Baby steps into a big boy’s world
Security licencing training has been in effect now for 10 years in Ireland and I have wanted to write this article on the subject for quite a while but the timing and other subjects kind of got in the way. A conversation this week with a manager in a premises tipped me over the edge and I’ve decided that an explanatory post/rant on the subject is required. This entire article is going to be about my next sentence and I can already see the moans, groans and arguments from the people who really should know better:
ENTRY LEVEL TRAINING DOES NOT MAKE YOU PROFICIENT AT SECURITY.
Most people who work operationally in the security industry know this but unfortunately the managers and employers of these people often don’t grasp the concept.
Before people begin to call me a hypocrite (I have written and taught what I like to think of as an excellent entry level course for many years) let me explain that I am not against mandatory training for entry to the industry. I’m very much in favour of it if it is delivered correctly and in context. Entry level training is exactly what it claims to be “entry level”. It doesn’t not mean that a person can work proficiently in any sector of the industry. It’s also not meant to be a get out of jail free card for employers to fail in their duty to provide job and risk specific training.
Think of entry level training as like a Safe Pass in construction. If I hire an employee and put him through a Safe Pass programme he/she can begin working on a construction site. It does not mean that the person will be a skilled carpenter, plumber or any other type of trade-person. It’s a base level to begin work safely. Previous life skills and post-employment training and experience are what makes the trade-person proficient and the same is true of the security industry.
Understanding the concept
The traditional view has always been that if a person passes this training course and is granted a licence then they can work anywhere in the security industry. If you look at any of the literature published by the qualifications body (QQI) or the regulatory body (PSA) it doesn’t say that anywhere. The Private Security Services Act say that the licence entitles ‘entry’ to the industry not ‘work anywhere’. If you look at the programme aims as published by QQI for both the Guarding Skills and Door Security training programmes they are both quite similar:
The purpose of this award is to equip the learner with the knowledge, skill and competence to work under supervision as a Door Security Personnel performing practical security duties and procedures and responding to security situations in order to maintain a safe and secure environment for patrons, staff and members of the public.
The purpose of this award is to equip the learner with the knowledge, skill and competence to work under supervision as a security officer performing practical security duties and procedures and responding to security situations in a variety of settings including static and the retail industry.
The most important parts in both I’ve highlighted and underlined. Under Supervision . The person can work under supervision. Not alone and not left to their own initiative to problem solve in high risk scenarios. That’s not what the training is meant to be.
Competency v Proficiency
Another key aspect of this issue is the competency v proficiency argument. To pass the qualifying course to enter the industry the candidate must show the KNOWLEDGE, SKILLS AND COMPETENCY required. Competency in this context means that the person must show me (the trainer) that they possess the knowledge and skills that I have shown to a competent level. This means that under a set of controlled low stress conditions in the classroom they can perform certain tasks to a level where they are safe. For experienced operators, it can seem quite basic but for somebody who has never seen these tasks performed before it’s quite a feat to achieve even this level after 4-5 days in a classroom. We all started somewhere and we were all the new guy at some stage. We all built our skills and knowledge over time and it’s only fair to give new entrants the same opportunity.
Proficiency on the other hand is the ability to perform these tasks correctly every time, under stress and problem solve when the task needs to change. This is not what entry level training is designed to do. This is what practice, experience and supervision are supposed to do. Having 4-5 days in a classroom regardless of how good the trainer is (that’s another article) is not getting any person anywhere near that level and that’s fine because that’s how it’s supposed to be.
The PSA and the course itself have from time to time been made scapegoats for a perceived drop in standards in the industry. I don’t necessarily agree with everything the PSA do or agree with every part of the current training curriculum. The programme isn’t perfect but it does what it’s meant to do. Blaming this for issues within the industry is pointless and misguided. The industry is responsible for standards in the industry not the regulators. Employers are responsible for ensuring that those who they employ are fit for the job they are going to ask them to do. When I see a person finish a course with a 51% grade I know there are many places in the industry that they are not fit for but there are some places where they can still work. An employer needs to satisfy them self to the same level. If a person is expected to work outside of supervision or in higher risk areas then additional training beyond what’s required to enter the industry is required. Just like in every other profession.
I described security licencing training as “Baby steps into a big boy’s world” because that’s what it is. I can provide a person with the base level skills to keep them safe. It up to them, their colleagues and their employer to help them get to a level of proficiency over time. Once a toddler learns to walk we don’t send them down to the shops alone. That would be crazy. So, what’s different here?