It is almost impossible to gain access to a construction site without being in possession of a trade card. Not only does a card prove your identity, qualification level and occupation, it also confirms your awareness of site Health and Safety. Deaths on construction sites are currently at their lowest level ever with 48 deaths recorded in 2011/12.
The Card for Electricians
There are several cards used on construction sites, the most commonly known about is the CSCS card which demonstrates your competence to work at industry standards. Almost any job on a construction site will require a valid CSCS card, however as an electrician it is the ECS card you will need as this is the only card that will allow you access to carry out electrical work on site. An ECS card proves your electrical skills and is the only CSCS affiliated card for the electrical industry.
The ECS Card Explained
The ECS is known as the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme and is the occupational card scheme for UK Electrotechnical workers. Whether you are a technically qualified manager or a trainee electrician, you will require a valid ECS card which proves your competence to industry standards.
There are currently in excess of 100,000 registered ECS card holders in the UK. It is worth getting an ECS card even if you are not currently working on site. It takes time to apply and around 4 weeks to receive your card and without an ECS card, you will be sent home which could cost you a job opportunity in the future.
The difference between a CSCS card and an ECS card
There is often confusion surrounding a CSCS card and an ECS card. If you see an electrical site job advertised that asks for a CSCS card, it is the usually ECS card that you will need. The ECS scheme is affiliated to and recognised by the CSCS as the equivalent competence card. Most job advertisements ask for a CSCS card on any construction related jobs, however a CSCS card on it's own will not allow you to carry out electrical work.
A CSCS card is proof that individuals can work safely on a construction site, however there are a number of other site occupations that require a different type of card. All are of the same standard as the CSCS and are affiliated to it. So there is no difference between a CSCS card and an ECS card in terms of site safety.
Which ECS card will I need?
Having confirmed that you need an ECS card as an electrician, you may well have heard electricians talking about the various types of cards they hold.
In England and Wales, the cards are known as ECS cards, in Scotland they are known as SJIB (Scottish Joint Industry Board.) The cards are essentially the same, although you will need the appropriate card to work in these areas.
You may also have heard an ECS card being known as a JIB (Joint Industry Board) card. The JIB is the issuing authority on the ECS card, there is no additional card.
Once issued, an ECS card is valid for 3 years after which it must be renewed and a Health and Safety assessment taken.
ECS Installation Electrician – Gold card
An ECS Installation Electrician card is issued to electricians who have demonstrated that they have completed a formal industry regulated competency based qualification which includes technical theory with practical and competency assessments.
As a general guide, the mandatory requirements are an NVQ level 3 in a recognised competency based qualification. Additionally, new trainees to the electrical industry from the 1st September 2011 will have to compete the technical theory, practical and competency assessments of the Level 3 NVQ diploma in Installing Electrotechnical systems and equipment (building, structures and the environment AKA C&G 2357). Here at Trade Skills 4U we deliver the C&G 2365 Diploma complete with the bridging unit that allows you to APL (application of prior learning) into the C&G 2357 Diploma as and when you are working in industry so you can work towards Gold Card status.
If your qualifications are more than 3 years old, you will also need a current recognised health and safety qualification or certificate and a formal BS7671 qualification.
There is also the opportunity to have your grade printed on your ECS card if you hold an appropriate NVQ Level 3 qualification and have relevant practical experience.
Other ECS Cards
If you have not completed your NVQ you will be able to apply for a variety of other cards which range from Electrical Labourer to Electrical Apprentice. Essentially if you are just breaking into the industry you can apply for an Electrical Labourers ECS card which will allow you work as an electricians mate on site, get hands on experience and work towards your NVQ. Once you have your employers sponsorship and are working towards your NVQ you will be able to apply for a trainee card if you prefer.
It is important to read the application form carefully when applying for an ECS card. Electricians have been disappointed when not issued with the correct card. The only way to prove competence is by the verification of documents, so if the correct documentation is not sent, it could lead to a card being issued that you were not expecting.
Holding an ECS card proves your skill level and also means you are committed to setting the high standards required in the electrical industry. All levels of ECS card demonstrate a high level of commitment and competency in electrical work and Health and Safety awareness.
It is only by demonstrating this commitment that construction sites will continue to become safer places to work in the future.