Pursuing a career in the electrotechnical industry will open a lot of doors and opportunities, however, in order to access these, you will need an ECS card. The ECS card is an ID competence card scheme for those working in the electrical industry in the UK. Applying for an ECS card can be confusing at first glance as there are various ECS card types available, and a requirement to provide evidence of your qualifications.In this article, we will go through everything you need to know about applying for and renewing an ECS card including what the different card types are, how to access an ECS card if you are just entering the industry, as well as going through the ECS Card Test.
What is an ECS Card?
The Electrotechnical Certification Scheme (ECS) is a means in which those working in the industry can evidence their qualifications, occupation within the industry, what skills and disciplines they are competent to work in and shows that they have met a certain level of health and safety awareness requirements. It serves as an ID card for those wishing to work in the industry and is a means in which those employing electrical contractors can be confident that they are hiring a trusted professional.
The ECS card covers a range of professions within the industry and is not limited to electrotechnical occupations. If you work in building controls, data communications, highway electrical and fire and security you will also be eligible to apply for an ECS card and may require one to access the sites you work on.
ECS Card Types
There are a range of ECS card types which are designed to cover all occupations and skill levels within the industry. The card you need to apply for will depend on your job title, as well as the qualifications and experience you have. When you apply for an ECS card you will have your skills assessed and certified and the card you receive will be based on the evidence submitted related to your qualifications.
In this section, we will go through the range of ECS cards that are available and explain what qualifications and evidence requirements are needed to apply.
ECS Cards for Apprentices and Trainees (White with Red Stripe)
About the card
The ECS Apprentice Card is a white card with a red stripe at the bottom. As the name suggests, it is the card to apply for if you are currently undertaking an electrical or electronic apprenticeship.
As part of your apprenticeship, your training provider should register you with the JIB. This registration includes a host of benefits including an initial Apprentice ECS Card, appropriate staged apprentice cards as you go through stage 2, 3 and 4 of your training and eventually leads to the Gold ECS card once you have completed your apprenticeship. For more on the benefits of becoming JIB registered see here. If you are registered with the JIB this will be clearly printed on your card.
In order to meet the requirements for an ECS Apprentice Card, you need to be registered on an electrical or electrotechnical advanced apprenticeship and will need a copy of your Training Agreement in order to provide evidence of this. In addition, you will also need to have passed the ECS Health, Safety and Environmental Assessment (also known as the ECS Card Test) within the last two years (see later in this article for more detail on this).
What can I access with this card?
Being the holder of an ECS Apprentice Card will enable you to work directly on site so that you can undertake work experience as you go through your apprenticeship training. As an apprentice, you will still be required to be under strict supervision as you undertake any work on site.
About the card
The ECS Trainee Card is the card to go for if you are not taking an apprenticeship but are currently enrolled on a formal JIB industry training programme (that will result in an ECS Gold Card after completion).
To be eligible for the ECS Trainee Card you must not be currently undertaking an apprenticeship. You must provide evidence of the formal industry training programme you are currently completing. As there are three stages to trainee electrician training, there are different evidence requirements for each stage of the process. Below we list what evidence you need to provide depending on which stage you are at.
- Stage 1 (Trainee Electrician): for this stage, you will need to provide evidence of your employer’s sponsorship and evidence that you are enrolled on a formal industry training programme (this is usually your training agreement). You will also need to have passed the ECS Test within the last two years.
- Stage 2 (Trainee Electrician): for this stage, you will need to provide evidence of your employer’s sponsorship and a copy of your certificate that shows you have completed stage 1 of the formal industry training programme. See here for the list of certificates that are accepted. You will also need to have passed the ECS Test within the last two years.
- Stage 3 (Trainee Electrician): for this stage, you will need to provide evidence of your employer’s sponsorship, evidence that you are currently working towards the AM2 and Level 3 NVQ (in a related field), and your certificate to show that you have completed stage 2 of the formal industry training programme. See here for the list of certificates that are accepted. You will also need to have passed the ECS Test within the last two years.
What can I access with this card?
As with the ECS Apprentice Card, you will be permitted to enter a site but will be required to work under supervision. It is also recommended that if you are a trainee, that you should be JIB registered.
About the card
The ECS Work Experience Card enables students who are undertaking electrotechnical qualifications (who are not employed) to access work experience placements in their chosen field.
To be eligible to apply for the ECS Work Experience Card you must have already completed a pre-work training period and have passed the ECS Test within the last two years.
What can I access with this card?
