SKILLcard celebrates 20th anniversary

Friday, August 20, 2021 12:42 AM

Engineering Services SKILLcard is celebrating 20 years of helping workers gain access to construction sites and work safely and competently.

More than 60,000 heating, ventilating, air conditioning and refrigeration professionals depend on the Engineering Services SKILLcard to prove to site managers and clients that they are trained and fully qualified for the work they do on site.

It is managed by the Building Engineering Services Association (BESA) and is a partner of the pan-industry Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS). The scheme plays a crucial role in the government’s 2025 Construction Industry Strategy by helping clients check whether workers have the right qualifications for the job in hand and have suitable health & safety training.

SKILLcard also covers those with supervisory and managerial responsibilities in the building engineering services industry and is also widely used by self-employed and agency workers and those seeking employment in the sector.

Since its launch in 2001, the application and renewal process has been regularly updated and improved so that today it is an online digital exercise and last year the system went fully paperless.

The Engineering Services card was the first CSCS partner to adopt chip enabled ‘smart’ technology in 2015 to improve the process of updating the holder’s qualifications and making it simpler and quicker for site managers to check skills and prevent potential fraud.

BESA was the first training provider to fully integrate Site Operating Procedures (SOPs) into its health and safety courses during the Covid-19 emergency and this is now embedded in the SKILLcard application process. Understanding SOPs is a pre-requisite for anyone applying for or updating their SKILLcard so making it a requirement for working on site.

At the height of the pandemic, BESA also helped redundant workers by allowing them to apply for and renew SKILLcards free of charge. At the time, BESA chief executive David Frise said that waiving the fees might seem a relatively small gesture, but it represented a significant financial investment by the Association in the future of the sector and its people.

“It is also showed that we are serious about retaining skilled people in our sector and is just one of a number of ways in which the Association is trying to support workers faced with uncertain futures,” he added. “Holding the relevant card is an essential part of finding work, enabling individuals to demonstrate relevant qualifications and experience so their skills can be re-deployed if they have lost their job.”

This year Engineering Services SKILLcard launched an overseas qualifications ‘mapping’ service to help academically qualified persons and skilled workers gain work in the UK in the post-Brexit era. It also launched a special card for engineers with degrees and other higher-level qualifications to give them access to construction sites for work experience.

“The technology surrounding SKILLcard and the processes have changed dramatically in the past 20 years, but the basic intention of the card has remained the same: To support and promote high standards of competence and safety across our industry,” said BESA’s director of certification Rachel Davidson. “We are extremely proud of the role played by our cards in helping workers access sites and in giving employers and clients vital reassurance that the people they employ have the right skills for their project.

“As for the next 20 years, the need to provide evidence of training and qualifications will become even more important. The forthcoming Building Safety Bill will require another step up in competence and compliance. The improvements we have made to the SKILLcard scheme over the years will be crucial in helping our sector meet its long-term commitments.” 

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