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What Is The CPCS Scheme? A Guide to Construction Plant Competence

Nauman Farooq

Oct 06, 2023

Read time : 12: 03 mins

Table of contents

What is CPCS?
What is CPCS Certification?
What is the Difference between CPCS and CSCS?
How to Obtain CPCS Certification?
Different Types of CPCS Cards and Their Significance
Do I Need a CPCS Card?
Final Words(FAQs)

If you’re curious about what this CPCS scheme is, how it works, and why it’s crucial for the construction industry, you’ve come to the right place.

You might also have heard CSCS scheme which I have covered in another blog, the CPCS is somehow similar to the CSCS but serves a different purpose.

Whether you work in construction, want to operate machinery, or just care about safety and efficiency at work, I’ll explain why the CPCS scheme is so important. Let’s get started!

What is CPCS?

CPCS is a construction plant competence scheme that is developed by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) to reflect and showcase the competence of plant workers on the construction site. Or you can say that CPCS is a standard to show how skilled a plant worker is.

The main work of the CPCS is to provide the CPCS cards to the labourers to ensure competency. The CPCS cards work as proof that the labour is skilled enough to work as a plant operator.

This CSCS scheme card is widely recognised across the United Kingdom which ensures that the legal rules and standards are followed by the plant workers. And it doesn’t stop here, many employers in the construction industry now require CPCS cards during the recruitment process.

What Is CPCS Certification?

CITB has designed a number of CPCS certifications that proves the skill and competence of plant workers in the construction sector. Moreover, these certifications also help employers to find the appropriate workforce for the specific plant worker role.

The CPCS certifications also help the workers to get better job opportunities within the construction sector and get priority over others.

Some of the most popular CPCS certifications are:

  • CPCS A02 – Crawler Crane
  • CPCS A09 – Forward Tipping Dumper
  • CPCS A16 – Industrial Forklift Truck
  • CPCS A31 – Ride-on Roller
  • CPCS A40 – Slinger/Signaller
  • CPCS A42 – Crusher
  • CPCS A58 – Excavator 360
  • CPCS A77 – Telescopic Handler

What Is The Difference Between CSCS And CPCS?

CSCS is a construction skills certification scheme that is developed to provide skilled workers with legal CSCS cards. Those cards help the workers to find suitable jobs in the UK construction site. As CSCS is for construction jobs, CPCS on the other hand is designed for the plant workers on the construction site.

CPCS focuses on providing competence and skills certification specifically to plant workers that are responsible for operating machinery such as cranes, lifters, etc. On the other hand, CSCS covers other sectors of construction other than plant operations.

How to Get a CPCS Card?

To obtain a CPCS card, you have to complete a number of important steps. These steps are somehow similar to the ones we have discussed for the CSCS cards in another blog.

Here are the steps to obtain a CPCS card:

Step 1: Decide Your CPCS Card First
First of all, decide on your CPCS card according to your qualifications. As we have already discussed CPCS cards, you can check the eligibility requirements of different CPCS cards. For example, if you want a blue CPCS card, you must have a relevant NVQ or SVQ. Otherwise, you will not be able to apply.

Step 2: Pass The CITB HS&E Test
The CITB health, safety & awareness test is also known as the CSCS test. You must pass this test in order to qualify for the next phase of getting the CPCS card. CITB HS&E test is related to health, safety, and environmental issues in the construction site. In order to work as a plant operator, it’s mandatory that you have the required safety knowledge. The validity of this test is 2 years and you must pass this before CPCS technical tests.

Step 3: Pass The Theory Test
After the successful completion of the CITB HS&E test, now you have to pass the theory test that evaluates your basic understanding of the skill and expertise to handle the plant machinery.

Step 4: Pass The Practical Test
After passing the CPCS theory test, there’s a practical assessment for your technical expertise. It includes operating heavy equipment or machinery like excavators, cranes, etc. on a construction site under supervision.

