This might seem like a strange title for an article written by somebody who regularly advocates for the security industry, but bear with me for a minute. I wrote an article a number of years ago on the evolution of the security operative. In that article I spoke about my feeling that the industry would get smaller in the coming years but that those who remained within it would be at a higher standard. As I write this today I am even more convinced that will be the case, but also that it is a necessity for this to be the case, if we want to improve as an industry. This article is probably going to result in a lot of negative pushback from within the industry and that is fine, but I do think its worth considering for everybody in the security industry. Where will your position will be in 5 or 10 years?
The harsh reality
This might not be palatable or pleasant to hear for many within the manned guarding, door supervision, events and even close protection industry. What we currently have is a security industry not a security profession. We have an industry filled with great people but that doesnt make it a profession. There are a cohort within the industry who act and behave as professionals should, but there is a majority who are low skilled workers. They have the same opportunity as anybody else to become professionals but they do not. They dont engage in education or certification or any sort of personal or professional development and rely on the status quo remaining and years of ‘experience’ or past experiences. The unfortunate reality is that it is those low skilled workers are the most vulnerable to change.
Smaller but better
As I mentioned before, I think the way that the security sector will evolve is that there will be far less people employed in it but those people will operate and be paid at a higher level. This is the case with every other industry which would be considered a profession. There is a high barrier to entry in terms of qualifications and education, a requirement for ongoing CPD and professional accountability bodies. Do you think that society would accept an airline pilot who did a 2 day, 3 day or 14 day training course 5 years ago? Consider that many security officers, door supervisors, and even event security have many more people in their care on a daily basis than a pilot does. Same could be applied to an architect, engineer, accountant or any other profession.
So by raising the standard for entry we make it harder to get in and therefore less people will enter. Those that do enter will be better qualified, better trained and more capable individuals. I know there is going to be those who say that “John down the street left school early, cant read properly but is great security guy and he has worked in retail or static security for years”. Thats all probably very true. The reality is that by making all sectors of the industry easy to enter we have created a mass market with price and costs as the only differentiator.John just has to be willing to work cheaper than other guy on the street to remain in work. This has happened over time. We can if we choose, continue on this road but I dont see it having a happy ending. Or we can band together as an industry and move towards becoming a profession. A profession with a common benchmark or qualification and certification at a high level. A commitment in terms of time, effort and finance to enter and emphasis on continual improvement. That means less people entering the industry and many good people losing jobs. That’s evolution I’m afraid. Good people get left behind if they don’t adapt and improve.
Less people doing the same and probably more work doesn’t seem to make sense to some. After all, security threats are not getting any less common or impactful. The risks are expanding and diversifying and so should the skill set of the future security operative. I think we will begin to see the low skilled roles in the security industry being replaced by technology. Those remaining will be tasked with managing that technology. That means having a working knowledge of security systems, information security, cyber security, analytics, machine learning, risk management as well as the standard physical security knowledge. Starting to learn about it once it happens is far too late. We need to start it now.
It will never happen
There will be those who will say that it will never happen. There will always be a place for a guy on a site at night. They are wrong. The guy on a site will be replaced by CCTV, analytics and drones etc. managed across multiple sites by a controller and with a response team.
Retail security staff will be using data analytics, AI and CCTV analytics to reduce losses across multi-sites and online platforms with far less stores on the High Street.
Even door supervision and event security will change as technology does. Standby for facial recognition, social media ID verification and virtual event management. That’s before we even start to talk about the broadening of threat vectors faced by close protection operatives in protecting principals and residences. Not only is it going to happen, it is already happening.
Becoming a profession
How do we take the first steps to becoming a profession. Well let’s look to other professions that we can aspire to. Legal, medical, engineering or accountancy for example. We begin to create heightened standards for entry, we standardise the professional qualifications at various grades across nations and internationally. Create industry representative bodies to monitor accountability and malpractice. Create requirements for ongoing and continuous professional development and perhaps even ongoing assessment.
That’s just what we could do to develop from within. That’s before we even begin to consider the further steps required to help clients, employers and other business divisions begin to see the security industry as an equal in professional terms.
I believe that all of these things will make the industry better and begin to create a real profession across the industry and outside of the small cohort who currently engage as professionals. It will also mean a lot of good people will lose jobs in the industry. Good people but not necessarily security professionals. That’s going to get some backlash on this article I know. The current manned guarding industry is not a profession for the majority within it. It’s a job or even a career bit not a profession for the majority. It’s not set up to be and I don’t believe it can be in its current guise. That benefits a lot of people who profit from the status quo. It doesn’t benefit the profession or the professionals within it however.