Professionalising the security industry workforce

That uniformed minder, quietly keeping guard out front might be the first ‘security industry’ image that comes to mind, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye.

Zed, from Auckland’s Ten 7 Security, says “I used to think security was easy money, but I’ve learnt about the responsibility security has. We make it look easy, but there’s a lot on our mind.”

Security workers from Auckland’s Ten 7 Security and Waiheke Documents & Security had an animated discussion with the Skills Highway team. Having undertaken workplace literacy and numeracy training in conjunction with the Level 2 National Certificate in Security, provided by Left Field Consulting, they had a lot to report. Together with being trained and qualified, learning new skills and knowledge was already having an impact for individuals and their workplaces – improving health and safety, resulting in better conditions and job security, and better performance at work.

Ten 7 Security provides an alarm monitoring service – protecting people and assets in a huge range of settings including hospitals, retirement villages, construction sites, the university, and in bars. Training staff is crucial for Ten 7 Security’s commitment to smarter, safer and more successful employees. “We like helping people and keeping people safe,” says Sukh, who adds the night shifts can be convenient in terms of versatility. “The reality is that people have families and work needs to be designed around this – it needs to be family friendly.”

Waiheke Documents & Security employs 20 staff on the island. The company is co-owned by Waiheke born-and-raised residents Justin Moroney and Alex Mansell. They pride themselves on delivering professional security services from crowd control through to document services. Justin won the 2017 Security Association, Security Supervisor or Operations Manager of the Year, for his commitment to growing the skills of his staff and the professionalism of the team.

Ensuring staff are sufficiently trained and qualified has helped Waiheke Documents & Security to diversify and grow their business, says Alex. “Security is known for being thuggish and we didn’t want that, we wanted to be better than everyone else.” Working with Left Field Consulting and the Skills Organisation, all Waiheke Documents & Security staff are now signed into Training Agreements for their Level 2 National Certificates.

“I used to be comfortable as the big brown fulla,” says Morgan, who has been in the industry for 16 years. “But the business is changing, so you have to upskill. You can’t rely on the old ways. Physical force is not the primary weapon. Clients don’t like that. It’s about the top 20 percent and we have more tools now. In the old days there was fear of the bouncer. Now they come out with weapons.” Getting qualified is the way the industry needs to go, says Morgan, adding that Left Field training is better than previous programmes, noticing a growth in confidence from the younger workers.

“I learnt a whole lot of stuff I didn’t know before. I have a different attitude and manners now,” says Jillian, who is new to the job. “I used to yell, but have been taught to restrain myself in situations – that’s what security has to do. I feel much safer having had the training. And the qualification helps a lot. I’m looking to do Level 3 next year. I keep asking!”

Peter has been working in security for 10 years. Before the course he said he knew he had difficulty with English, but now he says he understands more. “I know what to do and when to walk away,” he says. “At the hospital I’ve learnt how to calm people, what words to use that won’t scare the patient. And also the importance of body language.”

For Logan, who went straight into security from school, the most valuable aspect of the course has been learning new communication techniques, “With simple communication you turn things into a positive. Get people to agree with you and then you can give the instructions. Fine tuning your body language can also make a difference,” says Logan. He now uses these skills with his flatmates and has even sorted out a confrontation between neighbours!

Learning as a group helped the trainees get to know each other, including learning about different languages and religions. “There is laughter in the classroom. Gloria, our tutor, makes it fun. She’s even been out and done some shifts.” And as Gloria McGirr from Left Field Consulting says, “Courses like this raise the profile of what security is and it’s also a career path into other jobs in, for example civil aviation and security.”

The Skills Organisation, ITO for the security industry, are right behind the call for professionalisation and increased recognition of the value of the security workforce. “The Security Industry plays such an important part in our community, keeping us personally safe and protecting our business assets,” says Erica Quayle, Industry Manager for the security industry at the Skills Organisation. “Whilst supporting our learners to increase their literacy levels and preparing them with the skills and confidence needed to deal with the situations they face is a benefit for the individual learners, there are also huge benefits for their companies, clients and the wider community.”

Erica hopes to see more security companies supporting their staff with robust training and support programmes. “If this is done, the profile of the industry will rise and the skills required to keep us safe will one day be widely appreciated.”

“If you want to grow your business, pay staff more and train them well,” says Alex from Waiheke Documents and Security. “It’s hard to convince contractors of this, but they need to know. If you train staff you will get quality and they will stay. If you look after your staff and they feel respected then you are likely to keep them. Happiness produces performance.”