As part of what I am trying to accomplish with this blog, is to give ordinary people an insight and better understanding of security related subjects. A large part of public and private security is driven by services that are being provided by private security companies. They provide essential services not only to businesses but also to the public, like the transit of cash to every store, ATM and banks for example, watching over our safety at large events, or in shopping malls, protecting staff in hospitals. As I stated in my opening post, the government simply can’t provide effective protection to everyone at all times and this is where the private security industry fills that demand and it has been doing so already for a very long time, security is probably one of the oldest professions of all.
Unfortunately, it has never been valued very much in society and it remains underestimated till today. In times of uncertainty, high crime rates, violence and random bloody attacks, constant threat of this new type of terrorism, we should appreciate the effort of these people to provide safety, law and order. But fact is, that many people don’t really know what security guards do, that they are there because of them, for the safety of customers and not to annoy or limit your fun. The services they provide are important and we all benefit from it. The security guards on the entrance of your office building are not only there to protect the company’s property, they are also there to protect the company’s employees, to watch over their safety and well being and a normal functioning of everyday business.
Working as a security guard
It is a circle that starts with the mentioned lack of recognition and respect for this profession and it continues on every level. Security guards usually work under difficult conditions for a low salary. As many security services are provided on a 24/7 base, they often have to work long 12 hr shifts, some work night shifts as well, or sometimes even only at night, weekends and holidays as per schedule, just like any other public service, but for far less money. The salaries usually start at the very low end, from £8/hour here in the UK, and it’s the same all over the world.
Why is that so, since both the industry and the government obviously has recognized their need and their services are always is in demand? The biggest problem is that people think that security is an “unskilled” profession, meaning that just anyone without any special education or skills can do it. That is true only to some point as the job itself is very challenging and demanding, but the missing recognized qualifications is definitely a short come of the security industry itself. The profession is strictly regulated by SIA, the Security Industry Authority and security guards, door supervisors, CCTV operators, close protection officers, they all need to have licenses in order to be able to work in this professions. The entry requirements are that one can’t have any criminal record, than he/she has to complete a mandatory training and successfully pass a knowledge test in order to acquire a license. Any misconduct, even outside of work, might not only cause them to lose their job, but also the license itself.
The diverse skill set a security guard actually needs in order to perform successfully in his/her job includes for example knowing the legislation that applies to their work, as mistakes can easily result in law suits that might harm themselves, the company they work for as well as the clients reputation. Observation skills and knowledge about crimes and other threats from natural disasters to terrorism are their bread and butter. Psychology and effective communication skills are required to understand human behavior and to successfully de-escalate and resolve conflicts peacefully. They also need the physical skills to prevent and stop any conflict escalation without getting customers and their visitors hurt and trying to keep the damage low. Compared to other jobs on that low wage level, these requirements are actually very demanding and everything listed so far is only for the lowest level! The job is also risky as security guards often have to deal with intoxicated and violent individuals or groups and are regularly exposed to verbal and physical abuse at work, even lethal attacks with knifes. According to a study carried out by the industries union GMD, security guards have a 25% shorter life expectancy of 61.9 years, compared to the average in the UK 81.4 years. This is probably relate to the high stress levels they are exposed to and the working conditions in general.
Career building in this industry?
As being said, the industry has unfortunately missed to introduce a proper entry qualification at the level of an apprenticeship or at least a recognized level 3 qualification, but on the other hand there are some opportunities that candidates with some ambitions can opt for. Every company has to have supervisor, shift and team leader positions, and there are also specialized jobs in the field that are far more demanding, like cash in transit or close protection. A level 3 qualification is required for close protection officers, but that is certainly not for everyone. This and other qualifications like security management for example, are also a serious investment for someone who is paid only around £20.000 per year. It is therefore very difficult for anyone working in this industry to break free from the chains of low income and an unregulated educational pathway.
So, why is it that you would need to know all that? Because I want you to see the person behind the job next time you come across a security guard. They are hardworking individuals with very challenging jobs, watching over our safety and dealing on daily base with tricky and often unpleasant or even dangerous situations that ignorant and rude people throw at them. They are getting insulted, verbally abused and physically attacked on a regular base and yet they welcome every customer with a smile and a welcoming “how can I help you?”. Something that deserves respect and gratitude and whilst we can’t influence how the market is regulated and how much these people earn, we can certainly make up for some of it with friendliness and understanding.