The ECS Work Experience Card will allow you to enter construction sites and other ECS/CSCS controlled workspaces in order to gain work experience. With this card, you can apply for an (unpaid) work experience placement and gain the essential experience needed in order to apply for an electronic or electrical apprenticeship at a later date.
If you are familiar with the electrotechnical industry you will have no doubt heard about the ECS Gold Card. This is the card which demonstrates that the holder is a qualified electrician, and has completed the qualifications required of them to be approved by the ECS. In this next section, we will talk through the occupations that are covered by the ECS Gold Card and the routes you need to go down in order to acquire an ECS Gold Card.
ECS Gold Card – Card Types for Electrotechnical Occupations
The ECS Gold Card covers a wide range of occupations within the electrotechnical industry. These are the occupations currently covered by the ECS Gold Card: Installation Electrician, Maintenance Electrician, Building Controls Engineer, Electrical Fitter, Electrical Winder, Household Appliances Electrician, Distribution Networks Electrician, Instruments Mechanic, Marine Electrician, Telecommunications Fitter, Wireman/Panel Builder, Auto Electrician
More details about each of these card types can be found on the ECS website (follow the links attached to each occupation).
ECS Gold Card – Card Types for Data Communications Occupations
ECS Gold Card – Card Types for Fire Detection & Alarm Systems Occupations
These are the occupations currently covered by the ECS Gold Card within the Fire Detection & Alarm Systems field: Fire Detection & Alarms System Installer – Level 3, Fire Detection & Alarm Systems Commissioning – Level 3, Fire Detection & Alarm Systems Designer – Level 3, Fire Systems Technician – Level 3.
ECS Gold Card – Card Types for Emergency & Security Systems Occupations
These are the occupations currently covered by the ECS Gold Card within the Emergency & Security Systems field: Emergency & Security Systems Installer – Level 3, Emergency & Security Systems Maintenance – Level 3, Emergency & Security Systems Commissioning – Level 3, Emergency & Security Systems Surveyor.
What qualifications do I need to achieve an ECS Gold Card?
There are three routes you can go down in order to acquire an ECS Gold Card. The first is to complete an NVQ Level 3 in a related field. It doesn’t matter if this isn’t a recent qualification, you just need to provide evidence that you have achieved this qualification. If you have not completed a Level 3 NVQ qualification then you can also apply for an ECS Gold Card if you are a qualified supervisor with either Certsure or the ECA (these organisations will direct you on how to apply for the Gold Card). The final route to apply for an ECS Gold Card is if you have worked in the electrotechnical industry for a long time, but you do not have any formal qualifications. Those taking this route will need to take the Mature Candidate Assessment route.
There are important changes being made to the routes into achieving the ECS Gold Card that come into effect at the end of 2019. For more on this, see here.
What are the other ECS Cards?
There are also a range of other ECS cards that cover whatever stage of your career you are at. Whether you have not yet reached the skill and qualification level of an ECS Gold Card, you have progressed into a managerial role and progressed from the Gold Card stage, or you work in a related occupation but are not a qualified electrician, there will be an ECS card to match your qualifications and skill level.
ECS Cards – White with blue/green/brown/gold stripe
If you do not have an NVQ Level 3, or are not eligible to go down one of the other routes to apply for an ECS Gold Card there are other cards available that are designed to reflect other skill levels and qualifications. There are a range of cards that fall within this category and have a range of different eligibility requirements. Generally, these cover operatives who have a NVQ Level 2, BCIA, or specific Emergency & Security System or Fire Detection and Alarm Systems qualification to Level 2. To find the specific eligibility requirements for each of these see the ECS website.
About the card
The ECS black card is for those in managerial positions in the electrotechnical industry. This card covers the following managerial occupations:
- Electrical Site Manager
- Electrical Contract Manager
- Site Manager
- Project Manager
- Contract Manager
There are two routes with which you can acquire an ECS Management Card. The first is if you have already met the requirements for an ECS Gold Card, and the other is if you have a Level 4 management qualification such as an undergraduate degree, JIB-recognised company programme or a BTEC. In addition to this, you will need to take one of the specified Health and Safety courses (for both routes). These H&S specified courses are:
- CCNSG Safety Passport – Supervising/Leading a Team Safely Course
- IOSH Managing Safely in Construction
- CITB Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS)
- Construction Skills (CITB) Site Supervisor Safety Training Scheme (SSSTS)
By completing one of the above Health and Safety courses, you will be exempt from taking the ECS Health & Safety Test (which is an essential requirement of being eligible for an ECS card). This is because you will have undertaken an advanced health and safety qualification.
