An Interview with Carl Dakin of Silverback Security Academy

What inspired you to start Silverback?

Well four of us got together – it just happened. We’d known each other for a few years, and we all had and interest and experience in the security and event industries. We recognised that many security managers come from military or emergency services backgrounds and enter the security industry at a management level, others at the operational level are quite likely to have ‘fallen’ into the industry and many feel stuck at the lower end of the ladder.

How do you see existing training and development arrangements?

People working in the security industry come from a wide range of backgrounds, but we felt that training and development opportunities are haphazard – even chancy – and people’s understanding of what there is, is sketchy. Clearly, there are moves to improve training and continuing professional development (CPD) as the industry moves towards professionalising itself, but there’s a long way to go.

There are a lot of stand-alone courses, many of which are very good, but there didn’t seem to be much in the way of joined-up pathways that someone could jump onto and work their way towards a degree level qualification – something that would be recognised and have clear value. We felt that this was the area that we wanted to get involved in.

What are the backgrounds of the team?

One thing that we had in common was that none of us had impressive educational backgrounds even though two of us ended up as professors. So, we know what it is to fail in formal education – we have a natural sympathy with many working in the security industry who come on our courses. Between us though we could draw on a range of knowledge and experience from the security and event management industries and huge networks of contacts.

But a degree programme takes three years, many people don’t have that kind of time.

That’s true. You can’t get around the fact that there’s no short cut. You have to get stuck in. It takes effort and application, but in the end it’s worth it. I left school with a bunch of CSEs and an ‘O’ Level in Literature, but during my time in the army I did a Foundational Degree and eventually completed a Masters’ Degree as part of my exit plan from the military.

It can be done. And for those who see themselves as potential managers, academic development has to be a consideration. Combining vocational experience with academic theory means that you understand better what you do and why you do it. It makes you a more effective manager and leader as well as increasing your chances of promotion.

Why did you go for university accreditation?

As I mentioned earlier, there are plenty of vocational training courses available, some of which claim to provide the necessary learning to progress towards a management role or to become ‘certified’ in some way. More and more emphasis is on the level of accreditation, such as at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Level 4 or Level 5, and I’m seeing lots of training providers claiming their programme is the equivalent to a degree qualification at Levels 6 and 7. This can all seem confusing to the uninitiated and it would be easy to sign up to something that says that it will transform your knowledge in five days. But there aren’t any short cuts, which is why we decided to get the Silverback programmes accredited by a university and make it crystal clear what the successful learner will achieve.

Silverback modules are at NQF Levels 4 and 5 then?

Correct. Silverback Certificate modules are at Level 4 and Diploma modules at Level 5. Each module carries 20 academic credits and with six modules making up the Certificate and Diploma respectively, 240 academic credits are available to the learner meaning that successful individuals can join the final year of a university programme. In fact, Portsmouth University accepts Silverback participants with 240 academic credits to join the Security Management Bachelor’s degree at the beginning of the third year.

The modules combine security and risk management material with general topics, such as leadership, management, change, managing teams and businesses to create a rounded security manager.

Why are the modules built around workshops?

We each have our preferences of learning and I know e-learning programmes suit many people providing them with a flexible approach to education so they can study at their own pace, and perhaps study whilst working overseas. But e-learning isn’t everyone’s preference, so we go for a blended approach running residential workshops with extensive online support.

Silverback workshops introduce topics, using interactive methods such as syndicate exercises and case studies to simulate real-world applications. We also include site visits designed to ‘earth’ learning into working reality as well as drawing on a range of specialist associate contributors who are recognised specialists and can speak with authority and share their experiences with us.

The Learning in the Round approach which we use sees everyone as a learner, so workshops are a great source of interaction and stimulation – opportunities to share and analyse experiences, to swap idea and approaches in order to create new and productive understandings.

Any final thoughts?

Yes. If you’re interested, or if you’re unsure, then contact us. We’d be happy to tell you more about Silverback and put you in touch with people who’ve been on our programmes. It’s all about learning and developing, and contributing towards a better, more effective and safer industry. Check the website.

Carl Dakin ​ QGM, MSc, FdA, MSyI Chartered Security Professional