Step 5: Document Submission
Once you have passed all the required tests, then it’s time to submit your documents for the CPCS qualification. There is an option that you can submit your documents to CPCS directly. After submitting the legal documents, CPCS will verify your documents and will issue the CPCS card in 15 days.

Step 6: Continue To Achieve Higher Rank Card
If you have got the red CPCS card which is a trained operator card and you want to upgrade it, you will have to go for a blue competent operator card. For that, you will need to achieve SVQ or NVQ qualification. This needs to be done within 2 years of getting a red CPCS card.

Different Types Of CPCS Cards and Their Significance

Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) card is proof or evidence for those who work with the plant machinery on the construction site. These CPCS cards show that the workers have completed the necessary qualifications and have passed the required tests.

Here we will discuss the three different types of CPCS cards:

Red CPCS Card
The red CPCS card, known as the trainer operator card, is the first-level card. This card is ideal for beginners who are just starting their careers in plant operation. If you want to apply for this card, you will need some training in running plant machinery or site equipment.

Moreover, this CPCS red card enables you to work in any field of the construction sector, while getting the relevant NVQ or other qualifications.

How do I get a red CPCS card?
After completing the onsite training, you will need to pass the:

  • relevant CITB HS&E Test
  • CPCS Theory Test
  • CPCS Practical Test

Blue CPCS Card
The blue CPCS card comes after the red card and shows further competency in your role. This card is known as a competent operator card and if you own this, you can work independently on plant machinery.

As the red card expires after two years, it is essential to get the blue CPCS card to continue working. To get this card, it is necessary to complete the relevant NVQ, as NVQs are competence-based and are achieved in the workplace.

How do I get a blue CPCS card?
After getting the relevant NVQ, you will need the following:

  • Provide proof of the NVQ Level 2
  • Pass the relevant CITB HS&E test
  • Achieve the CPCS theory test

You can book a Level 2 NVQ diploma in plant operations with us at just £549.99.

Tester Card
The CPCS tester card is the most advanced type of card. It assesses the knowledge, understanding, and performance of those employees who are applying for red or blue cards. This card is for the most experienced plant operators who are working in CPCS test centres to supervise, deliver, and provide feedback on assessments.

How do I get a CPCS tester card?

First of all, it is mandatory for you to achieve a Record of Category Experience (RoE) from NOCN, which is the awarding body of CPCS cards.

Further, you will need to:

  • Hold advanced health and safety qualifications such as the CITB Site Managers Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS)
  • Valid first aid certificate
  • Pass the MAP CITB test
  • Achieve CPCS advanced theory test
  • Achieved CPCS practical test
  • Passed CPCS tester course

Do I Need a CPCS Card?

If you’re currently working or want to work in the UK construction industry as a plant worker, then Yes, you need a CPCS card. This card shows your skills and qualifications to work as a plant operator. Another thing is that you don’t need to complete any CSCS training for a CPCS card. Any type of CPCS card you want to obtain requires specific qualifications related to that CPCS card.


Do all plant workers need a CPCS card?
Yes, all plant workers need a CPCS card because it is proof that many UK construction employers demand to recruit plant operators.

Do I need a CPCS card if you have a CSCS?
If you have a CSCS card but you want to work as a plant worker, then you’ll definitely need a CPCS card.

How long is my CPCS card valid?
If you have a red CPCS card, it is valid for 2 years. But for blue and tester cards, the validity is 5 years.

Final Words!

The CPCS (Construction Plant Competence Scheme) is a system that ensures the safety and skillfulness of workers in the plant sector of the construction industry. It requires workers to go through proper training and evaluation before operating construction machinery. This helps protect themselves and improves the efficiency of construction projects.

As technology and safety standards progress, the CPCS scheme continues to be essential for professional growth and maintaining high standards in the construction field. By prioritising the CPCS scheme, the construction industry can foster a culture of safety, expertise, and progress, making construction sites safer and more efficient for workers and everyone involved.

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