CPCS - hints and tips
The Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) is accredited through the Construction Training Industry Board and aims to ultimately train delegates in their required plant machinery category to an NVQ level.
How Many Categories of CPCS Training are There?
CPCS provides training across over 60 categories of plant machinery including;Crawler Cranes, Draglines, Excavators, Telescopic Handlers and Dumper Trucks.
Does Each Category Cover Just One Machine?
No. Different categories have different Endorsement (or subcategory) levels within them, which are distinguished by variables such as height, type or length.
There are three endorsements for the CPCS Tower Crane course which are:
- A: Trolley Jib – Cab Controlled
- B: Luffing Jib – Cab Controlled
- C: Trolley Jib – Remote Controlled
Candidates who wish to take a course in this category can then train in either or all of these endorsements. It is imperative that you know which endorsement that you need as each one needs a different type of machine and so is a different assessment.
Which training route to take?
CPCS courses can be tailored to your level of experience, meaning that that wherever you are in your career, you can pick a course that will give you the best possible chance of success.
The two CPCS training routes on offer are Trained Operator ‘Red’ and Competent Operator ‘Blue’ cards.
Red Card Route
The Red card route is for delegates who wish to become trained operatives. You will need to get a red card for every category in which you wish to become a trained operative.
Red cards give an interim stage before training for the Blue card. They last for two years, with the expectation that operatives will use this time to gain experience and then complete the next stage (Blue card / NVQ level). Red cards cannot be renewed after two years, so to continue to work with this plant,operatives will need to progress to the blue card stage.
Red cards are suitable for two types of delegates:
- Novice - those who have less than two years’ experience with the machine category that they are applying for. In this case training providers will provide practical and theory training to enable the delegate to prepare for the assessment. As such, novice courses are often longer than other red card courses.
- Experienced Worker - This is designed for delegates with at least two years’ worth of constant and recent experience with their machine category but need additional theory preparation to pass the CPCS assessment. These courses usually last around two days; one day for the preparation and one for the theory and practical assessment.
The Novice route provides the most preparation for the CPCS technical tests. This is valuable, because the practical technical test is a lot like a domestic driving test. No matter how good a driver you are, it always helps to know what the ‘by the book’ way is and what the assessor will be expecting from you.
The Experienced Worker red card route can be a cheaper option for experienced operatives than the Foundation course however, candidates must be confident in their ability to operate the machine as no practical training is provided.
Blue Card Route
This card is representative of an NVQ; delegates successfully completing this route will be classed as trained operators within their chosen plant category and competent in operating a specific category and endorsement of machinery.
In order to obtain the blue card, candidates will be required to complete a relevant level NVQ which is an onsite assessment. As a result,candidates must be working on site in the role (i.e Appointed Person) or driver of that particular machine and an assessor will make several visits to site over the course of six to nine months to gather evidence for an NVQ portfolio.
Blue cards are valid for 5 years and can be renewed. They are regarded by the CITB as the ultimate goal for all plant operators and can be kept up to date by completing the necessary logbook hours, online renewal test and having an up to date CSCS test. If delegates do not keep to these requirements, they must complete both the theory and practical test again to hold a valid qualification.
There are 3 tests that all operatives must pass before they will be awarded a CPCS Red card. These are:
- CSCS touchscreen test
- CPCS theory test
- CPCS practical test
The CSCS Touch Screen Test is the first you must pass, as you will not be eligible to sit a CPCS course if you do not have a valid pass certificate within the last 2 years of your course start date.
It is also known as the “site safety test” and has a 5 year expiry for onsite access.
Most CPCS categories require candidates to complete the Operatives version of the test. There are exceptions to this however, which are the Crane Supervisor (A62) which requires a Supervisor test and the Appointed Person(A61), which requires a Managers version of the test.
You can enquire to the CSCS directly to book onto one of these courses.They are available at either fixed or mobile locations through the UK.
CPCS Theory Test
The Theory test per category will test the delegate’s theoretical knowledge gained from both the course content and their experience. It must betaken and passed before sitting the Practical test, and if you fail you cannot then take the Practical. Resits are available but there will be additional charges.
CPCS Practical test
The Practical test is timed and gives the operative a chance to show their practical skills at operating the Plant machinery they are training on.There will be a number of tasks to complete and they will be assessed for each.
Once both tests have been taken and passed, the candidate will receive the Red Trained Operator card.
Where Can I Study a CPCS Course?
Some CPCS courses are classed as “on centre” which means they have to be taken at specific CPCS endorsed locations and not at your place of work.This may mean you need to travel to train at your closest centre.
There are many CPCS endorsed centres throughout the UK for “on centre”courses.
Other courses are classed as “off centre” which means they can be taken onsite or at a training location that is not specific to the CPCS.
Is CPCS Recognised by Trade Bodies?
Yes, CPCS is recognised and well regarded throughout nearly every construction body and site in the UK.
United Kingdom Contractor Group (UKCG) insist their plant operators must hold a valid and relevant CPCS card to work on their sites.