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Guarding

Wilson Chowdry on SIA training changes

In 2005 when I was regularly attending SIA Approved Contractor forums and conferences, I sought the introduction of first aid and counter Terrorism as mandatory training units for security personnel, writes Wilson Chowdry, director of the guarding firm AA Security, based in London.

I even raised the matter when I spoke at an IFSEC conference in 2009, but support for such training was not ubiquitous in the industry and the concept fell in the main on deaf ears. I and many others had also suggested that searches should be taught through practical role play, using where possible physical search equipment to familiarise officers in a practice that was becoming increasingly essential during heightened levels of terrorism. The practice employed by many training providers was to simply have students reading search techniques from a manual, some would explain it during a classroom session or ask one student to stand-up as they demonstrated a search.

Having attained a Level 4 Certificate in Adult Learning under the City and Guilds 7407 qualification, I ensured that AA Security had chosen a more in-depth, scenario-based training search lesson structure and it yielded very competent officers able to cope with multiplying requests from clients for searches to be included within our assignment instructions. It was bemusing that officers who joined us for some of the other companies in our industry, had not been trained in the same manner. This left us with the dilemma of burgeoning deployment delays, course scheduling burden and of course inevitable fiscal costs. So when the SIA finally made a decision to overhaul the basic job training courses for the various disciplines within our industry, I was pleased to see that changing corporate views from 2018-2019 when the SIA was consulting on the potential new training regime, had resulted in the incorporation of all the above and more.

The changing view in the industry came about as many conscientious businesses like AA had already created their own internal training centre and were doing the above already. It seems to me that in doing so their desire to see a level playing field had risen. Many of these conscientious companies had made first aid training compulsory for officers employed by them. AA had been one of the very early companies accredited to Skills for Security and had our own training centre at which the training was provided, generously funded by the former Learning and Skills Council. We recognised the lone worker function of many deployed security officers and giving them the ability to care for a wound to themselves while alone, could enable them to save their own lives. Besides the course provided many clients with some peace of mind that in an accident situation someone additional to their own first aid team, could handle the ensuing melee with a calm demeanour before their fully qualified first-aider or took over the situation. A first aid course itself is highly regulated (hence the advice given on selecting a provider by the SIA) and requires significant cognitive learning. The courses are examined through a lot of role play and scenario-based training and a mini exam. Putting the wrong candidates through the course will result in misery, students must be competent in English and have the courage to cope with peer assessment.

Personally, I think such training ensures candidates for the industry are suitable and match the desired qualities of a good security officer. Besides, our industry is better off with officers that can offer the ability to care for those injured and save lives. What we are developing is an industry that will gain the trust of corporations and the public because we become valuable assets and ostensibly care about others. What covid-19 has done for community bridge-building such training may well do more corporately.

It actually beggars belief, that the door supervision industry was not subject to such training many years ago. The very nature of their work and the injuries they must see on a daily basis, not only to visitors and staff at the venues they protect but themselves, suggests that this training will be a godsend. The fact that close protection training has incorporated first aid training since April 2020 does raise questions about why door supervisors were not required to do so in tandem, but why get pedantic. But I digress, for sure these three facets were raised by myself and other industry professionals in the early 2000s but there is way more that the new SIA training guidelines have introduced. Some of it initially seemed unreasonably anal, such as practical assessments for report-statement writing and when I recently renewed my licence, I found that few people made any errors when completing this task. However, I am aware that in the course of running AA we have of course had to provide tool box talks on daily occurrence log and incident report writing. So to some degree I can see the usefulness in this element of the course. Especially as if anything it will allow assessors to highlight were students may not have the necessary English skills to professionally take up a role in our industry.

It did not seem to me however, that this practical element required assessment of the written English. Moreover, opportunities to rewrite the forms did exist so my guess is that the requirement is that by the end of the course an officer can complete the example, which in my opinion does not really improve the ability to replicate this understanding on another template. Considering the various styles and concepts for such reports within the industry, I can’t see this learning addition creates any palpable new skill. Existing companies will still have to ensure their supervisors are checking that reports are written clearly and correctly. Security contractors will still be required to ensure their paperwork is completed to the standards they expect and will refresh learning where necessary. Such practice should remain the remit of a good company induction rather than incorporated into our BJTs [basic job training], that’s my subjective view but based on my own objective analysis over 27 years in the industry.

