Goodbye Grandfather Rights…

A key part of a journalist’s job is to make complex things understandable; to cut through the fluff, the spin and the hyperbole to present the facts in layman’s terms and to thereby overcome any confusion or misunderstanding. So, here goes.

As a construction or demolition worker, you may be highly experienced; you may have gained that experience over decades; you may have honed your skills with continuous on-the-job learning; you may be held in high regard by your employer, admired and respected by your peers, and you may even be a mentor to less experienced workers.

But, as of June next year, all of that will be worth squat.

If you are to prove your experience and expertise going forward, you will need a piece of plastic. Yep, another piece of plastic.

The powers that be in the industry have sold your experience down the river. And their defence now that the loss of so-called Grandfather Rights is imminent? We told you so.

I’ll come back to that part. But here’s the crux of the matter. The Construction Skills Certificate Scheme (CSCS) will cease renewing industry accreditation cards from 30th June 2024. In addition, cards issued from 1st of January 2020 will expire on 31st December 2024 and will not be renewed. Those seeking to renew their CSCS card will have to reapply for new cards in 2024 and demonstrate their credentials by acquiring an appropriate National Vocational Qualification (NVQ, or SNVQ in Scotland) or other recognised qualification.

You don’t have to go back to school, but you will need to be assessed by an independent assessor for a period of time, for which you or your employer will have to pay.

The Construction Leadership Council – you remember, the people that issued guidance and instruction from the safety of their home offices while demolition and construction workers were granted key worker status and sent to work in the middle of the pandemic – well they too have chimed in. The Construction Index reports that the CLC has said of this announcement that:
“This week’s announcement should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention.

We said back in 2015 that all construction industry card schemes would have to operate with nationally recognised qualifications by 2025. Ten years’ warning is surely enough?”

On the face of it, they have a point. Ten years should be plenty of warning.

But who in 2015 could have foreseen that we would be in the midst of a cost of living crisis when this ill-considered decision came home to roost?

Who in 2015 could have predicted that the UK would have left the EU and that many of the migrant workers that the demolition and construction industry relied upon would have returned home leaving a deepening skills shortage in their wake?

Who in 2015 would have known that the industry would need an estimated 50,000 additional workers each year for the next four years if it is to meet anticipated workload demands?

One of the most disappointing aspects of this entire debacle is the industry’s response and reaction. Or, rather, the lack thereof. Is the industry picketing the head office of the Construction Leadership Council or CSCS? No. It is making barbed comments on social media instead.

The Construction Index gathered together some of those social media posts:

“Easy enough for people in offices, not so easy for an industry full of operatives not directly employed who have to pay for their own training and loss of earnings, who won’t take time off for an unpaid holiday, let alone unpaid training,” says Daniel Roche of Roche Civil Engineering.

Retired training consultant Mick Norton says: “Just imagine the scenario with a 55 year old prospective candidate with say 30 years industry accreditation sitting through an NVQ assessment with a professional discussion, knowledge evidence questions, reflective accounts, witness testimonies, product evidence and observations by an NVQ assessor who wasn’t even born when he started out on the tools. It’s a nonsense and the CLC and the CSCS should not be supported in this foolhardy initiative that will lose the sector thousands of highly skilled workers.”

Freelance site manager David Smith says: “I would need a Black Card which would cost me around two thousand pounds and I’m self-employed so wouldn’t receive the CITB grant.

I can’t imagine that many companies employing me on an hourly rate to manage their site would be happy for me to have someone coming to site to assess me in the workplace.

Added to that I am required to hold an SMSTS at £335 and two days without pay and a First Aid at Work qualification at £378 pounds and three days without pay. Where do you guys think people in my situation are going to find the money and the time?”
And, perhaps most telling of all, Ian Hughes, managing director at health and safety consultant Green Dragon says: “I am letting my black card expire and I shan’t be replacing it.”

So we are in the midst of a skills shortage. We know that we will need an additional 50-odd thousand people each year for the next four years. And yet here we are, forcing our most experienced and presumably our most valuable assets towards the industry exit.