The new protective security apprenticeship brings a converged approach
With an ever-evolving threat landscape, can the four disciplines of protective security continue to be taught and operate in silos? The new Level 4 Protective Security Apprenticeship brings the change needed.
The security sector has a wealth of talented individuals striving to make a difference in their area of expertise. Often these talented and resilient individuals must forge their own pathway, investing heavily in their own professional development to enable career progression.
That said, the pathways from operational to strategic roles within the sector are littered with challenges and barriers. Through no fault of their own, individuals struggle to progress in the field they are so passionate about, they become disillusioned, and the sector loses another talented individual.
The lack of a clear development pathway hinders the sector from being recognised as a ‘profession’. There are undoubtably many, potentially the majority of practitioners, who would attest to being a professional. Yet the sector struggles to demonstrate its professional traits and is often viewed unfavourably by the public when compared to with recognised professions such as lawyers, accountants and health care professionals.
Currently, there is no formally recognised pathway from entry level to strategic positions and this is reflected in offered courses at entry level to those at under/postgraduate – this potentially hinders progression and impacts the wider push towards professionalisation. Furthermore, what might the pathway look like, given the diverse range of roles and specialisms that exist? Coupled to these concerns is that current training offerings differs between training provider – some training providers are good, whilst some ‘need development’.
The sector also lacks a common shared understanding, there is no common ‘Body of Knowledge’. For example, technical security has a different meaning between those working in government security and those within the private sector. Personnel and people security also has a different understanding, with many simply believing that this starts and ends with pre-employment checks. In reality ‘persec’ is far more than this.
In essence, the sector would benefit from a base level of competence for those providing protective security solutions across the four pillars of physical, personnel, technical and cyber. Understanding these core elements would facilitate the swift assimilation of those coming into the sector from a another career.
So what are we doing about this?
The Protective Security Centre, National Protective Security Authority (NPSA), National Authority for Counter Eavesdropping (UK NACE), National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), Government Security Profession, private sector organisations and representatives from academia have formed a Trailblazer group to develop a new apprenticeship standard, the Level 4 Protective Security Apprenticeship.
What’s different about this apprenticeship?
The four major disciplines of protective security – physical, personnel, technical and cyber – often operate in silos in the real world, with different teams, under different management, focusing on proprietary risks. However, effective protective security risk management highlights the need for converged solutions to deliver mitigation.
The pace of technological change provides adversaries with an ever-increasing range of attack opportunities. Without a converged approach to protective security, gaps are created between the security disciplines, which in turn expose vulnerabilities that adversaries will actively seek to exploit.
“Converged security threats require a converged security and risk mitigation approach adopting a single overview of the risk.” (Schneller, Porter, and Wakefield, 2022)
What is security convergence?
Security convergence replaces the term ‘holistic security’, focusing on the deployment of multi-disciplines uniting security professionals to enable a more complete overview of security. Security convergence aims to remove organisational silos to share information and deploy appropriate mitigations to identified threats.
The development of a converged Protective Security Apprenticeship will look to address the identified gaps, providing the new generation of security professionals with the skills, knowledge and competences required to deliver a converged and effective approach to protective security.
The Trailblazer group is working to develop an apprenticeship that will provide the fundamentals of protective security and lay the foundations towards security convergence. Delegates can then specialise in their chosen field with an understanding of how the other three disciplines dovetail to provide security convergence.
Who is the apprenticeship aimed at?
The apprenticeship will not be designed for a specific role; its aim is to provide a base level of competence following the approach taken by other professions.
The apprenticeship will focus on:
- Upskilling existing staff
- Supporting those entering the sector as a first career
- Developing those entering the sector as a second career
This apprenticeship will shape the future leaders in the field of protective security.
The apprenticeship will also facilitate an easier crossover between public and private sector, providing individuals with a wider variety of career choices and opportunities.
The Trailblazer group is currently developing the apprenticeship standard and we expect that the apprenticeship will be deliverable by spring/summer 2025.
What can you do to support?
We would encourage organisations to adopt this apprenticeship as good practice. This would identify those organisations adopting the apprenticeship as exemplars of protective security, as we strive towards security convergence and status as a profession.
Rob Kennedy BA (Hons), MSc, CSyP, FSyI
Government Security Adviser
Protective Security Centre, Home Office
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