About Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) cards

The Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) provides skills cards for the plant sector of the construction and allied industries. It is a scheme developed by industry for the industry.

The Construction Plant Competence Scheme is owned by NOCN Group. NOCN Group is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to creating opportunities through learning and skills. The Group includes NOCN, one of the largest Awarding Organisations for Construction.

CPCS was launched in 2003 and since then over 300,000 cards have been issued across 60 categories of plant and related occupations.


As of 1 March 2019, the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) belongs to NOCN Group, one of the sector’s largest Awarding Organisations (AO). The purchase includes the retention of all CPCS-related CITB jobs in Norfolk, and mobile roles.

Go to the NOCN website

CPCS aims to:

  • provide identification for plant operators and those involved with plant operations by recognising skills, knowledge and understanding, competence and qualifications
  • raise health, safety and environment standards through a programme of Health, safety and environment testing to prove workers have met minimum standards
  • provide standards of learning and assessment to equip individuals with relevant skills and knowledge to seek employment within industry
  • provide or improve employment prospects for individuals and experienced operators
  • keep a record of workers in the construction and allied industries who have achieved a recognised level of operating ability and competence, and to provide a means of identification
  • be self-financing; with any surplus funds being used for the benefit of the construction industry
  • encourage construction and allied employers to use certificated and competent plant operators
  • provide certification for UK workers that could be accepted in Europe through agreements with other European national schemes to mutually recognise qualifications.

The Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) provides certification for plant and associated operators working in the UK construction and allied industries. The plant operator certification process is supported by CPCS Testers, who in turn are certified by CPCS.

For employers who have a need for someone to regularly make sure their competent plant operators are up-to-date with their qualifications, CPCS also offers accreditation for an in-house company validator.

Membership of the scheme is voluntary, but many construction sites and work environments recognise only CPCS and will only allow CPCS card holding plant operators on-site.

Compliance with the scheme (as outlined in the scheme booklet (PDF, 1MB) is a requirement of all individuals who join and hold a CPCS card.

There is no age requirement to join the scheme. However, in some cases legislation or company policy regarding the use of plant or equipment may specify different age limits for a specific working environment. This may result in the cardholder being prevented from using that plant or equipment.

Basic skills and understanding, and competency standards are defined by the scheme for:

  • plant operators
  • slinger/signallers
  • individuals securing plant and equipment to vehicles/trailers for transportation
  • individuals planning and controlling lifting operations.

A wide range of construction plant and equipment is covered by CPCS, with new plant and equipment continually being added at the request of industry. See CPCS category information (PDF, 153kb) for a full list of plant equipment and categories covered under the scheme

A category is defined as:

  • an item of plant or equipment used within the construction industry in accordance with the manufacture’s basic design, or
  • an agreed duty or occupation involving plant operations, e.g. Appointed Person.

Certain categories have endorsements. Endorsements are sub-categories that reflect the variation in a category. For example, weight, size, capacity or application.

Endorsements will be defined as either:

  • separate – as each endorsement will be inscribed separately on a CPCS Card, or
  • senior – as only the higher or senior endorsement will be inscribed on a CPCS Card.

Categories within CPCS are derived through employer consultation and relevant National Occupational Standards (NOS), and are subject to continual review to ensure the Scheme meets employers’ needs.

Subject-specific Technical Advisory Groups meet to review current learning and assessment criteria, and develop learning and assessment standards when new categories are being introduced.

CPCS works closely with many federations, organisations, plant users, other plant certification schemes, CPCS Testers as well as the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) to ensure that the standards for plant categories are relevant, up-to-date and realistic.

The Scheme adheres to Codes of Practice, British Standards and other sector-led guidance documents for many items of plant users. It works closely with Sector Skills Councils and specialist plant certification schemes, and continually contributes to industry-led, and produced codes of practice and guidance documents. CPCS follows the principles and requirements of BS EN 17024 – General Requirements for Bodies Operating Certification of Persons.

CPCS has been recognised as an exemplar scheme by a HSE commissioned report on routes to competence in the construction sector. This report was independently researched by PYE Tait, an established research organisation, who reviewed competence processes, certificating bodies and card schemes in order to gauge their effectiveness in both delivering and ensuring competence for occupations within the construction sector.

The research looked at the effect over the previous ten years where the sector had implemented many health and safety initiatives based on the 'Revitalising Health and Safety strategy of 2001', which further led to the origins of CPCS. The report noted that there needs to be further emphasis on situational awareness and the sustaining of appropriate behaviours and CPCS is working with bodies such as the HSE to incorporate these findings into assessment.

Delivery standards are continually monitored by dedicated staff employed by CITB to ensure national standards are applied. The Scheme acknowledges that flexibility is needed in some instances. However deviations from test and assessment standards can only be approved by the monitoring and technical teams, and in many cases through prior consultation with the relevant technical advisory group and/or consultation with the employer organisation.

As the manager of CPCS, the Scheme falls within the umbrella of CITB, a Sector Skills Council and Industrial Training Board which is tasked, amongst others, with ensuring that skills gaps and shortages are reduced and that occupational skills and understanding are improved. The Scheme plays its part in ensuring those goals are reached.