In December 2017, Professional Security magazine interviewed the Skills for security chief executive, Peter Sherry, about all things learning.
All the bugbears of training – for one thing, that when a budget has to be cut, training is one of the first and easiest parts to cut – Peter Sherry knows about, because he sees and hears of it from employers. Security people as in any other sector may speak enthusiastically of training, but days and weeks pass with the rush of routine, and training is always something that you can put off until tomorrow – whether in your own career, or for a workforce. Or, a training provider gets buy-in from a HR department to deliver some training, only to find that it’s not enough; HR isn’t the only, or the right, department to get sign-off; the finance or operations director has to understand the benefits of training.
Training is going through change, as the Government brings in apprenticeship frameworks, ‘a series of work-related vocational and professional qualifications, with workplace- and classroom-based training’, to quote the Department for Education. Since April, firms with a turnover of more than £3m a year have to pay an ‘apprenticeship levy’. We last featured the midwinter morning seminars by Skills for Security and others to explain the change; and the concern raised by Mark Harding of Showsec wearing his UK Crowd Management Association hat, that apprenticeships wouldn’t work for, and would even harm, the stewarding sector. The UKCMA does also raise the oncoming shortage of trained event security staff; and private security is far from alone in the UK in identifying skills gaps. Peter believes these changes in how the UK goes about training people – not only school-leavers, but any new starters, and workers of any age – are right for the economy, employers, ‘and ultimately for learners’. Because as Peter says, the economy won’t prosper unless learners are allowed to develop new skills.
Peter’s been 20 years in training. He began – we met in a coffee shop in the delightful Cheshire town of Knutsford – with that old reason, or excuse, why employers may be shy of training staff; will they then leave? Peter answers his own question: better to train them appropriately, and pay them appropriately. As Peter says, employers may feel they are giving their contribution by investing in people; but that’s just part of the balance, he suggests: “You have to pay them a bit more and make them feel valued.” This then was an interesting view from someone in training; that not only in the security industry, employers should think about developing staff not only in terms of training, but a ‘package’, that includes pay, and a ‘career pathway’, to recall Security Institute chief exec Rick Mounfield in his speech to the ST17 Scotland event in September and featured in our October issue. All those things help an organisation to retain and develop the best people. Peter acknowledges a skills gap, that is likely to widen – here he mentions if continentals leave the UK workforce as a result of Brexit. Peter also speaks several times of the Richard Review. Professional Security nodded along, although we had not heard of it; later we read of Doug Richard’s review of apprenticeships, published in 2012 under the Coalition Government. That does show that skills gaps are not new; indeed, Professional Security recalled before Skills for Security, when it was called SITO, about 15 years ago that ‘Security Industry Training Organisation’ warned of security scrapping in a dwindling pool for workforce newcomers – their perspective then ending in about 2017. So, the problem is chronic; or is it that the UK and security in particular has managed?
The apprenticeship frameworks, that will develop into standards, and the levy are all to make training more employer-led, and to give employers a stake. This means training providers and colleges having to adapt; for one thing to a new body, the Education and Skills Funding Agency. Recently as Peter pointed out, the Government has proposed that 20 per cent of an apprenticeship should be ‘off the job’ training – not a bad thing, Peter thinks. Just as Doug Richard said at the publication of his review – everyone agrees that apprenticeships are a good thing – so Peter says from talking to employers that training is an integral part of their business. As for the (only human) putting off something you don’t need today, Peter speaks in terms of understanding your operational requirement and not necessarily going for a ‘big bang’; perhaps look at a section of your company, use that as a trial and a benchmark. Because you have to find out what type of training (in a classroom, on a tablet, a blend?) and who’s delivering it; and what are your measures of success. Peter makes the point that in some sectors, such as car-making, which is process-driven, it’s easy to roll out training; for others, it takes time and effort to understand benefits of training – in recruiting and retaining staff, for example.
An employer does not necessarily have to map a three-year apprenticeship standard from beginning to end, at the start, Peter says. He recalls that speaking with employers he may talk about ‘the journey’; an organisation may have learners on the same standard but learning in different ways. For those who wonder at the idea that the jobs of the next 20 years (or whenever) are not even invented yet, and we only have to think of our own working lives to think of the work and jobs created and destroyed – big data analysis, including video – surely, we cannot train people for what doesn’t exist yet! Peter puts an interesting stress on two standards, that are not particular to security: customer service; and team leader-supervisor. Those allow you to train someone specific to an organisation’s requirements. Training, then, is for making people become more productive; the benefit to the employer is in lower staff turnover, becoming an ‘employer of choice’, that wants staff to develop. By ‘customer’ the standard not only means someone the other side of the counter, but perhaps an internal customer, another department you deal with. You train someone as a museum or gallery security officer, and he or she may develop an interest or show a talent for back-office admin; or some other part of the workplace; isn’t that fine, if the person moves departments, as the employer is keeping the experienced staff, and the employee is developing their career? “For me, every organisation should take responsibility for their own recruitment, training and retention; it should be about how do we recruit the best people, how do we train them in the best way, how do we actually retain them over a period of time.” Peter doesn’t deny there can be chronic skills shortages in a sector; and yet, there are organisations that don’t feel that.
This article was first published in Professional Security Magazine and is reproduced with permission.