Secure your future … with a career in an industry to which many Service leavers find themselves very well suited. Planning ahead with relevant qualifications now could see you sitting pretty in a civvy security role when the time comes.
Many people protect themselves, their families, their businesses and their property by employing security companies to safeguard them against criminal and terrorist threats. Security is high on the UK agenda (at home and abroad) and, as a result, the market is strong and expanding, and offers a host of roles – as outlined in this feature – if you are looking to work in this diverse sector. The various areas of the security industry offer a wide range of employment opportunities. Examples include static and mobile security guards, store security officers, security alarm fitters, locksmiths and specialist dog handlers, as well as security management roles perhaps suited to graduates or postgraduates.
Skill up while serving
A survey of British Security Industry Association (BSIA) members revealed that the private security industry can offer an ideal career path for ex-Forces personnel, with almost 90% of respondents confirming that they already have, or have had, ex-Forces personnel working within their organisation. Private security is an exciting and growing industry, boasting a variety of different occupations across an array of specialities, and almost all of the survey respondents believed that ex-Forces personnel make suitable candidates for these roles. When asked what qualities make them so ideal for the industry, more than half of respondents felt that the discipline gained from being in the Forces made them most suitable, while others thought an astute awareness of security threats would also be beneficial. Motivation, alertness and an understanding of the array of security specifications across clients were also considered positive attributes.
Discussing the career paths that would be most fitting, all respondents felt that a role as a close protection (CP) operative or security officer would be most suitable. Interestingly, everyone also agreed that candidates would transition well into a supervisory role. Other suitable roles included research and development, CCTV operator and security installer – highlighting just how varied the industry is.
TRANSLATE YOUR SKILLS
The personal qualities employers look for when selecting people to work in security, and which are then developed during training, are highly relevant, and you may well possess many of them already. You will need to be:
physically fit, and
able to patrol an area, take note of what you see and write a report.
The following skills are also vital:
the ability to work as part of a team
ability to react to the unexpected
KEY ATTRIBUTES AND SKILLS FOR A SECURITY OFFICER
Ability to deal with people
Looking after visitors
Driving (useful in some, but not all, jobs)
The major security organisations
The main UK security organisations are the Security Industry Authority (SIA), the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) (the trade association for the professional security industry) and, working alongside the BSIA, Skills for Security, the skills and standards-setting body for the sector. If you are thinking of ultimately working in one of the following sectors you will need an SIA licence (see below):
• manned guarding, including
- cash and valuables in transit
- close protection
- door supervision
- public space surveillance (CCTV)
- security guarding
• key holding
• immobilisation, restriction and removal of vehicles.
You can find full details of licence types, and licensable roles and activities on the SIA website. This is the best source of in-depth and up-to-date information on the qualifications, licensing and training required to work in this industry.
The SIA’s current licence application fee is £190 for a three-year licence, except for front-line vehicle immobiliser licences, where the fee is £190 for a one-year licence. If you need more than one licence, the second licence will be discounted by 50%.
For further details and to start your application, click here.
Job roles in the security industry
If you’re thinking of a job in security when the time comes for you to leave the Forces, here are some of the roles you might like to consider …
Static and mobile security guards
Most security is carried out by static guards who patrol premises, and use CCTV and surveillance equipment. They will probably have radios, and may combine security with gate control and reception duties. Some will use dogs. Mobile guards use vans to patrol a number of establishments, while cash-in-transit guards protect money and other valuables.
Store security officers
Store security officers usually work more than 40 hours a week, Monday to Saturday, sometimes operating in plain clothes as store detectives. They check for shoplifting, that delivery contents are correct, and deal with general emergencies such as sick customers and lost children. To work in this field, you would need good interpersonal skills, and the ability to produce written reports and give evidence in any case of theft where you have made a citizen’s arrest.
KEY ATTRIBUTES AND SKILLS FOR A SECURITY OFFICER
Ability to deal with people
Looking after visitors
Driving (useful in some, but not all, jobs)
Security alarm fitters
Security alarm fitters install and maintain systems that have ideally been planned by a trained surveyor. They have to make good any damage, and could be working anywhere from a small private house to a modern office block. They work normal weekday hours with some requirement for overtime, jobs at weekends and response to emergency call-outs. Much of their work involves cramped conditions and working at heights.
