The Doctor vs the Security Consultant
Should you need medical attention and attend a hospital you will expect that the doctor, surgeon or specialist that deals with you is an expert in their field. They will have both academic and vocational qualifications combined with experiential learning and a verified record of continuous professional development. After all, medical professionals are responsible for people’s lives, so you would expect them to be competent.
Compare this to the current UK security industry. When security is required can we honestly say that all security managers and consultants are of the same standard? Do we have the means to verify the competence of individuals? Do all security managers and consultants have academic and or vocational qualifications? Do all security managers and consultants undertake a programme of continuous professional development? The answer is sadly no, despite security managers and consultants also being responsible for people’s lives.
This is not the fault of the individual, we all operate in an environment that enables this situation to occur.
Many professions of course expect individuals to achieve chartered status, with that being the benchmark to demonstrate the individual is at the top of his or her profession. Chartered surveyors, accountants and managers are all terms that are recognised by the general public. Chartered status symbolises that a profession has…standards! Of course, chartered status will not be achievable for all however, professionalism is.
To be professional is more than simply being paid to do a certain job. A quick online search produces the below definitions of a professional which would certainly rule out many within the UK private security industry:
‘Person formally certified by a professional body of belonging to a specific profession by virtue of having completed a required course of studies and/or practice. And whose competence can usually be measured against an established set of standards’ (Business Directory)
‘1. A person, who is a member of a professional body due to the education qualification and follows the prescribed moral and professional code of conduct. 2. A person who has mastered a high level of expertise in a subject, notion on field.’ (The Law Dictionary).
Ultimately, the professionalism of the security industry needs to be judged like any other industry. At present employing organisations are responsible for training of security staff. Unfortunately, contracts are awarded mostly on price, with savings often made by reducing staff development and training. This lack of development often results in poor performance and high staff turnover, something must change!
How can this be changed?
I recently conducted some research regarding the professionalisation of the UK security industry which naturally focused upon training and regulation. As part of this research a survey was produced which received just under one hundred responses from verified UK security operatives. Key themes that the research identified as possible solutions to the professionalisation of the industry included:
- The basic SIA training was not adequate- the standards need to be raised.
- The combining of the door supervisor and security officer license to enable a ‘general’ security license.
- A tiered licensing system starting at; security officer, specialist security officer etc.
- Standardised and regulated training for supervisors which would enable individuals to gain a ‘supervisor’ level SIA licence.
- Standardised and regulated training for managers that would enable individuals to gain a ‘management’ level SIA license.
- Standardised and regulated training for security consultants that would enable an individual to gain a ‘consultants’ level SIA license.
The reason that I chose this research subject was due to a fantastic paper produced by Button and Stiernstedt that compared the regulation, which included training of the private security industry across EU states. The Confederation of European Security Services advises that 120 hours of mandatory training is recommended for unarmed security guards. This is surpassed by many countries including for example; Romania (360 hours), Hungary (320 hours) and Sweden (288 hours).
The UK scored poorly in the league table (20th out of 26 EU states with a regulated industry) mainly due to the low hours of mandatory training and lack of refresher training (CPD). Criticisms of the SIA for not regulating those that deliver training with a ‘trainer’ license also impacted the low league placing. The league table also scores the SIA zero points for not providing supervisor or management training.
The overarching theme that can be interpreted from the research I conducted is that individuals within the UK private security industry both want and need to be better trained. They would also welcome further regulation to enable a tiered licensing system from security officer to security consultant.
Currently there are many options available for learners to spend their hard-earned wages upon, what we do not have is a standardised pathway. There are also numerous academic routes for learners to spend even more of their hard-earned money on (trust me, I know) but which is best? At present, there is a danger of training providers setting the standards of management training. Considering the current threat environment, is this wise? It runs the risk of following the path of close protection training, that being some courses being significantly better than most of the others (which is a concern).
Learning from Disaster
On the 11th May 1985, spectators filled the Valley Parade football ground for the eagerly awaited match between Bradford City and Lincoln City. Within minutes of the kick-off fire ripped through the stands, 56 people were killed and at least 265 injured. This brought about numerous changes to not only the building of stadiums but also the stewarding and training of those responsible for spectator safety. The training of spectator stewards as we now know it has a standardised pathway that links with the relevant National Occupational Standards. The pathway identifies the minimum requirement from entry level (Level 2) to supervisor (Level 3) to management (Level 4) due to the learning from Bradford.
