LRWA Unites with Industry Regulators to Offer Manufacturer Approved CSCS Training
The UK Construction Industry has unquestionably seen many changes since the turn of the Millennium. At the start, we saw eight years of steady growth, with construction output increasing by almost 20%, followed by one of the worst recessions in living memory, from which we have only recently started to recover. The range of products on offer has also evolved with the times. New innovations and technologies have been launched that offer quicker, cheaper and greener installation whilst durability and performance levels have also been improved. Another critical area of the construction industry that has experienced significant change over the past 15 years is operative training and certification on site. With a drive to improve standards of health and safety, and raise the overall competency of the industry’s workforce, there have been a number of initiatives introduced. Most recently, the revised CSCS card scheme has forced employers to ensure that all of its site operatives are correctly trained and carded. To assist in this process, the Liquid Roofing and Waterproofing Association (LRWA) has launched an unique scheme enabling roofing contractors to access CITB approved training from leading liquid waterproofing manufacturers.
Why the Change in CSCS Carding?
An industry shake-up began with the Construction Summit back in 2001, which was organised due to growing concerns over the state of health and safety practices on-site. As a result of this summit, the industry as a whole committed to improving standards and to achieving a host of ambitious targets. Part of this commitment included working towards a fully qualified workforce with the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) being recognised as the minimum industry standard.
The CSCS scheme provides different types of coloured cards depending on the role of the worker, and the initial green ‘Construction Site Operative’ (CSO) cards were intended for labourers who carried out only basic site skills. To obtain this card, workers simply had to pass the CITB’s multiple choice health, safety and environment test and provide a reference from their employer. As a result, whilst mass adoption of this scheme allowed the industry to move towards its objective of having a 100 per cent carded workforce, it did little to address the issue of raising standards on site. Indeed, many site workers carrying out skilled occupations on site simply applied for the green CSO card as an easy means of getting on site. Although over 600,000 green CSCS cards were issued, their ability to reliably check the appropriate skills and knowledge of site workers was seriously called into question.
Terry Wain, LRWA’s Technical Secretary, comments: “What began as a good idea soon became ineffective in ensuring the relevant practical skills on site. People were able to access site with the wrong card and with this came the possibility that safety standards could also be compromised.”
In order to make the system more robust and deliver higher standards of competence, a significant change to the scheme was announced in 2013. The green CSO cards were discontinued from July 2014, and have now been replaced with a new green ‘Labourer’ card. Aimed at being more of a vocational qualification, applicants now need to pass a mandatory competency test in addition to the CITB’s online health and safety test. Those passing the test are awarded with a Level 1 labourer’s qualification in ‘Health and Safety in a Construction Environment’. However, despite the good intentions of the updated scheme, there has still been some uncertainty and confusion surrounding the assessment criteria and the process involved in getting workers qualified.
An Easier Route with the LRWA’s Basic Competency Programme (BCP)
The LRWA’s new BCP Programme has been designed to make it as simple as possible for employers to attain the necessary skill levels for their workers. Created in partnership with both CSCS and the CITB, the four-day course awards successful candidates with a specially created red ‘Experienced Worker’ card that is valid for three years. It effectively gives operatives a real head start and affords them a further three years to go on and obtain the NVQ that they will need in order to qualify for blue ‘Skilled Worker’ CSCS card. Terry Wain explains further: “We are already aware of a number of roofing operatives who have been refused access to site because they don’t have the correct CSCS card. The LRWA’s unique BCP Programme will enable these operatives to get back to site quickly and easily. In addition, the course will contribute towards achieving the NVQ standard, as the training modules have been mapped across to the National Occupational Standards and Minimum Technical Competency requirements.”
Affordability and Flexibility for Employers
The new BCP Programme can be completed within just four days, with the standard training grants available for Levy payers to help cover the cost. It includes both practical and classroom-based training and covers a number of essential elements. Terry Wain comments: “The programme is split into five core modules and, whilst the emphasis is very much on health and safety, we also cover other important areas such as roof design, contract planning and the different types of liquid chemistries available in the industry. Furthermore, the modular nature of the BCP Programme makes it very efficient and offers unprecedented flexibility to employers and trainers, allowing specific areas to be taught that are most relevant to the contractor’s particular needs.”
Embracing Synergies with Liquid Manufacturers
The BCP initiative represents a real first for the industry and is being rolled out in conjunction with leading liquid waterproofing manufacturers. Terry Wain continues: “This is the first time that manufacturer training has been officially recognised in this way. For many years our manufacturer members have been providing approved contractor training and they play an essential role in the development and upskilling of our roofing workforce. They already invest significant resources into this area, and the infrastructure is therefore in place to deliver world class training within a number of dedicated, accessible facilities. As an industry, we’ve really come together to harmonise and raise standards, with the ultimate objective of ensuring that our workforce is suitably qualified.”
The roll out of the new BCP Modules certainly represents another huge step forward for the liquid waterproofing industry. From a roofing point of view, it should also help ease any concerns of a lack of skilled labour as the industry continues to develop and grow.
This announcement is the latest in a number of initiatives that the LRWA has introduced to support and encourage upskilling in the roofing sector. In 2011 it created a dedicated National Training Centre for liquid waterproofing, and launched a unique apprenticeship programme, specialising in training future roofers how to expertly install liquid systems. It has also worked closely with other leading trade associations, such as the NFRC and SPRA to develop a series of dedicated training routes for industry applicators, including the Specialist Apprenticeship Programme (SAP) and the Special Upskilling Programme (SUP).
Nobody really knows what the next 15 years have in store for the UK construction industry. With determination and a bit of luck, we will continue to go from strength to strength, with sustained growth and even better products. But one thing is for sure – the importance of quality installation by suitably trained and approved operatives will remain high on the agenda and will continue to be a priority. Initiatives such as the LRWA’s BCP Programme look set to support this trend and will play a vital role in raising standards and ensuring the long-term success of our roofing projects.
Further information on the LRWA and its new BCP training programmes can be found by visiting www.lrwa.org.uk or by calling 0207 448 3859.