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NPORS Vs CPCS: Which Should You Choose for Plant Operator Training?

NPORS Vs CPCS: Which Should You Choose for Plant Operator Training? post image

When it comes to pursuing a career in the construction industry, one of the most important steps you’ll take is obtaining the right training and accreditation for operating heavy machinery. Two of the most recognised accreditations in the field are NPORS and CPCS.

While both certifications aim to ensure the competence and safety of plant operators, there are key differences that might sway your decision. In this article, we’ll explore the nuances of NPORS and CPCS to help you make an informed choice that aligns with your career goals.

What is NPORS?

NPORS, short for the National Plant Operators Registration Scheme, is a widely recognised accreditation that focuses on training and certifying plant operators. Their wide range of training courses is designed to ensure all delegates have the skills and knowledge required to operate heavy machinery in a safe and controlled manner while adhering to all applicable safety regulations.

The training courses cover everything from forklifts to excavators, allowing candidates to pick and choose the courses they require for the machinery they will be operating; allowing you to build a comprehensive plant operator skillset.

What is an NPORS Card?

Similar to the CSCS Card, an NPORS card is a recognised qualification within the construction industry. Upon successfully passing your NPORS course(s) you’ll receive your card that enables you to operate plant machinery on-site. The card itself does run out after 5 years, though you simply need to take another NPORS course and pass it successfully to renew your card and therefore your qualification.

NPORS cards come in distinct levels, each permitting operators to handle specific categories of machinery. Among these levels, the red card is typically the most prominent as it permits holders to operate excavators, dumpers, forklift trucks, etc.

What is CPCS?

CPCS, or the Construction Plant Competence Scheme, is another prominent accreditation within the construction industry. Administered by the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), CPCS aims to enhance the skills, professional competency and health and safety awareness of plant operators.

Like NPORS, CPCS offers a variety of training programs to ensure that operators are proficient in operating specific types of construction machinery in a safe and compliant manner.

What is a CPCS Card?

Like NPORS cards, CPCS Cards are a way of verifying an individual’s competence and safety when it comes to handling and operating heavy machinery on a construction site. Similarly, CPCS cards also remain valid for 5 years and will need renewing once this time frame has passed in order for you to continue operating plant machinery.

There is a range of cards, each of which corresponds to a different type of equipment, e.g. a card for forklifts, a card for excavators, a card for dozers, and so on. To acquire your required card, candidates must successfully complete an accredited training program and pass the evaluation conducted by the Construction Plant Certification Scheme (CPCS).

So, what’s the difference between NPORS and CPCS?

Many people come to us unsure of the path they want to take; they know they want to become a plant operator but they’re not sure whether to go down the NPORS or CPCS route…

So let’s get down to the nitty gritty and explore the differences between the two different accreditations!


We know that costs will vary from training provider to training provider, but we also realise that the cost of your training course can be a deciding factor when it comes to choosing between NPORS and CPCS. Generally speaking, out of the two, NPORS tends to be the more affordable option.

Now this isn’t to do with a reduction in quality! NPORS is typically cheaper than CPCS courses as they allow you to carry out the training and testing on your own site (as long as the space is adequate and safe). Not only does this remove the need for equipment hire, but it also cuts out any travel costs too.

While NPORS training and testing can be carried out at your own site or at an accredited training provider, CPCS can only be assessed within a limited number of certified centres around the country.


Another difference, and quite a significant one, is the way that the training and testing is carried out. As previously mentioned NPORS can be carried out on-site. This allows operators to demonstrate their skills in their natural working environment, whereas CPCS training and assessments are carried out in closely controlled environments at test centres. The emphasis on real-world scenarios in NPORS assessments can be advantageous for operators who prefer a practical approach to testing.

Plus, another benefit to carrying out the NPORS testing on-site means that you can get multiple members of staff qualified at the same time without having to disrupt projects or travel for hours to a CPCS-accredited training centre.

As well as this, the NPORS testing also differs from the CPCS in regards to the theory test. The NPORS theory test is far shorter with fewer questions than the CPCS version. If you’re someone who prefers the practical side of things, especially when it comes to operating plant machinery, then the NPORS would likely work in your favour.

Industry Recognition

When it comes to deciding which plant operation qualification to go for one of the most important things to consider is which one is more likely to guarantee you work once you’ve completed the course…

A few years ago the general industry approach seemed to favour the CPCS qualification for plant operators. However, this has changed dramatically over the years. There may still be some construction companies out there who favour the CPCS qualification over NPORS; however, NPORS is recognised by the majority of construction companies across the UK.

The NPORS scheme is recognised by the CSCS, CITB, Build UK and the CECA to name a few, so you can rest assured knowing that whichever plant operator course you choose, you’ll be able to secure a plant operation job at the end of it!

Should I choose NPORS or CPCS?

In our opinion, we would highly recommend NPORS over CPCS as it’s more affordable, faster to complete, less disruptive and just as widely recognised as its alternative! Though we understand that the decision is completely up to you and it’s important to do whatever suits you and your requirements best.

Whichever route you decide to take to begin your plant operation career, make sure that you use a fully qualified and accredited training provider, like TSMC, to ensure your training is of the highest standard.

Here at The Safety Maintenance Company, we offer NPORS training and testing for a wide range of equipment types, including 360 Excavators, Forward Tipping Dumpers, Forklifts, Slingers, Rollers and many more.

Contact us today to book your NPORS training on your site anywhere in the UK!