What can I access with this card?
The ECS Managers Card will clearly state your qualification and skill level, as well as stating that your occupation level is at a managerial position. As one of the most advanced ECS cards available, this card will provide evidence that you are at an advanced stage in your career.
ECS Cards for Related Disciplines
There are a number of cards available for those who work in a field that requires them to access an electrotechnical working site but are not qualified to undertake any electrical installation work. We give a brief explanation of each of these cards in the next section.
ECS Related Discipline Card
This is the card to apply for if the work you do is not represented by one of the core ECS cards but you require an ECS card as your occupation requires you to work within the electrical industry.
There are ECS Related Discipline cards available for the following occupations: Field Engineer, Equipment Installer, AV Engineer, Aerial and Satellite Engineer, Security Systems Installer, and Control Systems Engineer. For more on how to apply for the ECS Related Discipline Card, see here.
Academically Qualified Person (AQP)
The Academically Qualified Person (AQP) ECS Card is for those that have a degree (or other further education qualification) in engineering or an electrotechnical field, but this does not fit within the standard industry recognised electrotechnical occupations that are represented by the ECS Card.
There are AQP ECS Cards available for the following categories: Electrical Engineer (Power), Electrical Engineer (Control), Electrical Engineer (Instrumentation), Electrical Engineer (Communications), Electrical Engineer (Systems), Electrical Engineer (Broadcasting), Electrical Engineer (Electronics). For more on how to apply for the AQP ECS Card, see here.
Professionally Qualified Person (PQP)
The Professionally Qualified Person (PQP) ECS Card is solely for individuals who are members of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). The ECS recognises an individuals’ professional status through their membership of this institute and evidence of membership is sufficient to apply for this ECS Card (along with also passing the obligatory ECS Test).
What is the difference between a CSCS Card and an ECS Card?
You may have heard of the CSCS Card which is provided by the Construction Skills Certification Scheme and proves that individuals working on construction sites have the correct training and qualifications in order to undertake their role. It is not a legal requirement to hold a CSCS Card to access a construction site, however, the majority of employers will require those working in construction to have one.
The ECS Card scheme is an affiliate of CSCS who recognise the ECS Card as the equivalent competence card for those working in the electrotechnical industry. It requires the same scrutiny of skills and qualifications and requires individuals to take an appropriate Health, Safety and Environment test. It can get confusing as sometimes the two cards are used interchangeably, and you may see an electrical site job advertised that states a CSCS card as a requirement. Generally, this means that you will need an ECS Card if the job is requiring you to undertake any electrical work as, while a CSCS card will allow you to access a construction site, it does not allow you to carry out electrical tasks (which an ECS Card is an essential requirement for).
ECS Card Application
Once you have decided which ECS Card you need to apply for you can progress to the ECS Card Application. Applying for an ECS Card is straightforward and can be done without the help of any third party agencies. Here is our step-by-step guide for applying for an ECS Card.
1. Register for a My ECS Account
Registering for a My ECS Account will take you seamlessly through the application process. This is also where your ECS Test result will be displayed when you have taken this. To register for a My ECS account you will need your personal e-mail address (this will be your username), your National Insurance Number, and your Date of Birth. To register you will also need one other piece of additional information, this can be either your surname or your ECS Card Number (if you have an existing card and need to re-register), or your ECS Test assessment number (if you have already taken it).
If you are an employer wishing to apply for multiple ECS Cards at one time for your employees, you can register with the ECS Employer Portal. This portal allows employers to view all of the ECS cards that are currently registered to their company, as well as when these cards expire. Registering with the ECS Employer Portal will allow you to apply for or renew multiple ECS Cards at the same time and you can track the progress of applications via this portal also. Application to the ECS Employer Portal is via an application form which you can find here.
2. Submit your qualifications
The Card Type you need to apply for will have stated what evidence requirements are needed to access the card, this can be submitted through your My ECS account. ECS will either accept high-quality scans of your qualifications or good quality digital photos.
3. Pass the ECS Test
In order to complete the application process, you will need to have passed the ECS Test (also known as the ECS Health, Safety and Environment Assessment) within the last two years. More details on the ECS Test and how to apply can be found below. Holding or taking certain qualifications can mean that you are exempt from taking the ECS Test, see this list to see if the exemption applies to you.
