NOCN Group, the leading Construction NVQ Awarding Organisation, has launched the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) ‘Competence Interview’ in response to Construction Leadership Council (CLC) requirements for CPCS ‘Competent Operator’ blue card holders to hold relevant Level 2 Vocational Qualifications (VQ) from January 2020, with all existing cards that don’t meet the new standards being removed by 31 December 2024.

The ‘CPCS Competence Interview’ has been developed by NOCN in collaboration with the CPCS Management Committee to support the construction sector in its industry-wide phasing out of existing ‘Competent Operator’ blue cards gained through ‘Grandfather Rights’; the term used for those cards originally gained by skilled construction plant operators on the grounds of industry knowledge and employer recommendation without a formal qualification. It will allow these existing blue card holders to continue work on-site from 2025 without the need to either switch to a red ‘Trained Operator’ card or complete a Level 2 Qualification. Those undertaking the one-off Competence Interview will be issued with a new smart card that is ‘topped up’ to its original expiry date to ensure a smooth transition. It is recommended that the interview is completed by June 2024, no less than six months in advance of the December 2024 deadline.

The Chairman of the CPCS Management Committee explains: “The current blue cardholders’ status will be unchanged up to and including 2024. CPCS is currently working with industry to ensure that those blue card holders not holding a NVQ/SVQ at Level 2 will be supported to ensure their current status will be retained.”

Those who undertake the NOCN CPCS Competence Interview will use their knowledge, skills and experience to answer questions that cover the following areas:

  • Effective Communication: oral, written, listening, body language, presentation.
  • Team Work: work effectively with others with limited supervision.
  • Independant Working: take responsiblity of your own work
  • Logical Thinking: use clean and valid reasoning when making decisions to undertake work instructions.
  • Work Effectively: undertale the work in a reliable and productive manor.
  • Time Management: use own time effectively to complete the work instrcuctions to schedule.
  • Adaptability: be able to adjust to changes to the work instructions.
  • Assertiveness and confidence: able to resist pressures to work following unsafe practices
  • Respect: apply equality, diversity, and inclusion in dealing with others.

Graham Hasting-Evans, Managing Director of NOCN Group comments: “The CLC’s objective is to drive industry improvement and its requirement that every blue cardholder must have a nationally recognised qualification to match the categories on their card at VQ Level 2 is behind this withdrawal of cards issued through Grandfather Rights. As the leading Construction NVQ Awarding Organisation, we are able to quality assure this Competence Interview to the same level of as that expected of a Regulated Qualification, allowing operators to continue to work on-site with a renewal deadline of 2024.”

The Competence Interview can be undertaken at any CPCS Test Centre for a maximum fee of £160.00. Once completed, the Test Centre will inform NOCN who can then be contacted by Competent Operator cardholders on 0844 815 7274 to ‘top up’. More details can be found here.


In 2015 the CLC announced in its ‘Industrial Strategy: Construction 2025’ that industry, including trade associations, contractors, clients and government, should only accept and promote card schemes carrying the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) logo. This is known as the ‘One Industry Logo’ action.

The CLC listed a number of requirements that card schemes like CPCS need to meet to qualify for the CSCS logo, including:

  • Agreeing appropriate qualifications for each occupation
  • Setting a minimum standard for skilled occupations at VQ Level 2
  • Introducing smart technology by 2020

Why are Grandfather Rights being withdrawn?

In line with the CLC requirements, every Competent Operator (blue cardholder) must have nationally recognised qualifications that match the categories they have on their card at VQ Level 2. Cards issued through Grandfather Rights did not require the cardholder to have a nationally recognised qualification. This means it doesn’t meet the CLC requirement and CPCS will stop renewing cards gained under Grandfather Rights by the end of 2024.

Who are the CLC?

The CLC is the Construction Leadership Council and their objective is to drive industry improvement. You can find information about them on their website here.

How do I know if I have Grandfather Rights?

You have Grandfather Rights, or a card gained under Industry Accreditation, if you gained your Blue card without holding a VQ. This means you may be affected by these changes and need to complete an NOCN CPCS Competence Interview if you wish to keep them in the future. If you have already achieved a VQ in certain Construction or Plant related occupations – and we have evidence of this – you will not need to do anything further and we will issue you a normal blue Competent Operator Card.

What is a Vocational Qualification (VQ)?

A Vocational Qualification (VQ) is a practical work-based qualification based on standards developed across industry. These qualifications are nationally recognised and focus on the skills, knowledge and behaviours that are needed in the workplace. There are a number of Awarding Organisations that offer VQs, including NOCN through CSkills Awards.

What is the NOCN CPCS Competence Interview?

The NOCN CPCS Competence Interview was drafted by the CPCS team to help you meet the CLC criteria. It takes into account your experience, knowledge and training, and asks you to answer a set of questions based on this.

Why stop issuing cards gained under Grandfather Rights in June 2024 and not December?

We do not want to issue blue cards which are only valid for less than six months. If you have not achieved the Competence Interview by June 2024, you will need to do this as soon as possible.

I have been working for many years. Why do I need a qualification now?

Rules around what industry will accept have changed due to the CLC requirements set out in 2015. In order for you to keep your blue card, you need to meet these requirements.

Can I just carry on working without a CPCS card?

The CLC are directing all of industry, including trade associations, contractors, clients and government, to only accept and promote card schemes carrying the CSCS logo. This is known as the One Industry Logo action. It is your choice whether you take the risk of working without a CPCS card but you will not be able to gain a card from another scheme without meeting these requirements.

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