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SIA Conference: Guarding

by msecadm4921

The views of a large and smaller local guarding company were aired at the SIA annual conference in Manchester.

First, Douglas Greenwell of G4S made a case that the guarding market is made up of multiple mini-markets. He gave the example of the ‘events market’, requiring security and crowd management, where apart from G4S and Reliance, the suppliers are niche players. Skills, he added, for event security are different from general guarding as in retail for instance. He spoke of changing purchasing behaviour, from single services; to soft (such as catering) and hard (such as building maintenance) facilities management; to bundling of services, whether bundled by services or geography; and now what Greenwell termed ‘total facilities management’. He suggested that there will always be premises that need to be held securely. An extreme example he gave was GCHQ, one of G4S’ contracts. A consortium of BT, Carillion, and G4S are delivering at ‘one of the sensitive sites in the UK’. He argued that there is an emerging market where FM services have been brought together, with a security bias. As for the largest 15 guarding contractors – G4S, MITIE, Reliance, Chubb, VSG, OCS, Securitas, The Corps, Advance Security, Interserve, ISS Pegasus, ICTS, Shield, Wilson James and Carlisle Security – Greenwell said that most can deliver FM or support services, partly thanks to acquisitions. A recent development is the likes of Compass Group (whose security services manager Michael Bullock was among those at the conference), Serco, KBR and VT Group – three years ago, ‘we weren’t even talking about these organisations, and they weren’t talking about us’. Greenwell suggested that all guarding firms are starting to converge, into ‘service-oriented organisations’. ‘The market is complex,’ he concluded. Smaller players in the market are able to compete, he said. ‘The future as far as we are concerned is only greater complexity.’<br><br>Dawn Barry, operations director at Manchester-based guarding company Alsecure, gave the view of a small, family business, founded in 1968, and an SIA-approved contractor since April 2008. <br><br>The Salford firm offers key-holding, static guarding patrols and alarm and CCTV installation. There was time and cost and effort in complying with the Private Security Industry Act 2001 – that is, the SIA’s regulation – she said. ‘We have realised, with the Act now very much in place, it is very hard to overcome entry procedures for staff coming into the private security industry.’ The company works with the local Jobcentre. If would-be recruits ring Alsecure, most do not even know what an SIA licence is. Such possible recruits to the industry are finding the administration and cost of a licence to be a barrier to changing careers, she said. ‘Where does that leave a small business? It is a concern for us that some of the entry procedures are hampering new blood coming into the industry. Some of our personnel have been with us for 15 to 20 years and have perhaps stayed on the same premises.’ Some long-working don’t want to go back into the classroom and be expected to do more training. All that said, staff who have ‘bought into the system’ by paying for their &#163;245 three-year licence application do show a more professional approach. Customer attitudes change. Dawn Barry, who was head of security at HM Prison Preston, went into Alsecure three years ago, partly to bring the company into the approved contractor scheme. As an ACS firm, she felt that the SIA forums for approved companies were a must. <br><br>Questions linger over training malpractice around the SIA licences; and queries over how a regulator can be accountable. <br><br>During a session on ‘the future of the private security industry – a threat and opportunity assessment’ the SIA’s acting chief exec Andy Drane hailed ‘brilliant’ work with Strathclyde and Lothian police forces against non-compliant security companies in Scotland. He did stress that ‘it’s a long-term challenge – but I hope we are in the right direction. The more information we get, the more we can act on it.’ He said that the SIA was getting more information than the year before, which itself was more than the year before that. ‘We risk-assess, we prioritise, and we tackle the worst cases.’ <br><br>By contrast, Simi Bath of the SIA said that ‘we hear a lot about bad quality training’, but people do not report it to the authority. On that score, from the floor, Carl Mannion, MD of Wirral-based trainers NEET Futures spoke of reporting incidents – initially through the SIA; ‘we were then referred back to the awarding bodies’. That is, cases of short cuts by trainers of courses leading to SIA badges should be reported to the exam award bodies, as the SIA did point out. Carl Mannion suggested a reason why few people might complain about the training they (don’t) get – a complaint might see them lose their licence. Simi Bath accepted the need for a single point of contact. Carl Mannion suggested mystery shopping with training providers; or ‘sting operations’ as with children testing off-licences for their selling of alcohol to the under-aged. It was significant that the one point where Simi Bath disagreed with comments from the floor came when someone recollected that the same points about training shortcomings were aired at the SIA’s first conference in Leicester, two years before; would they be aired in another two years?! Simi Bath was adamant that information received was acted upon. While the SIA pointed out that to take on enforcement of training standards – a job for the qualifications regulator QCA – would come at a cost, meaning, that is, a rise from &#163;245 in the licence fee: someone else from the floor said that he had never had a monitoring visit from some exam awarding bodies. Training cropped up at a final summing-up session, when from the floor David Greer, chief exec of Skills for Security, agreed that it was a ‘difficult area’ and sympathised with the SIA; he offered to collate concerns over training and pass them on to the SIA. The day brought out how, as Andy Drane said at the very end, the SIA, for all its clout and influence, ‘does not have a free hand’. He said: ‘It’s a joint effort; it’s all of us that need to be involved.’ For all the grumbles – and the SIA cannot please everyone all the time – the companies and people with accreditation and badges have invested money and their reputation in the SIA. If one falters, the others do: on training, for instance, where does the responsibility lie to do what, to convert anecdotes into action? The SIA like all regulators must conform to the Government’s ‘better regulation’ agenda; and the Conservative Party has put regulators on warning that if the Tories come to power, they will require regulators to, basically, prove a case to exist. As the conference’s title aptly put it, the SIA and the industry it licences are on a journey, together – like it or not.

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