Let’s look at where the security industry sees itself
In Ireland you need a QQI Level 4 certificate to work as a security guard and a QQI Level 4 certificate to work as a door supervisor. There are arguments from both sides as to which should require the higher qualification but this is what we have. Should we settle for that though or should be be seeking to raise the minimum and raise the overall standard? That’s the question I want to talk about here. Where have we set ourselves as an industry and how can we make ourselves better into the future?
What is Level 4?
Level 4 is a grading given to the educational award as to where it sits on the National Framework of Qualifications and the European Framework of Qualifications. It’s not just an arbritary number. It signifies the level of educational requirement and capacity required to achieve the award. Level 4 sits in the lower half of qualifications. It falls along the same level of capability as the Junior Certificate programme and below the Leaving Certificate. In fact as a minor award the security qualification counts as basically a single subject in the Leaving Certificate (school leaving exam for those of you reading from overseas).
The security qualifications are also a Minor award. Its important to differentiate between the standards of a Minor or a Major award. A Minor award is a short programme of a number of days which delivers knowledge and skills in a narrow subject area. A Major award on the other hand has a broad range of knowledge and skills usually gained over months or even a full year and assessed in a variety of ways over that time. A Minor award comprises one module of a Major award which will more than likely have 7-9 modules to achieve certification.
What does it require?
So generally speaking the a Level 4 programme requires 100 hours of study. This includes 30 hours of directed learning (in direct contact with a tutor) and 70 hours of self directed learning. The directed learning is the amount of time spent directly with a trainer and the self directed learning is work that students have to do on their own. This could be in the form of notes, manuals or videos etc. that the student has to review for themselves. The reality is that most students don’t complete the 70 hours because it isn’t properly provided for, enforced or assessed by training providers and the content required to pass the assessments is covered on the course. So essentially students are taught over the 30 hours how to pass an assessment not anything about being an effective security operative. Contrast this with a Major Award in terms of effort. A Major Award takes anywhere between 1200 and 1500 hours to complete. The majority of these hours are self directed combined with some learning directed in a class setting . The assessments cover the entire material forcing the student to study all of the material. Each Major award is made of of a number of modules (minor awards) so students are being certified in modules as they go before achieving overall certification at the end.
Comparison with other roles
Lets look at other roles in Ireland which require an entry level qualification to begin work. Some of the more obvious ones include: Childcare (QQI Level 5 major award), Healthcare assistant (QQI Level 5 major award and Special needs assistant (QQI Level 5 Major Award).
Now bear in mind as I said that these are all Major awards while the security sector is a Minor award. So according to this you need to months or even a year of study or assessment to start work in childcare, healthcare or specials needs to look after an individual or small group of vulnerable people or children. However, only a few days to start work with the safety of potentially hundreds of people left in your care within the security industry. That doesn’t make sense to me and it certainly shows how much those in power actually value the sector itself. Bear in mind that when the security licencing legislation was developed in 2004 there was the option to specify both a Major or a Minor award as the entry qualification. The regulator chose Minor, perhaps influenced by the lobby groups in the sector and not the best interest of the public like other sectors. Of course many of the lobby groups consulted also happened to run the minor training courses at the time. That’s beside the point however. The reality is that the role requires far less training to enter than almost any other regulated roles for which formal training is required.
Lets not even begin to talk about the skilled professions. We aren’t even close to roles such as plumbing or carpentry or any other trade which require extensive apprenticeships to become qualified. No just the few days for us. The ‘ah sure it will be grand’ approach to security.
My personal feeling is that we need at least a level 5 or even a level 6 award at entry level. Of course it will be time consuming and expensive for the learner but it will be worth it in terms of knowledge and skills gained at entry level. That’s just a start though and not nearly enough. If you need a major award to do childcare, or care assistant or special needs assistant then why not security? I see no reason why a level 5 or 6 minor award cannot be sought at entry to the industry allowing the security operative to work as a probationary officer. This gives them a licence to work under supervision or within a team but they could not work alone or on roles assessed as high risk. Over the course of the next year they undertake study with some tutor led class sessions and lots of self directed learning.. They are assessed throughout the year by a training provider or college and undertake work placements which are assessed by supervisors. At the end they can achieve full certification with a Major award as a professional security officer.
After that they could work wherever they want. They could also move onto a Level 6 Security Management programme or have a pathway to university if they want to continue on their journey. Of course all of this has a cost in terms of time and money for the security officer and possibly for the employer but what real profession doesn’t have that cost to qualify. If the careers mentioned above can have that cost then why cant security?
All of this would take a significant change in regulation and a shift in culture in the security industry. I don’t think its unrealistic to think we cant get there in the future but we are a long way away from it. There would be large resistance to change and many in the industry who will pull the ‘I’ve been in this job 20 years and I don’t need to study’ card. Of course we could have an element of ‘grandfathering’ or recognition of prior learning to allow some of those to go straight to assessment and prove how much they know from their 20 years so it shouldn’t be a problem. Its idealistic and its possible. You are wlecome to disagree and aruge the merits of the staus quo. I await your argument.