Locksmiths install and maintain security devices, including locks and safes, in commercial and private premises. They cut keys and can often work closely with security alarm specialists. They often provide a 24-hour call-out service.
Specialist dog handling
As well as the dogs used to patrol premises alongside ‘static’ security guards, another facet of security work that can offer a range of opportunities is specialist dog handling – e.g. working with a ‘sniffer’ dog. In partnership with a correctly trained dog, this kind of employment can include explosive device and narcotic detection, and searching for cash, bodies, firearms, oil leaks and even SIM cards. Work with a search and rescue dog might range from earthquake zones at one end of the scale to searching for lost hill walkers at the other. Sniffer dog handlers can work worldwide. For example, in recent years private-sector search teams have routinely been used in conflict areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan to support the military and to help with private companies rebuilding damaged infrastructure. The nature of this work relies on the handler being flexible, confident, dedicated and willing to learn, as well as having core skills such as being able to work safely using their own initiative, but being able to work as part of a team, too – all skills that are well-established for ex-Service people. Working hours vary from a basic 35-hour week to several consecutive days when overseas, depending on what each client needs. Rates of pay can differ according to location, duration and complexity of work. An appropriate SIA course (see above) is a requirement to work in the civilian sector.
Security management roles
Graduates and postgraduates
Security managers need to have organisational and management skills, a knowledge of law and criminology, an acquaintance with risk theory and the ability to conduct a risk analysis. They should also know the principles of physical security and information security; they need to be familiar with computer security and contingency planning, and must be able to communicate their ideas professionally. Many employers look for a postgraduate qualification. Security industry-specific qualifications, up to master’s level, demonstrate knowledge of the relevant aspects of security and management, and give the individual personal and professional confidence.
If you are considering a role in security, there are many courses that will give you directly applicable training; others offer invaluable background/supporting information and skills, which will be viewed by potential employers as worthwhile additional knowledge in this area (see ‘How to stand out from the crowd’, below).
When it comes to resettlement, a range of intruder alarm and security systems installation courses are available. Modules start at the most basic level, moving through intruder alarms to access control and CCTV, and should provide sufficient knowledge to allow you to visit premises and quote for contracts. For the manned guarding sector, there are also specialised programmes to prepare Service leavers for all sectors of this field. In addition, there are security management courses available if you wish to convert your security and management expertise into a recognised qualification.
For specialist dog work, ex-military dog handlers/trainers will find it easier to gain a route into this sector, but it is possible, with the right aptitude and training, for people from other Service roles to succeed in this area, too.
As noted above, the SIA offers licence-linked qualifications, bringing training up to date and implementing a modular structure. The specifications reflect current industry best practice so that those working, or wishing to work, in security undergo good basic training for their specific role. Again, see the SIA website for detailed, current information.
Members of the Training Providers Section of the BSIA have extensive knowledge of the basic training requirements for those wishing to work in security, and can be a great source of advice for those researching training for their roles. Courses can be taken in areas such as CCTV, alarms, access control, door supervision, control room operations and management training, offering a comprehensive range of state-of-the-art equipment to learn on and professionally qualified tutors with real-world experience of the industry.
As mentioned above, Skills for Security develops standards and training for the industry. A list of the national occupational standards that have been approved to date can be accessed via its website. As well as vocational qualifications, it has also co-developed industry-led apprenticeship and advanced apprenticeship programmes.
Example course options
Short (one day to two weeks) courses in, say, health and safety, fire risk assessment, fire safety, search training, physical intervention, substance awareness, handcuffing, survival training, hostile environment awareness training, defence techniques, detecting deceit, and understanding stewarding at spectator events, will give you good background knowledge before you progress to more in-depth, specific training. Some courses, such as health and safety, can be undertaken online, and may require just a few hours of study (including an assessment of your understanding). Costs can vary, as many of the courses are privately run, but can start from about £50.
