As the Global Security Director for the services contractor Sodexo, Simon Pears took his last flight on the 20th March. Like many others, the full working from home regime commenced. Bringing the world to an almost total halt has created chaos; but it has also given opportunities, he writes.
Opportunities to slow down, opportunities to think strategically, and opportunities to do things differently. None was truer than in July, when Jane Farrell, who was the International Professional Security Association (IPSA) Chair, announced to the IPSA board her desire to step down after three years of guiding IPSA to stability. Having been an IPSA board member myself for the previous five years, I was keen to ensure the association continued to grow and represent the security sector. After much consideration and some grand ideas I took guidance and feedback from trusted colleagues, and on the July 31 I wrote my vision for the new IPSA and duly presented this to the IPSA board, where I gained a majority view to take this thinking forward – but nothing could happen until the IPSA members voted in October – so I had the vision and the path, but not the mandate, so I had to be patient!
My idea was simple. To make IPSA the world’s largest security association, by truly representing the front-line security teams. Everyone who has a front-line role in security, whether a security officer, a fire technician or an electronic security technician should be proud of their jobs, the necessity of their roles for businesses to operate and the essential worker status they were correctly identified as during the peak of the covid lockdowns.
There are many respectable organisations within the security membership sector, but I do not feel that any of them really represent the holistic security sector, and I do not believe that they attract front line members, nor do I believe that due to the cost of membership they make themselves accessible to all. This is what I want and will change! After the positive IPSA member vote in October, one of the first changes that I made, was that membership will be entirely free to every front-line worker within security. This makes the association instantly accessible to those who see membership cost as a blocker or barrier, especially when so many people are facing a squeeze on their finances. The association needs to communicate better to the front-line teams. IPSA needs to be relevant. They need to want to be part of it. IPSA will be the vehicle that gives them representation and a voice.
I have created a strong board from across the industry that has the right mix of sector, financial and commercial skills, but our most important member of the board is Deborah Stuart who is our front-line security officer representation and was nominated by her employer for her passion and commitment to the industry. We have also provided Deborah with a mentor, so we help develop her business skills, whilst at the same time, we benefit from her experience as a front line officer and she will keep the directors on track to deliver the new IPSA vision and to make sure that everything we do going forward is relevant to front line teams. It needs to be what they want, and not what we want or think.
We are moving fast with front line representation with both fire and electronic security and we are just finalising the front-line forums that will give us some great insight and purpose in these vital sectors. Cyber security is also part of our future roadmap as we develop exciting links and I am really excited about bringing this all together with the help of the directors and keeping aligned to our new vision.
I am absolutely determined to make sure that front line teams will be proud of their careers, and that being part of this profession should not cost them money by being part of it. As part of the changes at IPSA and to make sure this vision is sustainable, we are moving fast with digitisation, with the first change being a refreshed website, which is simpler and with less but more relevant information and the IPSA app that is shortly due to be launched with a host of features that will enable IPSA to represent the industry and be the one voice that reports on the whole security sector, engages with the front line teams and to make sure our members can access the growing list of IPSA benefits.
We know that training is crucial both for the individuals and for the sector and we are working fast and hard in the background to bring quality training materials to the front line teams as they may seek to develop their careers, or may just want to refresh what they have already learnt. The impact on mental health within the security sector is not known, but we do know that it is a growing concern within the wider population, and through the app, front line operatives can report, through anonymous data collection, how they are feeling, so we can start to see trends within the industry, and we can report and raise this with relevant authorities and support services to greater understand the extent and the triggers.
We are also aware, that every day, many thousands of incidents take place against security professionals that are not reported to the police. Whether this is verbal, racial or physical assault, it is unacceptable, but we also believe under reported for several reasons. Through the app, the front-line teams will be able to report basic details, again anonymous, so that we become the voice of the front-line teams and raise awareness of this unacceptable behaviour. These are just some of the features that will be coming very shortly.
The heritage of IPSA cannot be under-estimated or forgotten, with roots back to 1958, therefore being one on the longest established security associations. Through the years, IPSA has had commitment and determination from the directors and it was a pleasure to hear during the October AGM that James Henderson from the Small Business Network (SBN), Simon Smith F.IPSA Board Member and Secretary and Roger Felgate F.IPSA Section Chairman for Maritime Security were awarded IPSA Fellowships in recognition for the substantial work and their support in the background of the association. I want to thank them for all they contributed to the association over many years. At the AGM, Jane Farrell announced the winner of the IPSA Champion for 2020. The Champion recognises the phenomenal achievements of an individual and was independently judged from across the industry: Yasmeen Stratton FIRP, Master of The Worshipful Company of Security Professionals, Lynn Watts Plumpkin, Security Services Scheme Manager, SSAIB and Andy Massey from Innovise. There were so many heart-warming stories that came through it was so hard to find the ultimate Champion, but I was delighted to hear that Hannah White from ISA Support Services has taken the top spot. I must also mention Maryam Assimi, Henry Folks, Kenneth Obakile, Paul Telfer and Shane Ellis who all made it through to the shortlist. Many congratulations to you all and thank you for excelling every day!
It has certainly been a busy few months, and this energy and determination will continue, so if you have not already joined, go our website and sign up now for the pre app registration and become a member of IPSA! IPSA will be different. IPSA will be refreshed. IPSA will be vocal. IPSA will represent all front-line security workers. IPSA will be noticed and IPSA will be the one voice for the security sector.
See also the IPSA website.