By Richard Diston, National Training Manager
Training in the security industry may be described as a spectrum: at one end, it’s an introduction to a new job; on the other, a higher level pursuit for long-serving practitioners seeking to elevate their professional status. In the middle, training is most often reactive, delivered only as a risk mitigation when something goes wrong. While this is unarguably correct, training on this basis alone undermines every attempt by the wider industry to increase professionalism. While the problem is not new, the challenge of changing the perception of the security industry from ‘a dumping ground for the uneducated’ into a first choice career has yet to see a successful resolution.
What are needed are formal, team-specific training strategies that are strongly linked to an occupational skills pathway. Employees of all levels can then see where they are on the pathway and what training is available to help develop their existing roles and, should they wish to, progress their careers. Having a clear training strategy for each team creates a longer-term engagement with the idea of education and supports appropriate talent identification and succession planning. Certainly, training that forms a fundamental part of the overall vision for a security service has a range of benefits. Employers who offer structured training and development opportunities are more attractive to job seekers, have better staff retention, and stronger cultures.
That said, in a sector with continued downward pressure on margins there are those that would argue against the associated costs. These people are missing something vital because they are viewing training in exactly the same way that their clients often view a security guarding service; as a grudge purchase and a cost without value. What is being missed is that the quality of the service the sector provides is only as good as the quality of the thinking that lies behind it, and that is only improved by a structured educational process. To quote Derek Bok, a former president of Harvard University: ‘If you think education is expensive, try ignorance’.
Of course, education no longer needs to be expensive. A defined vision for training can utilise blended learning methods that are supported by a developing culture of self-improvement. Evidence indicates that the aspirations of security personnel today are higher than perhaps they once were, and that more personnel are actively seeking further training and development opportunities. Organisations that can produce quality learning experiences that are easily accessible, engaging and relevant (because they form a part of a wider Learning and Development vision) today are setting a benchmark for the industry for the future.
With the convergence of ‘traditional’ security services with FM and bundled service providers, this only means there are more career opportunities available and more potential places for security organisations to leak talent. One potential answer is the development of bespoke in-house qualifications as a key stage in the vision and the occupational skills pathway, reflecting the modern needs of the sector. Axis Security is one such organisation, having recently achieved its IQ Level 4 Certificate in Modern Security Management, and being nominated as a finalist for the Security and Fire Excellence Awards 2015. As a consequence, Axis now has a waiting list for its in-house qualifications - a positive sign that education is not only needed but wanted, and that a clear and robust training vision is essential.