The security industry has come a long way from its historical roots and is now focusing heavily on new technology, updated skills, vetting and standards as well as changing perceptions of what the sector actually entails. Mike Reddington discusses the work of the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) in developing and promoting Best Practice.
Security personnel play a vital role in protecting the nation. The history of individuals watching over other individuals or property dates back many centuries, of course. Indeed, the origins of today’s law enforcement landscape hark back to the soldiers, guards and watchmen of yesteryear. The roles these people would play included guarding people or property, Fire Brigade-style services, crowd control and apprehending criminals. The overall aim then, as it is now, was to keep the public safe.
In today’s climate, policing resources are stretched while knife crime and terrorism-related incidents, for example, are on the rise. All the while, public services in general are having to combat the threat of budget cuts. As a direct result of Westminster’s austerity measures, some police forces now choosing to employ the services of non-police staff to assist with administrative work which then maximises the presence of sworn officers on the front line.
On occasion – and in order to assure public and staff safety – the focus for assistance does turn towards professional security businesses. As such, security personnel can be first at the scene should anything happen. That being the case, those involved must be well-equipped and well-trained to cope with any developing security situation.
Although standards and legislation have developed, so too the quality of vetting and the fact that security personnel are attaining the vital skills they need, there’s still work to be done in these areas.
Of course, today’s security organisations are having to face myriad concerns. In view of this, the BSIA continues to concentrate on providing a voice for the professional security industry. We’re there to provide our members with a vehicle form them to collectively offer their input and feedback on standards and potential improvements and enhancements to the industry. This enables members to develop and share Best Practice with the aim of enhancing and progressing the services they offer to their end users within the private security realm.
Membership of the Trade Association carries with it a recognised ‘kite mark’ of professionalism and quality. This means that potential buying customers can trust to the fact that they’re choosing a reliable partner for the security service(s) they require.
Major challenges ahead
Something that affects our Security Guarding Section members in particular is the increase in the National Living Wage coupled with additional pension costs and stagnant charge rates resulting in unsustainably low margins. The industry needs to continue to invest in its employees to ensure that they’re appropriately trained and educated such that they can provide a high quality of service to end users. Employee pay rates need to reflect that truism.
To achieve this, we need to better articulate why attractive pay rates yield a better return on investment for solution buyers. This will ensure that end users clearly recognise the investments being made by professional security companies and, therefore, the need for them to pay the appropriate labour rates which ensure that a reliable and high-quality service is delivered.
Another issue affecting the security guarding side of the industry is the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and how this will impact migration. Many are asking what impact Brexit may have on the availability of labour. It could well drive wage inflation. Furthermore, the impact of not knowing what form of deal – if any – will be reached with the European Union has meant that Parliamentary time to discuss important issues will not be afforded.
An example of this centres on company or business licensing. It’s an issue we continue to discuss at the highest levels of Government, but that would require Parliamentary time and primary legislation for those discussions to be furthered. The BSIA holds regular Security Guarding Section meetings where idea proposals are tabled and discussed. Members are given updates as a result of any political changes that could affect their businesses. The output of these meetings is then shared with the relevant governing bodies to effect positive change in our industry.
In terms of standards, there have been some worries over smaller companies providing Security Industry Authority (SIA) licensed staff without complying with the Terms and Conditions of the Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS). If a company is ACS registered, it should not then sub-contract to a non-ACS registered company unless a specific exemption has been sought from the Regulator and then granted.
Promotion to end users
Security companies who are members of the BSIA and registered on the SIA’s ACS should actively promote to buyers the advantages and benefits of them choosing such a business, giving the customer confidence that they will indeed receive a quality and reliable security service delivered by appropriately vetted and trained employees.
Concerns have also been rising with regards to larger security firms using sub-contracted staff or companies who don’t pay VAT or provide pensions. I believe these factors are always worth investigating before any company appoints a sub-contractor.
VAT qualification, of course, is related to the turnover of a company and is something governed by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). As such, it’s not something that can be influenced by an external organisation. There are also clear Government rules in place about a company’s obligation to provide its employees with a company pension scheme which should address this issue. It should be noted that security’s governing bodies and associations are working closely with HMRC to combat tax evasion and avoidance in the professional security industry.
How can we, as a Trade Association, ensure that the highest standards are reached across the professional security industry at all times? We’re currently working with members, other relevant associations, the police service and Government departments to influence and develop standards and Best Practice for the professional security industry. We need to encourage and increase active engagement from existing members and recruit new members to be included as part of the voice of the professional security industry. We use various channels to communicate to both the industry and the wider public, whether that be on social media, through podcasts or in the press.
Technology is moving at a rapid pace and there are lots of new entrants to the security industry. Unfortunately, some of them don’t have the necessary knowledge, skills or experience to deliver the products and services that today’s end users require. Other products may not be secure themselves and, without stringent regulation, could well be prone to hacking and serious data breaches.
Through our regular meetings with members we can review technology developments and how they might impact the industry, its constituent members and end users now and into the future. A great example of this is the recent release of ‘Cyber Secure It’, a guide produced by the Cyber Security Product Assurance Group (which is made up of members of the BSIA). This document provides a summary of guidelines and standards on minimising the exposure to digital sabotage of network-connected equipment, software and systems used in the electronic security sphere.
The skills shortage: what’s next?
BSIA chairman Simon Banks estimates that there’s a skills shortage of roughly 30,000 engineers due to the rapid growth of innovation and the advanced technical products now reaching the market. In parallel, the European security industry is worth upwards of €26 billion and set to double in value over the next eight years with close verticals including the Internet of Things, M2M and cyber growing exponentially.
There’s a key need for initiatives to ensure that the industry has the appropriately trained and skilled employees demanded to meet its own requirements and ably support what is demonstrably a growing market.
Skills for Security specifically focuses on apprenticeships, of course, and we also have a Training Section within the BSIA whose cohort comprises a number of the industry’s leading training providers. Both Skills for Security and the BSIA Training Section’s members continue to develop specific industry-related training programmes. The overriding aim here is to make those programmes more accessible to companies and individual candidates who are already operating (or wish to operate) in the private security industry.
We’re actively involved with the Department for Work and Pensions initiative entitled ‘Security: A Career of Choice’ which is orchestrated to increase talent and the number of people coming into our specialist business sector. More information on this subject will be available at IFSEC International which runs on 18-20 June at ExCeL in London.
Finally, The Security Institute’s ‘Next Generation Initiative’ is also an excellent way of trying to entice young people and graduates into the industry, and especially so across all of the electronic sectors. We would welcome a strong working relationship between Skills for Security, our Training Section members and The Security Institute.
Mike Reddington is Chief Executive of the British Security Industry Association