How many disasters do we tolerate before we have an equivalent standardised pathway within the wider security industry? At the recent Step Change Summit, I listened to Figen Murray talk about her son Martyn. Martyn was killed when Salman Ramadan Abedi detonated his device at the Manchester Ariana Grande concert. Now Figen Murray is campaigning for the introduction of ‘Martyn’s Law’, which aims to standardise the base layer of security at crowded places and venues into legislation.
As an industry we need to adopt this altruistic approach and take it forward, forgetting about corporate advantage for the time being. We need to lobby the SIA to standardise the skills knowledge and expertise required at each level of the security industry, we need a base layer of professionalism. Corporate advantage can then be built upon the foundations provided.
There are many barriers to the security industry moving forward. One of the biggest problems in my opinion are the ‘Dinosaurs’ within the sector. Dinosaurs being those that have prospered within the current environment, often with limited competencies they hold positions with good salaries. The nature of these dinosaurs contributes to what I term the ‘self-preservation society’. That being they preserve their own status by undermining the development of staff around them, or by using the flawed logic of recruiting those that will not threaten their position and status. They don’t like competition! However, I hope the changing environment of the security industry will soon lead to their demise. If you find yourself working for an employer such as this, find a new job and leave them with their heads in the sand.
Why should you consider your own professional development?
Until the security industry has a regulated standard pathway for training it is worth considering your CPD. Due to the operating environment, it is quite easy for an individual to progress their career within the security sector with the correct mind set and application.
As an individual the strength of your personal branding is underpinned by your level of competence. Good employers mitigate risk with appointments, they want the most capable of individuals to help achieve business objectives. Therefore, your own professional development is vital for you to distinguish yourself as a ‘good appointment’.
Your development does not have to be an expensive process. There are many free courses through websites such as Future Learn (www.futurelearn.com). I have personally completed courses on cyber security, GDPR and project management via this website and can highly recommend. The key for you as a possible employee is to be able to demonstrate that you are a motivated individual. You can do this by adding at least one course/qualification per year to your CV. This will distinguish you from your peers and enable career progression.
Academic qualifications are not suited for all. Should you choose to take this route there are numerous benefits. The journey through an academic qualification will increase your ability to meet and overcome challenges. An academic qualification will improve your ability to think critically and start you on your journey to become a subject matter expert. The ability to translate theory into practice will increase your operational effectiveness. These attributes appeal to employers.
Recent criticism of the UK Governments apprenticeship levy by the Chartered Institute for Professional Development (CIPD) will resonate with all that have experienced this system:
“The Apprenticeship Levy has failed to increase investment in workplace training and needs urgent reform” (CIPD, 2019)
That said, I hope any reform will make it easier for organisations to place their staff onto academic programmes. There are currently very few universities that are capable of offering security related qualifications via the apprenticeship levy. This needs to be radically overhauled to enable security officers to realise their full potential. I am aware of a university that is trying to achieve this with a fantastic vocational programme of learning, watch this space.
Chartered Security Professional (CSyP)
The academic journey would enable many to achieve Chartered Security Professional (CSyP) status. At this moment in time I view gaining chartered status as a key factor to professionalising the industry and urge you to consider this. The CSyP status sets the standard and signifies that as an individual you are at the top of your profession. This is currently voluntary but hopefully given time this will be deemed the norm, similar to accountants and surveyors. This is perhaps the solution for the industry to improve standards and self-regulate, it just requires mass participation.
Essentially, I believe the professionalism of the security industry depends on two factors:
- The desire for individuals to drive the professionalism of the industry from the ground up.
- Standardised CPD in the form of training qualifications for supervisors, managers and consultants accompanied by regulation and licensing by the SIA.
Until then, keep moving forwards, plan your personal development and take heart that good employers encourage individual growth, as individual growth enables organisational growth.
Rob Kennedy BA(Hons) MSyI
A motivated and determined security professional currently studying for the MSc in Security and Risk Management with the University of Leicester. Rob is a Training and Development Manager with SecuriGroup, an engaged member of the Security Institute, and a growing voice in the UK physical security industry.