There has also been the addition of learning associated with the use of communication devices. One of the benefits of this learning is a chance to see how many operatives have learnt the phonetic alphabet before the end of the course. Of course monitoring a security recruit’s practice on the use of radios is another chance to see how confident they are and allows another assessment of their English competence two essential traits for security officers. Though their English is of course not an assessment criteria. Most two-way radios function in the same way and to be honest, this learning does have some value. So this was a definite positive addition and it seems that the SIA have been listening to the industry.

There have been several additions to sector-specific content and on their website, the SIA allude to a provided list of changes, they wrote:
the close protection course includes new material on physical intervention
the door supervision course includes new material on the use of equipment such as body worn video recorders and breathalysers
the public space surveillance (CCTV) course includes new material on CCTV operational procedures and the law
the guarding course includes new material covering personal safety.

It would be hard to disagree with any of these new additions, they all seem productive and industry enhancing. Even better we have now moved away from a 40-question multiple choice exam to at least three for every course and each of those have 75 questions. Coupled with the practical assessments I get the feeling that these courses are being designed to change recruitment patterns and are not simply meant to enhance professionalism in the industry. For certain the more difficult exam structure and assessment process will reduce chaff in the industry and make our industry less appealing to those who think the exam is an easy pass. The new courses and the requirement for a pre-requisite First Aid at Work have been rolled out since April however licence holders will not need to complete a new course until they renew – unless you renew before October 2021. If you are applying for the first time or have not held a licence in any discipline for which you are applying to the SIA for three years, you do now have to comply with the new training regime.

More about this can be read on the Government website: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/changes-to-the-training-you-need-for-an-sia-licence.

For security professionals who want to enhance their knowledge of Counter Terrorism Awareness there is now free training available via the Government website –
https://www.gov.uk/government/news/act-awareness-elearning.

The course covers the same material as is provided in the BJT training for Security Operatives and Door Supervisors and is definitely useful to watch in preparation for your examinations, or for those who are exempt from the new training regime as they will be renewing their license before October 31. The following e-learning lodules are available:
Introduction to terrorism
Identifying security vulnerabilities
How to identify and respond to suspicious behaviour
How to identify and deal with a suspicious item
What to do in the event of a bomb threat
How to respond to a firearms or weapons attack
Summary and supporting materials

I welcome the new training regime and all that is promises for our industry. I believe with the requirements for client specific training, such as CSCS Construction Related Operator training, London Underground Safety Induction Scheme training and Personal Track safety training for the rail industry to name but a few, that our industry will improve. Improved training has always had such an effect. But like for many security professionals, this enhanced programme only serves to exacerbate a long-held bugbear I have with the SIA. The fact remains that when the SIA was formed in 2003 they made a crucial error in judgement and that faux pas has never been rectified.

The SIA licensing scheme has from the outset ignored the in-house security industry. The SIA continues with this stance stating that there is no conclusive evidence that performance in the in-house security sphere is not inferior to the licensed security industry. In saying that, they not only undermine the licensing element of their work but in many ways question their very existence. Besides, I provided some evidence of substantiated risk to the contrary of their opinion way back in 2009:

https://www.professionalsecurity.co.uk/news/news-archive/an-in-house-opinion/

If it is simply improved learning that we the security industry needs then Skills for Security, the UK’s security sector skills body could surely fulfil that function. There are many consultative bodies in the industry to help design standards for the industry such as IPSA and the BSIA and if all that goes into the licensing of a security officer is of no value in the in-house sector then why subject the rest of us to the onerous cost of licensing. The argument that in-house teams generally comply with the same rules albeit without the licence does not fit well with me. I don’t believe for one second that the SIA can prove that all in-house teams provide first aid training and counter-terrorism training, nor are such teams obliged to do so while they sit outside the licensing regime.

There lies my problem with this ongoing fiasco, the only way to resolve this unfair advantage to in house provision, especially with the new additional training costs our industry is facing, is to create a level playing field. Not only does broader licensing remove the opportunity for interpretation flaws and insouciance within managers of in-house teams. But it will result in more contracts being provided to long suffering private sector companies, who have been forced to pay the extra costs involved for operating under the SIA.

Pictured: building site protected by AA Security.


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