “tax” on the tradesmen and women. There are other skill cards available to demonstrate competence in certain trades, but the CSCS scheme managed by the Construction Industry Training Body, and a special industry committee became the dominant scheme with approximate 2 million CSCS cards in circulation.
The BBC has quoted Willmott Dixon head of safety Mark French saying:
“As an industry, we’ve set our stall on the CSCS card being the minimum benchmark to accept workers on to our sites. If these people aren’t competent workers, we’ll end up with guys prepared to take risks. It’s going to take a long time for us to get over this as an industry. We’ll probably never identify the true number working with cards that aren’t bona fide.”
Health, safety and environmental manager Alistair Donaghey went further, saying: “I’ll never trust the scheme again.”
Responding to the Newsnight report which aired on 21 October CITB delivery and customer engagement Dir Carl Ramer said,
“CITB is fully aware of the problem card fraud poses to the UK construction industry, which is why we have taken a series of measures to tackle this head-on.
“In 2014, CITB’s executive team doubled our spend on fraud investigations in July 2014, which has led to five internet testing centres being shut down – with eight other centres under investigation.
“We suspended the contract for WEP Testing Centre, which featured on Newsnight tonight in August 2015 and further to subsequent investigations, we have suspended another centre that we believe to be connected today.
“We actively work with CSCS to revoke fraudulent cards wherever they are found, which has in some cases helped trigger investigations into suspect testing centres.
“In addition, we are accelerating our plans to install mandatory CCTV in all testing centres to monitor footage for signs of fraudulent activity, and have launched a series of spot-checks on test centres to act as a deterrent.
“Our intelligence suggests card fraud is focussed in a small minority of the 544 testing centres across the country – and we are working hard alongside partners, including the Health & Safety Executive and the National Crime Agency to help stamp out this problem.”
The Newsnight report is available to view for a limited time on BBC iPlayer at www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006mk25 18 minutes and 57 seconds in… so you don’t have to listen to the China bit.
Source: Construction index
ronald churchill says
i,m a still working 63yr old brickie and i was predicting this corruption would happen 5yrs ago. this scheme has now become a money making machine,using ‘health & safety’ as a convenient excuse to enforce the cost of these ‘qualification’ cards onto the working man (you have to pay to go to work these days) ! i was indentured for a 5yr apprenticeship had well over 40yrs experience yet a 20yr old who did a 18 month course would ‘out qualify’ me on a construction site because he has a plastic card…and i don’t….what a joke !
yes its not a great situation… would like to see it improve but where there are rules there will always be corruption
Robert davidson says
I’m a time served plasterer with over 30 years experience I also have a city& quilds saying I’m a qualified plaster I applied for my blue card after passing the Cscs test and was told I needed to send my qualifications which I did and received a green card on the back saying city and quilds level one so I rang them up .they replied saying city and quilds wasn’t recognised qualification and because I didn’t save my apprentiship papers, I could only have a green card I looked into getting a blue card and I would have to pay a £1000 pound for a qualification I already have I feel the whole Cscs scheme is a way of conning money out of tradesmen the test its self is a con each site I visit gives you a different induction waste of money and time
Alex Wilson says
Yes. City & Guilds have 3 levels. Level 1 is predominately training and can only get you a green CSCS card (although technically you can get a green card without one a level 1). it is earned in a ‘classroom’ extremely useful for people with 0 years experience and apprentices. Level 2 is for people with a minimum of 5 years work experience, out of the classroom, site experience. They must gather a portfolio of work, have references, and be able to pass set tests and exams that prove they know what they are doing intuitively. Level 3 is the top grade, I don’t know much about it yet, but it is for people like yourself who have extensive on site experience (this is for old boys) it proves you have a wide experience of applying solid plaster and fibrous plaster, and would enable you to push you into working on protected buildings.
Who ever you did your training with should not have put you on a level 1 course, with 30 years experience you should have been put on a level 3 course, at least a level 2 course which can cost £750 be completed in a weekend and will give you a blue card and an NVQ qualification. City & Guilds level 1 is not an NVQ qualification.
I have a level 1, and I have only just started out in the trade. I had a red CSCS trainee card, which expired in three years. (Technically this would have made it impossible to get it pushed to a level 2 NVQ which requires minimum 5 years experience) Its also difficult for a new tradesman to get work with only a level 1 and no experience. I worked as an improver but it wasn’t really enough.
Coming from my point of view, its extremely useful qualification and the training I received was (I kid you not) 1000 times better than anything I received in University (which in my opinion has been my biggest mistake in life).
jason connolly says
HI my name is jason I did a level 2 city and guilds qualification and left college with that they offered me the red trainee card so I did my own aprentership as it were went on site for 2 years and took pics of all my work render / screed /direct bond / float and set , etc Then 2 college tutor came out to site on 5 separate visits to check the work took pics of my work and videos checked all the health and safety requirements etc then I finally finished my aprentership and received my blue skilled worker cscs card .
Alex Wilson says
Good for you. I found it a bit confusing after leaving college what we were supposed to be doing.(I mean apart from looking for work and paying the electric, rent and council tax) Also personal conflicts, i.e. needing to relocate.
I am self employed now and getting a lot more work now, although level 1 I am a bit gutted I didn’t do enough in time after leaving college.
You are clever to have taken the right initiative. Well done.
matt keen says
i know a lad that got 2 years for arson just before he was released he was offered a cscs card to help him back to work .. he’d gone down for bloody arson . never worked on a building site before and yet was offered a card free . the whole cscs system is a joke just a money making stealth tax.
Stuart Donnelly says
Im 42 years old. And have been plastering since i was 14 years old. I have not been able to apply for jobs in my trade since 2008 on UK building sites.After 3 colleges and 2 training centre’s. I have aquired, 3cscs labourers cards, and 3 health and safety tests. And the equivalent to an nvq2, i was told at the beginning of this year, i will now need an nvq3, to get a skilled blue card, but cannot render on site, untill i get an nvq4. This last 10 years has destroyed my life, any chance of starting a family or saving for my future.
At 15 i lived in euston tstrain station with a a sleeping bag, 4 years i was homeless. I worked very hard to become a tradesman. Im willing to get back to work for half pay, and for an extra 3 hours with no plasterers mate, taking on extra duties. Still can’t get an interview, without the correct cscs card. Most plasterers i know have quit.