Next comes a range of relatively short part-time further education courses, giving you a recognised qualification, which would then allow you to progress to a higher level of study. One example is an NVQ level 3 in providing security, emergency and alarm systems, which could take between six months and two years to complete. Many of these courses have flexible study options, so you could, if you prefer, study them intensively, full-time, over a period of four or five weeks. For some courses at this level, you may be expected to have undertaken a First Aid at Work course and/or have an SIA licence (see above). Costs typically start at around £250.
Moving further towards higher education, BTEC level 4 courses begin to encompass some of the management roles within the sector. For example, a BTEC in Security Management is likely to provide a comprehensive insight into topics such as the role of the manager, current/key legislation, security technology, crime management and prevention, and instigating crime reduction initiatives. A course like this would typically cost around £2,000 and could be undertaken intensively over several days of full-time study.
A foundation degree within a related security topic (e.g. security risk management) may count towards a BA or master’s. That said, if you can prove that you have gained relevant experience while in uniform, you may be able to move straight on to study at master’s level. It’s always worth checking and making your Service experience explicit when you are researching courses.
Security practitioners in management positions need their abilities to be understood clearly by employers, who have inevitably been confused by the mix of qualifications, experience and professional affiliations available. For this reason, the Security Institute (SyI) has developed a programme to assess security management experience, academic qualifications, vocational qualifications and contributions to the security profession through an independent professional validation board, which can award three grades of membership (Associate, Member and Fellow). The criteria considered are:
- work experience, including roles and areas of responsibility
- qualifications, including academic security-related and non security-related
- training, including non-examination vocational and non-vocational courses
- other contributions, such as publications written, and participation in projects and work outside direct employment.
Look around and compare what different courses have to offer. Most importantly, seek advice from anyone you know who is already working in the sector and find out who are the most respected training providers. It is important to consider course content carefully before spending hard-earned money, and to seek advice on the training that will suit your background and expectations. Finally, try to attend security seminars and briefings where you can meet others already working in the sector, and the companies who are likely to employ or subcontract to you in future.
Gaining additional qualifications in health and safety, or enhanced medical qualifications such as Medicine in Remote Areas (MiRA), which is endorsed by the Royal College of Surgeons, or Responding to Emergency Medical Incidents and Trauma (REMIT), will make you more attractive to both employers and clients.
The First Person on Scene (FPOS) qualification is particularly useful, too. It will give you the skills and knowledge you need to be able to provide immediate care in the first few minutes of an emergency or life-threatening situation. It is valid for three years and periodic retraining is recommended in order to keep skills up to date. The course is usually delivered over five days.
Away from medicine and first aid, consider enhancing your skills and knowledge in other areas too, such as project management (PRINCE2 or equivalent) or risk management.
Being a holder of additional qualifications such as those discussed above will help enormously in promoting you as a highly skilled, diverse and employable security professional, enabling you to demonstrate to potential employers that you have more than an SIA licence, have invested in yourself and developed beyond the general baseline of industry requirements.
Use your ELC
Under the ELC scheme, a wide range of learning can be taken, provided it is offered by an approved provider listed on the ELC website and is at level 3 or above. For full details of how to make the most of your ELC, refer to the in-depth features elsewhere on this website.
SECURE NEW SKILLS
The SIA says it is constantly exploring ways to support licence applicants, recognising that training is a key area of concern. It has piloted remote training for some licence-linked qualifications, with a view to rolling this out more widely. For the latest updates, visit the SIA website: www.gov.uk/sia
As always, it is important to keep working on your employability and there are many courses you can take online, wherever in the world you are based, to ensure you keep adding to your skill-set.
What can you earn?
Because of the wide range of job opportunities available in this industry it is difficult to offer specific information about rates of pay – although it is generally true to say that larger organisations tend to offer broader benefits but with lower basic pay, while smaller firms compete by offering higher pay but fewer benefits. Starting salaries may be comparatively low, but increase with training and experience, and there are opportunities to earn considerably more for operating advanced equipment and working in high-risk situations. Overtime is likely to increase the overall value of any package.