David Thomas, ECS Technical Operations Manager of the Electrotechnical Certification Scheme, explains in detail the rules and regulations around the ECS card qualification requirements and addresses some common misunderstandings in the application process.
Are you frustrated that you cannot get the ECS card that you would like to? Well, it may surprise you, but so are we! Like any certification scheme we have rules, set by the industry, that everyone must comply with and we spend a lot of time trying to help people comply. Nothing frustrates us more than not being able to issue an ECS card because the recognised industry qualifications haven’t been presented with an application.
As such, we have put together some help and advice on some of the common questions that we get asked when someone cannot provide the evidence that the scheme requires.
Q. Why can’t I get the card I applied for?
ECS is a personnel certification scheme and not a scheme to simply produce a card type requested. All ECS card applications must meet the qualification requirements set by industry. For obvious reasons we cannot issue an ECS card based on what someone claims to have. There must be the correct documented evidence to support an application. There are industry standards that recognise qualified and experienced electricians working in the industry; many of which have been in place for more than 20 years. All ECS card holders must provide qualification certificates of that standard when they apply for their card. This isn’t something that you can negotiate as the standards have been set by industry, so the JIB or ECS staff don’t have the ability to vary these. If you don’t meet the qualification requirements for the card you’ve applied for, we’ll look for the best match based on the scheme rules and issue that card to you.
Q. I’ve been working in the industry for a number of years. Why won’t you recognise me?
All ECS card applicants must provide evidence of the qualifications that meet the scheme requirements for the card they’re applying for. This, along with ID verification, health, safety and environmental awareness, CPD, employer endorsement and experience, goes towards making ECS so robust to evidence competence. As a certification scheme we cannot take a personal testimony for experience. It has to be officially documented. There are ways that an independent professional assessor can do this and provide a certificate that can then be used for an ECS application.
Q. What is needed for an ECS card?
The requirements for any ECS card are set by industry employers based on the qualifications that are regulated by the relevant government body (OFQUAL) or another recognised industry standard if an apprenticeship standard isn’t available. Generally, these qualifications are available widely from City & Guilds, EAL, LCL (and others) through independent training providers. For an Installation Electrician gold card, the qualification requirement will be the apprenticeship or equivalent standard that was in place when you did your training. Typically, this will be an NVQ or the modern competency-based assessment apprenticeship standard. Plus, you will need an approved qualification on the latest wiring regulations. If you’re applying for your first ECS gold card you will need to meet the current requirements but after that, assuming you keep your card up-to-date, your industry qualifications will continue to be recognised.
Q. I didn’t do an apprenticeship. How do I obtain a gold card?
There are a lot of people that didn’t get the opportunity to take or complete an apprenticeship. There are many ways that people can enter the electrotechnical industry. This is why we say that you need to have completed the same industry standard as you would have done if you did an apprenticeship. Basically, you will need to demonstrate to a professional assessor that you at least have the same knowledge and experience that is equivalent to the current apprenticeship standard. This is called the Experienced Worker Assessment (EWA) and has been developed by The Electrotechnical Skills Partnership (TESP). Your professional assessor will talk you through what you need to do but typically your assessor will identify with you what parts of the industry standard you’ve already completed and you’ll only need to demonstrate any gaps that are missing.
Q. But NVQs were not around when I did my training…
NVQs (National Vocational Qualifications) were introduced into the electrical sector in the mid 1980s and quickly became the core of the industry apprenticeship because they allowed the person training to be independently assessed to prove that they met the industry qualification requirements. By 1995 the NVQ was the only way to complete an apprenticeship and was recognised in 1999 as the industry qualification standard to be a qualified electrician. If you’ve trained since 1999 then your training provider should have provided you with the industry underpinning knowledge exams plus the performance assessments for you to be recognised as fully qualified. It may be that you did the underpinning knowledge at college and then gained some experience working prior to being ready to provide evidence to complete the industry assessment programme. The EWA is designed to support you in completing your qualifications to achieve this standard and is available to anyone that didn’t complete an apprenticeship or NVQ Level 3. This doesn’t involve going back to college, as this is an assessment of existing skills and knowledge, and there are dozens of providers UK wide that offer this assessment route.
Q. My certification body says I’m qualified. What now?
Your certification body (such as the NICEIC) is a company registration scheme and recognises that a company has met their registration requirements. This is similar to the way a Competent Persons Scheme will register a company as meeting the building regulation requirements for a company to self-certify electrical work under Part P of the Building Regulations. The confusion comes for someone who is self-employed and so effectively is working for their own company. It is still the company that is registered by the certification body and not an endorsement of the individual. It is also worth pointing out that the certification or Competent Persons Scheme will make an annual charge for the company to remain registered with them. If you have a qualification, that is yours and remains so without any additional cost, outside of the initial outlay for said training and qualification.
Q. What is a Qualifying Supervisor?
The Qualifying Supervisor (or QS) is the person working for the company that has sufficient knowledge and experience to take on the responsibility of making sure that all the work undertaken by the registered company complies with the Wiring and Building Regulations. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ve completed the same electrical apprenticeship standard that someone has had to achieve to obtain an Electrician’s card. An ECS card can be provided for those who are the QS for their company to recognise this role, but this is not an Electrician’s gold card as this is a different set of requirements (apprenticeship, NVQ Level 3 or equivalent).
Q. Is there a cost to taking additional assessments?
Yes, an independent assessor or training provider will make a charge for the services that they provide in the same way as you charge for the services you provide your customers. There are several things to remember when choosing a training provider or independent assessor. Firstly, that they’re registered with an awarding body such as City & Guilds or EAL to provide the Experienced Worker Assessment (EWA). Secondly, that they will provide you with the assessment that you need to comply with the requirements of the ECS card you’re looking to apply for. Thirdly, your independent assessor will review your industry qualifications and experience and develop an assessment plan that will have identified any gaps that you need to demonstrate to the assessor to complete the EWA. Training providers registered with the JIB are able to order a special EWA ECS card on your behalf that you can use while you’re working with them to complete the assessment programme. When you’ve fully completed the assessment programme and have been issued the correct certification you’ll then be in a position to apply for your full ECS gold card.
Q. How do I go about applying for an ECS card?
The easiest way to apply for an ECS card is through the MyECS Portal. This guides you step-by-step to fill in the necessary details to register with ECS and for you to show the hard work that went into meeting the industry standard for your occupation. We’d encourage everyone to check the requirements for the card that they’re applying for before they start. Employers can also apply for ECS cards on behalf of their workers through the ECS Employer Portal.
Get more details on all ECS card types and their requirements by clicking here