CSCS or NVQ for trades?

Updated May 3, 2024 | Posted Nov 16, 2018 | Professional insight, Business | 5 comments

The CSCS / NVQ debate from the Training Provider Perspective



My name is Steve Brown Managing Director of BUILD Construction Skills Academy based in Leeds. We offer a range of Construction qualifications including onsite Painting & Decorating NVQs via the experienced worker pathway, with the qualification being gained in the workplace.

I ve seen lots of debate on the forum over CSCS cards, NVQs, their value, the cost, and the general negatives of having to go through the process.

I just wanted to put a little article together to address some of those issues of qualifications in the decorating industry.


CSCS cards aren’t compulsory and it’s up to the discretion of the main contractor of the site. But it seems larger companies do go down this route.

Labourer’s cards aside, to sit the CSCS test you will need a formal qualification in your trade area, if you don’t have one you will have to get one, and it will be an NVQ level 2.

The aim of the CSCS card is to make the industry safer, and this is underpinned by ensuring the trade’s people are suitably qualified. Having worked a lot on sites in the early 90s and seen quite a few accidents and incidents, I think it’s a really good thing.


The Structure of the NVQ


The NVQ is made up of 6 units, with only two of them actually P&D specific. The 6 units to be covered are –

  • Erecting and Dismantling Access / Working Platforms in the Workplace.
  • Conforming to General Health & Safety in the Workplace.
  • Conforming to Productive Working Practices in the Workplace.
  • Moving, Handling, and Storing Resources in the Workplace.
  • Preparing Surfaces for Painting & Decorating.
  • Applying Paint by Brush & Rollers in the Workplace.

Health & Safety, being kind to the Environment, and Communication run throughout the qualification. It’s our belief that it’s a fair request to ask a Painter, or any tradesperson – what the emergency procedures are on a site where they are working, or who the first aiders are, how to dispose of waste in accordance with legislation, which extinguishers will put out which fire, outline hazards involved in the P&D trade etc etc. But there is a bit of a misconception that someone is coming onsite to catch people out, or test them, and that’s not the case. The assessor is there to help and guide you through the qualification, not put barriers up. The NVQ sets out to assess your occupational competence. There are lots of valid reasons why decorators in the trade don’t have a qualification, and after reading so many debates on qualifications and their merits it’s my view the debates will rumble on. Also if it works for you then fine. But if as in this case it’s something that has to be done then an NVQ is a much more viable option than going to college or night school, something that will really impact on people’s time.

CSCS or NVQ for trades
CSCS or NVQ for trades

How the Qualification Works and Cost


A candidate will be contacted and a visit arranged by the assessor, prior to the visit we will discuss what we will be covering on the visit so the painter can prepare for it. While onsite the painter and the assessor will gather the required evidence against the specification over the 6 units, and we will begin building up the candidates Work Based Portfolio. Evidence will include, videos, photos, written testimonies, taped discussion, some written work, questions and answers etc.

When its felt all the criteria across 6 units is covered we will claim the certificate. Companies charge different amounts, we charge £725 at the moment for the level 2 if it’s in Yorkshire, if its further afield we will negotiate with the candidate as there is some travel involved. This includes a £90 registration fee, and we reckon on 6 hours per unit in work for the assessor. So we ve really tried to help the Painter with our pricing structure.

Other benefits include being able to put the NVQ info on your van / car / headed notepaper, once it’s done its done and out of the way, and also piece of mind if its ever bothered you not having it.


Some misconceptions include –

The assessor’s qualifications – I carry out our Painting NVQs currently and I had a P&D company for 16 years before going into teaching in 2003 and going on to gain a Degree in Education. Having said that we’re all still learning. Also we are stringently monitored so any portfolio we submit for certification is checked by an Awarding Body Verifier to check we are working to industry set standards.

“I ve got a City & Guilds”. City & Guilds is just an awarding body such as NOCN, Pearson / Edexcel etc. All awarding bodies are working to the same standards and all the specifications are more or less the same set of standards. We work with NOCN.

I ve seen companies stating they can get a Painter through the qualification in 2 visits, we’d say it’s impossible to state that as everyone’s different. For instance we had a learner who was Italian so language was a barrier and we had to look at alternative methods of assessment.

So the most important thing to recap the assessor is there to help and guide and it’s really quite a pain free process, and you might learn something along the way, and so might we.

For more information visit our website or for an initial chat or to ask any further questions contact Steve on 07954099423.

Updated May 3, 2024 | Posted Nov 16, 2018 | 5 comments

About the Author

About the Author

Mike Cupit has been in the decorating industry since 2002 and has mostly worked as a Trade Decorator in the domestic sector (peoples’ homes). Self-proclaimed “product geek”, Mike has a passion for paint and decorating tools. Mike now spends most of his time testing paint products and tools, comparing them to similar products on the market, and blogging about the industry in general.


  1. Dave Fegan

    Is that the fee or do we have to add vat at 20%

    • Steve Brown

      Hi Dave no vat on it.

  2. Paul

    Just out of interest what do you charge for the optional units? The mandatory units only qualifies to a basic painter mainly suited to construction sites.

    • Steve Brown

      Hi Paul. We could work out something on an hourly basis. Did you have a specific unit in mind?

  3. Edward

    Do you provide assessment for level 3+ if so, can you provide prices please.


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