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Webinar: security as a career choice

Influences on security as a career choice was the title of the latest Security Research Initiative (SRI) study, launched today; yet it was striking from the launch webinar how much, inside and outside the industry, touches on that topic.

Charlotte Howell of the consultancy Perpetuity Research, who worked on the SRI report beside consultancy founder and webinar host Prof Martin Gill made the point that while everyone may think of security as guarding, there are so many different aspects to security; and a lot of interest in technology, and cyber. There are things that can be done to raise awareness of what security looks like, and what security is actually for. The two invited speakers on the webinar likewise spoke of industry efforts to make security more of a choice (as a first and second career) – David Scott, of Skills for Security; and Rick Mounfield, chief of the Security Institute.

David Scott spoke of getting to a younger audience – of school- and college-leavers. He suggested ‘myth buster’ marketing material for such leavers. “I think we have the tools to get that information out there to the right people,” such as the World Skills UK event (pre-pandemic, run at the NEC annually) and the UK Government Kickstart programme (looking to place 16- to 24-year-olds in jobs).

As David told the webinar, it can be highlighted that security is exciting ‘and not just standing on a door’; ‘it’s much more diverse and varied’. David added that he was looking to take advantage of the SRI research, which can be freely downloaded (like earlier SRI studies) from the Perpetuity Research website.

Rick Mounfield also spoke of how to make young people aware of security as a possible career, raising the uniformed services courses at some colleges, for teenagers looking to enter whether the police, Navy or Army and related fields. Rick mooted a similar course, based around security as a career, ‘that highlights all the diverse opportunities’. Going into more detail, he suggested two work-streams – one for college students, going into security as a vocational study, and for the more academically capable, STEM subjects, including engineering and cyber.

Rick also spoke of work to be done in early years education, to show security’s place in society. He recalled a speaker at the recent week-long Institute virtual conference, the security science academic Dr David Brooks of Edith Cowan University in Australia, who spoke of registrations for a security-intelligence course as overwhelmingly female; while a technical security course was booked by young men. Is that, Rick asked, because at school boys are still encouraged to play with bricks and building blocks, while girls are encouraged to think and do things deemed more feminine? If so, that has to be addressed at a much earlier age than college, ‘because it is a wider educational problem’.

Relating a question from the webinar audience, Prof Martin Gill mentioned the front-line security person; and the sense that they ar low-paid and unskilled. David Scott agreed with the point, adding that there was so much good work going on in the industry on that point; but fragmented. The good work being apprenticeships, and the taking into the sector of college leavers as trainees; and programmes of the sort Rick Mounfield talked about. As soon as such programmes grow, David said, and trainees progress into full-time employment, that builds a definite career path, he said.

Martin Gill brought into the discussion a more general point, as shown in the SRI research, about opportunities for those in mid-career; namely, that security offers a diverse diverse, more diverse than the police and military; and can be more lucrative than the police or military; and offers a chance to serve the public directly, in challenging environments, which you can influence and control.

To that Rick Mounfield added that people are motivated by different things; not always by money. People may join the security industry, like the police and military, because they want to provide a service; and to be valued and respected, which makes for a pride in what they do, and is a ‘retention tool’. It’s then for supervisers and managers (as in whatever sector, besides security) to mentor and lead, to help individuals achieve what they want to.

As Rick was saying, careers are not only a choice for each person, but ‘it’s a leadership issue’, requiring mentoring in each workplace, for keeping people aware of what opportunities there are, and keeping people engaged in their work. Martin Gill agreed, clarifying that his point had been to dispel the myth that security is low-paid; a myth which, he admitted, can be off-putting.

The next SRI project – and work has already begun – is on the impact of covid-19. As with previous SRI work, an online survey will be followed by interviews for a report to be released in autumn 2021. Visit https://perpetuityresearch.com/security-research-initiative/.

More reading

The webinar will be uploaded to the ‘Security and Crime’ YouTube Channel; https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC3ZsgjtdPBgJzs5yVzT-Lgw/featured. A summary of the session is on the OSPAs website; https://theospas.com/recap-the-thought-leadership-webinars/.


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