How to become a Scaffolder

How to become a Scaffolder
How to become a Scaffolder

posted 12 Dec 23

Scaffolders are an important part of the construction industry, and becoming one is a career that can promise stable and constant work. From residential houses to large office blocks and even offshore oil rigs or historic castles, a scaffolder’s work can be varied and there is plenty of potential for fulfillment. Labour and skills shortages in recent years means that there are plenty of jobs on offer too, so it is a great time to start. Read on to find out how to become a scaffolder, what scaffolding qualifications are available, and what you can expect from the job. 

Understanding the Scaffolder role 

Do you want a career that is physical, outdoors and full of variety? Then becoming a scaffolder could be a great choice. You would be erecting scaffolds and decks (or platforms), on any building or construction project where it is needed. The key is safety and taking that seriously. You will be working at heights with a team of colleagues, and you will also be responsible for creating a safe place for other people to work from. Learning the details, respecting the rules, and having a good relationship with your team are all important. 

If you are wondering what does a scaffolder do from day to day, then read on. As a scaffolder you will be responsible for loading and unloading the scaffolding onto a lorry, ensuring stable bases on the ground, and building towers that are safe, strong and secure. Then you will take it all down at the end of each job. It’s likely that each person on your team will have a specialist role, so you will need to be good at working with others. 

Entry routes to becoming a Scaffolder 

Entry routes to becoming a Scaffolder 

There are a few routes into scaffolding as a career. You could start by taking a college course like a Level 1 or 2 Certificate in Construction Operations, which will help you to get your first job and understand the basics of what is a scaffolder’s job. That should help you find work as a trainee within a team, giving you the opportunity to prove your skills and grow your knowledge. 

Another way into the industry would be to train through a scaffolder intermediate apprenticeship. This usually takes about 18 months to complete, and has the added bonus that you will get paid as you learn and probably have a job afterwards. You will do on-the-job training and spend time at a college or training provider. 

Finally, you could join a scaffolding company as a trainee or scaffolding labourer, and earn your qualifications on the job. You will need to show that you are keen and able to listen and learn. GCSEs in maths, English, and design and technology can be useful, although not always essential. You will however, need a Construction Industry Scaffolders Record Scheme (CISRS) safety card or equivalent to train and work on a construction site. 

Learn more about a career in Construction & Property

A highly skilled industry like construction and property needs an experienced hand. We can help you navigate your career, whether you’re just starting out or are already working in the field.

Learn more about a career in Construction & Property

Core training and certifications for scaffolders 

The CISRS regulates training and qualifications for the scaffolding industry and there is plenty to keep you busy. It’s clearly structured and your manager or supervisor can help to guide you through it all.  

First up, as a trainee you will be expected to complete a short COTS course to start your scaffolder qualifications. You can then work as a trainee for six months with a qualified supervisor, gaining experience and learning the ropes, before taking the CISRS Part 1. From then it is CISRS Part 2, NVQ Level 2 SCQF Level 5 and the CISRS 1 Day Skills Test. There will be some specific training along the way too, according to what type of scaffolding you are using. 

You will also be expected to complete some health and safety courses which will teach you about construction sites and working at heights. These are generally online and fairly quick to complete. 

There are particular time frames in which all of this needs to be completed, and no quick way in - it takes roughly three years to become an advanced level scaffolder. 

Career progression and specialisation 

There are plenty of opportunities to advance within the scaffolding industry and carve out a career that excites you.  

First there is that move from trainee to advanced scaffolder, at which point you will be playing an integral role in the planning and erection of the scaffolding. You could choose to specialise in specific structures, like offshore rigs or historic buildings, or you could opt for a career in inspection, safety and supervision. If you have an entrepreneurial spirit you could also set up your own scaffolding company. 

Working environments 

Working environments 

Scaffolders are a common sight in most neighbourhoods and towns, and residential projects can form much of the daily work. There are also large-scale commercial and industrial projects too, which can provide challenges, variety, and some extreme height work. 

Another area of the industry is in building temporary structures for events and entertainment - for example stage sets, exhibitions and festivals.  

Challenges and rewards of being a scaffolder 

There is no room for error in scaffolding, so working hard and caring about each individual project is important. It is physically demanding too, this career will help to keep you strong and agile – which is a reward in itself, but you will also need to hold your nerve in some extreme situations and have the confidence to say when things aren’t right. 

It can be a hugely exciting job though too. You might get to see places that most people never will, and you will build strong bonds with your workmates through teamwork and commitment to completing  projects.  

Is a scaffolder role right for you?  

Being a scaffolder can lead to a structured and rewarding career path. You will be active and physical, and you could have the odd adventure too. There is a clear structure when it comes to working your way up within a company, and with learning and qualifications you can become an expert in your field. What’s more, you could find yourself making mates for life. Working as part of a team, where you all have a duty to keep yourselves and each other safe, can lead to trusted and valued  friendships. 

Resources and associations for scaffolders