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Opportunity knocks

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

With so many young people looking for rewarding careers, why are so few joining the security industry? Jason Taylor of Corps Security explains why all parts of the sector must work together to attract the next generation of security professionals.

Whether it’s down to a negative perception, or simply a lack of awareness about what it can offer, the fact is that too few young people are looking to embark upon a career in the security industry. This is despite great advances in professionalising the industry and the development of qualifications, certifications and accreditations that have made it possible for individuals with the requisite drive and enthusiasm to develop a successful, and potentially lucrative, career.

This situation is all the more surprising in light of the worryingly high number of young people not in education, employment or training (NEET). Latest government figures state that there are 1.09 million young people aged 16-24 in the UK who are classed as NEETs, which in percentage terms equates to 15.1 per cent of all those in this age group. Just over half (53.6 per cent) of all NEETs are looking for work and therefore classified as unemployed.

While there are numerous reasons for this situation, it would be interesting to know just how many NEETs have considered joining the security industry. What’s more, amongst those who are not NEETs, was security ever presented as a career option whilst they were in full time education? It’s fair to assume that it probably wasn’t.

According to the government’s Directgov website, the security industry currently employs around half a million people in the UK. As one of the fastest growing service sectors, it offers flexibility, variety and a level of career progression that few others can boast. Many of today’s security companies are dedicated to providing training, qualifications and a clearly defined career path, all of which are designed to appeal to a wide range of individuals.

Positions include ‘front line’ security officer based roles such as door supervisors, commissionaires and security guards. However, a variety of middle and senior management positions also exist, for example, duty managers, contracts managers, regional operation managers and regional directors. At the higher level, security managers, fraud investigators, cyber crime and technical experts, and security consultants are all in demand.

However, while these are all attractive roles that can suit people of differing abilities, the industry still suffers from an image problem and the general public perceives that Public security personnel tend to be male, muscular and macho, with a background in the military or police force.  Reality is that the modern security sector comprises people from a variety of ethnic, racial, religious, and gender backgrounds.

Despite there still not being enough, more women are joining the industry and displaying the tenacity, determination and ability to succeed in what is still a male dominated sector. Women that stay in the industry and make it their career are increasingly seen as valuable business assets to their employers. Customers can see the benefits of a more gender-balanced workforce and in some instances there are specific places where only women are required to work.

Some forward thinking companies have long-recognised that offering a clearly defined career path with continuing professional development (CPD) is the only way to attract the attention of young people.

With the costs associated with higher education becoming prohibitive, apprenticeships are becoming popular. According to research from the National Apprenticeship Service (NAS), over 80 per cent of employers who take on apprentices find that they make their workplace more productive and customers are more likely to work with a company that invests in young people.

That said, it appears that the demographics for the security industry show an ageing workforce and more needs to be done to balance the profile more in favour of younger people wishing to establish a career.

Great strides have been made to make security management a profession that is on a par with well-established, recognised and respected disciplines such as law, education, medicine, accountancy and engineering. Take for instance The Register of Chartered Security Professionals. Created in 2011, it demonstrates to clients, employers, peers and the public an ability to perform to the highest standards, with those applying having to go through a rigorous assessment process.

While all of this is undoubtedly good news, the aforementioned misconceptions about the security sector prevail and have undoubtedly deterred some young people from even considering it as a career. 

Slightly concerning is that the industry – and that includes its trade bodies and associations – has not done enough to challenge these pre-conceived ideas and promote itself as a vibrant, interesting and positive place to work.

Even though organisations are seemingly aware of the need to do more to attract young people – the ASIS Young Professionals Group is particularly noteworthy and welcome, as is the apprenticeship programme operated by Skills for Security – they are still just a drop in the ocean. Trade bodies and associations like The Security Institute, the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) and the Security Industry Authority (SIA) play a vital role in providing training and qualifications, developing standards, writing reference materials, and promoting best practice – issues that affect us all. However, companies need to work with them to promote the industry and its positive attributes.

Even though competitors working together might seem like a utopian ideal and nothing short of wishful thinking, it's worth remembering that this approach works well in other sectors. For example, the Facilities Management Association (FMA) has experienced considerable levels of success in representing the interests of its members due, in no small part, to the willingness of its members to put aside their business rivalries to ensure the future success of their industry.

When making their career choices, the security industry is not even on the radar of most school leavers. This needs to change and doing so requires all industry stakeholders to join together to promote a clear and consistent message about the opportunities that it offers. If we are to all benefit from a steady influx of high calibre individuals entering the industry this must be addressed – now.

For further information please contact Corps Security on 0800 0286 303 or E:  info@corpssecurity.co.uk