Scaffolding skills are used across the world in a huge variety of sectors from offshore to construction, energy, civils and the commercial world.

With a very well-documented skills shortage, if you choose to go into scaffolding you should never be short of work.

Scaffolding has a very clear progression route, which is set out in the Construction Industry Scaffolders’ Record Scheme (CISRS) and it takes a minimum of 18 months to become a fully qualified level 2 scaffolder.

For those keen to see how quick and easy it is to work your way up the scaffolding career pole, here’s the steps you need to follow to get to the top.

Starting out

You can start your scaffolding career by securing an apprenticeship, doing a college course or starting a job as a trainee scaffolder / scaffolding labourer.

According to the National Careers’ Service, the average starting salary for a trainee scaffolder is around £14k.

Before stepping foot on any construction site, you’ll need a CISRS Trainee or Labourer card. You get this by doing a one-day COTS (CISRS Operative Training Scheme) course for anyone new to scaffolding to teach you basic health and safety on site.

On site you’ll be doing general labouring duties and getting some technical knowledge by helping the skilled scaffolding team with manual handling and ensuring correct materials are available. 

Next steps

After you’ve gained a minimum of six months solid practical work experience, you’ll be eligible to apply to attend a CISRS Part 1 Scaffolding Tube & Fitting training course – pass or fail. This two-week qualification gives you the basic skills to build a simple scaffolding structure.

You’ll then need to put your Part 1 CISRS certificate and Trainee card into practise with a further six months on-the-job experience before you can attend your CISRS Part 2 Scaffolding Tube & Fitting training course.

The CISRS Part 2 course is also two-weeks long and here you’ll find out how to construct more complex structures and show evidence of the work you’ve been doing. Scaffolding NVQ Level 2 qualifications are also important to undertake at this stage as these are mandatory for the scaffolding profession. You must also be employed to complete this as it involves building a portfolio.

Six months after this, you will be eligible to be assessed. Before you can be signed off as a CISRS Basic Scaffolder, you must have achieved your Scaffolding NVQ Level 2 Portfolio Build and passed the one-day CISRS Skills Test.

Assessors will assess your on-the-job evidence and also conduct observations. This is to document what you’re doing and assess your competency. For CISRS you will also need to visit a training centre to take a CISRS one-day skills test.

Once you have passed this stage you will be classed as a fully qualified Level 2 scaffolder and can expect to earn up to £50k per year.

Be a Leader

The CISRS Advanced Level 3 Scaffolding qualification is the highest level and is for those looking to become the lead hand or supervisor on a project. As well as being able to lead the team in more complex scaffolding structures such as shoring, hanging scaffolds or temporary roofs, the Level 3 is likely to be responsible for overseeing the general health and safety of the site and supervising the scaffolders and other members of staff. That’s why Level 3 courses focus heavily on complex structures legislation, best health and safety practice, delivering toolbox talks and leading a team

The salary expectations for a supervisor can be in excess of £60k. Supervisor salaries sometimes don’t differ greatly from the most advanced and Level 2 scaffolding roles so some people may not feel it’s worth making this next level move.

However, if you do decide that being a leader is for you, CISRS Level 3 qualifications can help you in progressing your career, in setting up your own scaffolding company or moving to more general senior management positions outside of scaffolding.