Ciaran Barry, Group Operations Director at Linx International Group, analyses the regulations in force in security in the UK and how a range of initiatives in security training and qualifications is supporting the professionalisation of the sector.
Security touches every part of our lives and livelihoods, yet there is still confusion amongst many outside the sector over the professional qualifications and standards being offered when it comes to engaging with security providers.
Sometimes unfairly seen as a secondary career choice, private security professionals deserve far more respect. To help address this, we need to continue raising standards and promoting the professionalism of our practitioners to correct any misconceptions.
Whilst many people in the security industry proudly demonstrate impressive professionalism and the Security Industry Authority (SIA) enforces compulsory licensing of individuals undertaking designated activities, there is far less regulation in the UK than the public might imagine.
There are significant sections of the industry that aren’t obliged to be licensed, relying instead on self-regulation. This is in marked contrast to other parts of the world such as Dubai, where anyone (at any level) who carries out private security work must be licensed by law. To address this, the UK security industry has already put its own schemes in place.
For example, the Register of Chartered Security Professionals (CSyP) enforces a Code of Conduct and a Professional Disciplinary Code, and registrants must undertake continuing professional development training each year, making it the gold standard of competence in security.
The Register for Certified Technical Security Professionals (CTSP), which launched in September 2017, has been very successful in publicly demonstrating individuals’ competency and qualifications. The SIA also manages the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme, which measures private security suppliers against independently assessed criteria.
Without Government and legal enforcement, there will inevitably be gaps in the regulation of some parts of the UK security industry. We must encourage and foster an expectation (both inside our industry and by the public) that security professionals should display their qualifications openly.
This is already the case in other industries. For instance, when looking for a gas appliance fitter you would insist they were on the Gas Safe Register. Businesses looking to employ security professionals should expect the same: if you aren’t registered with CTSP or SIA to openly show your expertise, why should anyone hire you?
Wider understanding of security
Raising awareness of professional security standards is only part of the equation; there also needs to be greater public awareness of security needs and the responsibility of organisations and individuals for this.
Excellent initiatives such as Project Griffin and Project Argus are educating the commercial sector and the general public, highlighting that security affects and must involve all members of the community. Employers need to ensure staff are appropriately trained/qualified and security measures are practised.
There is also an increasing interest in security measures, awareness and training from those outside the traditional security role. Due to demand from a demographic that is new to security training, we have introduced an online Essential Security Practices course. This is specifically designed for those who increasingly find security tasks added to their professional remit and need help to understand what the core principles really are.
At the same time, this makes it more important than ever for dedicated security professionals to be recognised for the qualifications and skills they offer. As the lines blur between, say, IT or FM roles and the security needs of an organisation, it’s vital that employers also understand the significant differences.
Undoubtedly, security professionals need to build trust with their clients and internal stakeholders, right across the business. The UK Government shows no sign of increasing mandatory regulation of the security sector, so it’s up to the industry to instil and maintain this trust itself.
One of the best ways to raise professional standards is through education, testing and certification. This openly demonstrates adherence to accepted and measured practices and standards from industry-recognised providers.
This approach must include the whole industry, not just certain parts of it. Third party contractors, installers and integrators all need to be trained and knowledgeable, not just in their specific areas, but also over a more general security remit. The context in which they are carrying out their particular role is essential to the overall security landscape.
Security should be part of the bigger picture in any organisation. This means using key skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration, creativity and innovation along with sound commercial awareness to ensure security is mindful of its deliverables.
We, as security professionals, have a responsibility to ensure every role in the industry, from security guard to security director, has a vocational pathway that enables people to demonstrate the skills, knowledge and experience necessary to fulfil their role to the very best of their ability.
Cairn Barry, Group Operations Director, Linx International Group