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Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS)

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Training & Skills Development


The Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) came into existence in 2003 as a result of the then move to a single card scheme within the construction and allied sectors. The scheme, based on the previous CTA scheme, has flourished since that time and become a well-respected and leading scheme that continues to serve industry. CPA was the one of the original founders of the forerunner CTA scheme in 1986 and continues to play a major part in the strategy and development of CPCS.


The aim of the scheme is to provide a skills and competence card for categories of plant, and includes safety knowledge of the industry and the category. The scheme covers 62 categories over a wide spectrum of plant types and sub sectors. A category is a group of like or similar machines where the skills and knowledge set fits all types. Sub categories (endorsements) identify differences within a category by size, weight, mechanical differences or application. Although predominately for the construction and allied sectors e.g. demolition, the scheme is used within other sectors such as rural, industrial, highway maintenance etc.

Governance and Positioning

The scheme has an industry-led Management Committee which forms the policy and strategy of the scheme. The committee is formed of 15 federations and associations who have plant interests and represented by 22 members, with CPA having the largest number of seats. Further representation comes from the unions, Health and Safety Executive, armed forces, and awarding organisations.  The committee works under a Terms of Reference and CITB provides the day-today management of the scheme.


The scheme is the largest and most favoured of its type and in many cases, the only scheme designated by clients, contractors or employers and is used in most cases as a ‘licence-to-operate’ and was the first scheme to meet the new CSCS 2016 criteria. However, all schemes are voluntary and employers may choose CPCS or other competing schemes depending on their business model and the strength of standards they seek.

Card Attainment and Delivery

The Heath, safety and environment (HS&E) test is a key component for all CSCS-badged cards, and to prove core machine-operating skills, individuals undergo an impartially-delivered technical test consisting of a theory test – which comprises verbally-delivered questions and a practical skills test on the machine.


The scheme does not mandate a particular form of training e.g. where, how, how long for or who by. For preparation purposes, the scheme provides learning outcomes and a training syllabus free of charge for each category of plant, and publishes all training and test standards to ensure candidates are fully aware of the required standard. All CPCS standards are available from 


The standards for the testing process are devised and issued by CPCS. Achievement of the test results in the issue of a red trained operator card. This has a life of 2 years and is non-renewable.


To upgrade and maintain certification requires the achievement of a relevant NVQ or SVQ for each category or groups of categories. On meeting this criteria, a blue competent operator card and logbook are issued with a life of 5 years. At the point of renewal, 300 hours in the logbook must have been recorded per category, along with passing the renewal test (theory) module per category and the HS&E test. The renewed card has a life of 5 years.


The technical test is delivered by approved test centres that use approved CPCS testers who have the specialist expertise on the category. Quality of the testing process is conducted by a team of 11CPCS dedicated staff to ensure scheme rules are maintained.


All CPCS tests are notified in advance and all tests subject to unannounced spot-checks by CPCS staff, giving employers and individuals that the standards have been demonstrated by the candidate. CPCS further employs logbook monitors ensuring that renewal requirements are met. 


Scheme queries are handled by dedicated Helpline staff who can be contacted on 0844 815 7274 during normal office hours.

Card Fees

Fees are charged for processing and card issue. Test fees are set by the Test Centres and CPCS applies a cap as to the maximum fees (dependent on the category) that can be charged by the centre. The scheme is by law non-profit making with any surplus used to pay training and assessment grants back to industry. Grant for employers is paid on the attainment of a red card, and NVQ/SVQ grants can be further claimed by the employers.


The training and test standards are developed by CPCS through industry-led groups, ensuring that the standards are relevant to industry. CPA members play a vital and important role to standards development both at CPCS level and for National Occupational Standards, used for NVQ/SVQs. CPCS tests are delivered by CPCS-approved Testers and the Scheme is continually seeking individuals with operating experience to become a Tester on the categories of plant for which they have experience. Details on becoming a Tester can be found within the CPCS Scheme Booklet for Testers, downloadable from 

'A Responsible Scheme'

CPCS is overseen by industry through the industry-led CPCS Management Committee to ensure it meets employer’s needs. The quality of the standards, set by industry working groups, and the supporting quality assurance ensure that skills and knowledge are fully demonstrated during the testing process, giving an employer the confidence of the cardholders’ ability on the item of plant.


The scheme is not driven by profit and has developed a large number of low-volume specialist categories at the request of the sector, who have confidence with the scheme’s standards and delivery processes. Unlike other similar plant schemes, CPCS does not allow flexibility in its standards or test delivery as this undermines national consistency and allows variations in the skills and knowledge of cardholders.


CPCS is open and transparent of its standards and testing which are available free of charge on its website. The scheme has introduced new requirements in recent years in consultation with industry, some of which are not always popular, but are considered essential by industry to ensure a safe and skilled workforce.


Further information including a Scheme Booklet, and training and test standards can be viewed and downloaded from the downloads page at 


Queries about the Scheme can be made by calling the CPCS Helpline on 0844 815 7274

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