Providing the correct levels of supervision in the Construction and Built Environment (CBE) are critical to ensure that the correct levels of Health and Safety (H&S) are maintained, projects and programmes are delivered on time, to quality, and cost overruns are avoided.  The Occupational Work Supervision (OWS) qualification, the first rung on the Supervisory and Management ladder, enables employees, with a background in construction and its allied trades and professions to demonstrate their initial competence in the area of supervision.

Having delivered National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ’s) using Onsite Assessment and Training (OSAT) for the last 12 years, it’s fair to say, one of the best, and genuinely robust qualifications for experienced trade supervisors is Level 3 Occupational Work Supervision (OWS).  What’s more, from an assessor point of view, it’s often one of the most enjoyable, due to the calibre and enthusiasm of candidates.  OWS is the benchmark construction qualification for people from a trade background, who have moved into the realms of supervising others, working within their own skillset.  As Level 3 vocational qualification achievers can obtain their Gold Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) Card, upon certification: it’s a proven and attractive progression route.

Although OSAT as an acronym, is a known vocational qualification delivery assessment process, I personally feel ‘evidence based qualification’ describes the process better.  It’s hard to beat live observation in the workplace as a key assessment method, but supervision and management vocational qualifications can be partially, or entirely, carried out remotely through examination of documentation, recorded discussions and learners submitting recordings, such as videos or reports of work and activities completed.

To clarify, OSAT is a method of qualifying experienced people.  Candidates are often time served and fully competent people who already meet the requirements and assessment criteria of the qualification units.  In instances where an element of learning is needed to achieve the full qualification, objectives are put in place by the assessor, then reviewed, until the candidate has met all benchmark standards to the point of sign-off and candidate achievement.  What makes this qualification so flexible is that it is suitable for working gangers, who spend time on and off the tools;  it is also perfectly suited to somebody who doesn’t do hands-on work anymore, but spends their time overseeing their trade by supervising the process, products and people, to ensure the contract is completed to the specified quality while providing an integral link within the site management structure.  With a choice of optional units, the qualification can be tailored to meet certain skillsets and areas of responsibility, thus adding to its suitability for experienced site workers.

OWS is complimented further through the completion of the CITB Site Supervisors Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS).  This is the 2 day course offered remotely or by classroom attendance.  The general aim of the ‘triple STS’ scheme is to develop attendee’s knowledge of site safety and mandatory risk reduction requirements, it’s knowledge and information.  However, a vocational qualification such as OWS, is a qualification of competence; candidates have demonstrated their skills by performance and proven knowledge and understanding.  It is for this reason that the vocational qualification leads to a CSCS Card and the CITB triple STS scheme does not, something that sometimes causes confusion.

OWS was initially devised to recognise progression from tradesperson to occupational supervisor.  In 2019 to bring the qualification back to its roots and initial purpose, CSCS card endorsements were introduced.  The idea of these was to stipulate what expertise and trade competence card holders had and had been profiled for prior to enrolment.  In my opinion this was a good idea, as it made OWS fit for its original purpose, the supervision of a single occupation, or in some instances, occupations.  What wasn’t taken into proper consideration were the historical achievers, who had a more general supervisory role.  Although often deemed as a problem for card holders it pushes individuals into achieving the qualifications appropriate for the occupation.  Site Supervisors looking after multiple occupations should hold a Construction Site Supervisor qualification at level 4, some units achieved for OWS are transferable to this qualification outcome via approval of prior learning.

However, in consultation with industry and current working practises the need for specific occupational endorsements has changed and Occupational Work Supervisors are now required, in some instances, to supervise multi trades.  Due to this, the National Working Group for OWS has been in consultation with CITB and a proposal to remove the requirement for any endorsements to be listed within the qualification is being planned.  This decision means that:

  • Employers are responsible for ensuring that somebody holding an OWS qualification is deemed, by the employer, to be competent to supervise the area(s) that they are asking the person to oversee.
  • Employers will better be able to plan career progression for their staff.
  • It will allow employers to better utilise their workforce across different areas of the business.
  • Awarding Bodies will no longer be required to endorse an OWS qualification by the issuance of an endorsement or side letter to the award.
  • Card schemes may no longer have a requirement to show endorsements on cards which should reduce the processes required to obtain a card.

There will be no changes to the entry requirements of the qualification, enforced by Awarding Bodies in that any candidate who registers will need to evidence some form of competence within CBE or its allied trades and professions, which can be demonstrated in several different ways.

Before renewing any CSCS card, the touchscreen Health Safety and Environmental test needs to be completed at the right level.

The card scheme, OWS is a quality and fit for purpose qualification.  Statistics from the Finishes and Interiors Sector identify that the fit-out sector alone lacks competent and qualified trade supervisors, who have been assessed against benchmark standards by a reputable provider.  With approximately 283,000 people employed in the sector there are currently 613 recognised OWS endorsed CSCS card holders (as at Nov 2020), there are many who need their occupations added to the card.  With this in mind, I can see OWS continuing to be one of the leading and most required vocational qualifications of the next 5 years.

George Swann FIS Skills and Training Lead says, The Building Safety Bill will mandate the need to prove competence at every level of the workforce FIS strongly encourage employers to get their employees qualified.  Employers are responsible for ensuring occupational work supervisors, gangers, team leader and/or forepersons hold the required qualifications and have a verifiable background in the occupation or occupations they are supervising.  Don’t get caught it’s easy to make the necessary checks on CSCS cards using GoSmart:

Author: Dan Plosky of NowGetQualified