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Courses during covid

One of the many issues the security industry faced during the covid-19 pandemic was the need for training when the country was in a lockdown, Wilson Chowdhry of London-based guarding firm AA Security recalls.

Traditionally security training has been in a classroom and ‘guided’ hours had meant that you were in the presence of a teacher. Prior to the lockdown, online classes were simply unheard of and as a director of AA Security I found myself in the dilemma of being unable to train new officers, for several of our covid-19 security contracts over the lockdown.

That is until I received an email from Training for Security (TfS) who were offering online. Having not heard before I called up and asked them a whole raft of questions, mainly in my desire to ensure the courses were kosher. I contacted the SIA who confirmed that the courses were valid and thus began a very fruitful relationship.

Zoom at home
The course provision involves like so many other e-gatherings during the pandemic, the use of Zoom. This basically brought a pseudo-classroom into student homes by way of a qualified teacher who could present slides or be more interactive via a video link. Course timings were from 9am to 5.30pm every day, however on the first day students were required to start at 8.30am to allow for any teething problems setting up their connection and to get all the students through the necessary administration. It should be noted that identification documents in accordance with Security Industry Authority (SIA) rules and regulations and the Private Security Industry Act, was required to be sent via email to TfS. A passport-style photograph taken via a mobile phone had to be sent via email, with a copy of the student’s signature in black ink on a white piece of paper, which again would be captured by a mobile phone camera and sent to TfS.

The course itself was ‘blended’ consisting of three days online training and one day in what was labelled as a state-of-the-art training centre by the providers. Within the introductory email was a link to a English competency examination of 20 questions that students were informed had to be completed prior to the course. A high pass mark of 75pc; but students were able to retake the test more than once if required. Attached to the same email were several files:

– Acceptable Identification Form
– Emergency Contact Details Form
– Candidate User Guide for the Video Assisted eLearning Online Course
– Principles of Working in the Private security industry textbook; and workbook (this must be completed before the course)

Titled ‘Get Qualified at Home’, students were given two options for the training centre they would visit for examinations and practical sessions. One building was in Camden in London and the other in Gravesend, Kent. Students were also advised in the email, that the SIA had since April 21 made it compulsory that students on SIA courses held valid first aid qualifications with an expiry period of at least a year on the first day of their basic job training. Two of our recruits did not have a requisite first aid and though we had booked courses with only five days to go, we were very fortunate that TfS were able to accommodate both in classroom-based sessions at their London centre. They were very helpful throughout.

Our students received a further email asking them to arrange a 15-minute Zoom test ‘to ensure you are ready for the course’. During the test students went through the following process:

– Introduction to TfS’s course rules and principles;
– To confirm the Zoom app was working and to run through the basic operation;
– To confirm they were aware of the identification required; and
– To discuss any concerns about pre-course requirements

Going through this test was very beneficial to the students and they were all noticeably calmer after they had tried connecting. It can be daunting when trying to connect to a Zoom meeting, there is always the worry that a password is incorrect or the internet in your home is too weak, to name but a few. Moreover one of our candidates simply had not been on a Zoom meeting before but she described how relaxed her teacher Robert Cull was as he took his time ensuring she understood the important functions on the software.

A clear understanding also developed on the necessary ID required for all students.

Separately, students also received a further email which included a video assisted e-learning platform, for the ‘Principles of Working in the Private Security Industry’ module. Students had to find the time to complete the module and workbook before the start of the course, to satisfy a requirement of eight hours of distance learning towards their mandatory guided learning hours (GLH) for this accredited module.

This unit was modular and like most computer-based learning was a mix of videos and slides, though no Zoom teacher. Students could attempt each module three times but if they failed more than that they would be locked out. They would then have to call TfS to organise a reset and would have a total of three re-sets before they would be failed and required to repay for the course. All of our students passed the unit and found it extremely easy to navigate through. Students who had already taken an SIA approved course and were in possession of a certificate of completion, could be exempted from the distance learning and the module one exam.

The meticulous organisation even went as far as guiding students on the best computer browsers to use. Three were listed: Google Chrome, Safari and Mozilla Firefox.

Of course courses like these may not have been possible for everyone, the need for a laptop (with front-facing camera) and stable wif-fi and a smartphone, naturally excludes those without. We were fortunate that all our candidates had the right resources though we could have stepped in to provide facilities if required. There was also a rather concerning caveat written at the bottom of the initial email: ‘Please note it is your responsibility to ensure your internet speed and Zoom account is suitable for the course in its entirety and if for reasons beyond our control you cannot link onto the course, TfS will not be responsible for this and you may be required to pay to be moved to another course.” However, in fairness TfS were always available on the phone and when some of our students struggled, they were able to get appropriate help from their call centre. Moreover, none of our students were required to pay a fee to move to another course for this purpose.

On the day of the exam our students entered a well designed exam room with wide spaces for tables. During breaks between exams students were asked to stay in bubbles or to keep a minimum of 2m distance between each other if leaving the room. Better still our students have been extremely complimentary of an open terraced area that had a beautiful view. The exam room itself was large and airy a consequence of many open windows and doors levered to prevent covid-19 infection.

One of our students failed one of their three exams and had to re-sit. The cost was not too exorbitant and was able to be taken quite soon after the initial exam. After we paid for the re-test, our student was emailed the requisite module and was able to self-tutor for the follow-up exam. The student passed second time of trying and was even able to re-take online.

That was monitored via the internet using the front-facing camera of a laptop and the camera of the student’s smartphone to give a more panoramic view of the room and the student’s activity. Prior to the test the student also had to hold their smartphone before them and pan across all four corners of the room. We asked one of our students at AA Security about her experience:

“This was the first time I have taken an SIA exam and I was really worried about the difficulty of the course and daunted by the technical aspects of e-learning. Thanks to the excellent help of TFS’s trainers and admin staff the whole process was made very simple and I passed and am now qualified and licensed working in the security industry. The exams were quite tough but the delivery of the course was both interesting and convenient. Not having to travel to a training centre saved me time and money and helped me spend more time on daily revision. Moreover, there is nothing like the comfort of your own home to settle nerves and allow better absorption of learning.The fact that I stayed covid-19 free throughout the course has to be seen as a real positive as my brother has very poor health and is shielding.”

Of course TfS are not the only provider of e-learning for SIA courses but as a company that has utilised their services, I can find no reason to not recommend them to others.



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