4. Submit and track your progress
Once you have uploaded evidence of your qualifications, passed the ECS Test and completed the online application form you can submit your application. It will take around 4 weeks for your card to be processed and you will receive it in the post. You can keep an eye on the progress of your application via your My ECS portal. There is a fast track application option for an ECS card, known as the ECS Premium Service.
ECS Card Cost
The cost of an ECS Card is dependent on the card type. When you apply via the My ECS portal the system will automatically calculate the cost of your card and will ask you for payment via debit or credit card when you complete your application. Prices vary depending on whether you are a member of the JIB or not.
While prices for individual cards do vary, the standard price for an initial card for non-JIB members is £40 plus VAT. If you are an employed member of a JIB Member Company who are completing the application for you the initial grade card will be free, or if you need an ECS Related Discipline or Manager card the price is £30 plus VAT.
ECS Card Test
The ECS Test is designed to ensure that those working in the electrotechnical industry have adequate health and safety awareness to enable them to conduct their job safely, not only to protect themselves but others working around them also. The ECS Test is a computer-based assessment that needs to be taken at an ECS approved test centre. The JIB, the ECA and Unite the Union provide test centres across the country and you can book your test via one of their websites. It costs £48 (including VAT) to take the ECS Test.
The test itself consists of 45 multiple-choice questions and lasts for 30 minutes. In order to pass the test, you will need to answer 38 out of the 45 questions correctly. You will not be able to apply for an ECS card until you have passed the ECS Health and Safety Test. If you fail the test, you can retake it but you will need to pay the test fees again.
The ECS Test assesses your knowledge in eleven different topic areas, these are: general health and safety, manual handling operations, reporting accidents, personal protective equipment at work, health and hygiene, fire and emergency, working at height, work equipment, special site hazards, electrotechnical safety knowledge, and environmental awareness and safety. There is a comprehensive Revision Guide provided by the ECS which allows you to see the full bank of questions and answers that could be asked in the ECS Test. The ECS recommends that you give yourself at least 10 working days to prepare for the test.
Once you have passed the ECS Test you will have shown that you have met the minimum required level of health and safety awareness to apply for an ECS Card. ECS will be aware of your pass mark as it automatically registers on your My ECS portal after you have taken the test.
How long is an ECS card valid for?
The majority of ECS cards are valid for 3 years, however, there are some exemptions to this. ECS cards which are issued to workers that are currently undergoing qualifications generally have shorter expiry dates.
The ECS Trainee Card is valid for 2 years and cannot be renewed. This is because the trainee is required to follow the programme requirements and time-frames and will be registered for the appropriate ECS card as they go through this process.
Experienced Worker and Provisional grade cards are valid for 18 months and also cannot be renewed. This is because individuals are expected to be working towards specific requirements and have met these within a designated time period.
The ECS Work Experience card has the shortest validity, lasting for just 1 year. This also cannot be renewed as it is designed for individuals who are undertaking qualifications and require work experience on site. It is expected that those individuals apply for the appropriate ECS card following completion of their qualification.
ECS Card Renewal
It is recommended that you begin the renewal process 3 months before your current ECS card expires. It is simple to renew your ECS card and can be done by logging onto your My ECS portal online. The first thing you need to check is whether or not your ECS Health, Safety and Environment Assessment is still valid, this will be stated on your ECS record on your portal. If it is not valid, you need to book your ECS Test as soon as possible in order to ensure you meet the requirements for a new ECS card before your previous one expires.
Once you have met the health and safety requirements, all that is left to do is upload any qualifications you have gained since you applied for your last card (if you are changing your ECS Occupation or JIB Grade). You also need to check whether the requirements have changed for the card you currently hold (and are renewing) and submit any further documentation required. When you are confident no other changes need to be made you can click ‘Finalise’ on the application to submit the renewal.
It costs £30 plus VAT to renew your ECS Card online. If your company is a JIB Member and is applying for the renewal for you it will cost £20 plus VAT. As you submit your application you will be directed to the payment page where you can pay using a credit or debit card.
Holding an ECS Card is an essential requirement if you want to work in the electrotechnical industry. It provides clear evidence to employers of who you are, what qualifications and skills you hold, and that you have met essential health and safety requirements in order to undertake your role safely.
Before applying for an ECS Card you will need to identify which type of card you need to apply for. There are a range of ECS Card types which cover the breadth of occupations and skill levels within the industry – from entry-level to manager, as well as covering related disciplines.
In order to qualify for an ECS Card, you will need to be able to provide evidence that you meet the essential requirements for that card by submitting evidence of your qualifications. You will also need to pass the ECS Card Test in order to be eligible to apply for an ECS Card.