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SITO After Ray Clarke

by msecadm4921

From the December 2002 print edition of Professional Security magazine; articles on the SITO annual conference in November.

SITO Chief Executive Ray Clarke, and the training organisation he founded and headed, parted company in September with a minimum of public comment. SITO was a child of the British Security Industry Association – the two bodies are inside the same building in Worcester. As Ray Clarke told Una Riley in the interview in the September 2001 issue of Professional Security, he joined the BSIA in 1988, at the age of 27, as its first training officer, before setting up SITO in 1990. Now, instead of Ray Clarke and SITO chairman Bob Rowan, who stepped down earlier this year, BSIA Chief Executive David Dickinson is SITO Acting Chief Executive, and BSIA current vice-chairman David Cowden is new SITO chairman. How come’ Firstly, this year the whole training set-up in the UK has been up in the air (as always, some would say). On April 1 SITO stopped being an NTO – a national training organisations. Other NTOs were in the same boat. Instead, there would be things called Sector Skills Council (SSC), looked after by the Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA). In April SITO put in a proposal to the new Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA) for S5C, to ‘represent the specialist support services sector, initially the security, parking and safety industries as well as a broad range of business services’.
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Months behind
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The security industry was already trailing months behind industries such as oil and gas, that were ‘trailblazer SSCs’. Meanwhile, SITO had to secure Department for Education and Skills (DfES) funding between the ending of NTOs and the setting up of a Sector Skills Council (SSC) for security. In April, SITO anticipated a decision on the (750-page) S5C proposal in June, and full licensing in the autumn of 2002. It has not happened. As SIA chairman Molly Meacher related to the SITO annual conference, she and the other most senior SIA appointment, chief executive John Saunders, had only just taken their seats when the SSDA asked if the SIA approved of SITO’s proposal. At the time of the bid, SITO called its proposal strong and said that S5C would be ‘a genuinely employer-led organisation’. That is exactly what Labour ministers say they want. As Mrs Meacher told the conference, from talking to security companies, who would be the users of S5C, employers raised concerns about S5C – that it would lump security with low-skills, low-esteem services such as cleaning. Those concerns meant S5C wasn’t necessarily as ’employer-led’ as SITO made out. So Ray Clarke’s SITO and the SIA were on a collision course.
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Nobody in place
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As Mrs Meacher told the conference, the SIA is announcing shortly what training the first sectors in line for licences – door staff and wheel-clampers – will need. The unveiling of standards for security officers – that unknown numbers of staff will need training to attain – are only a few months off. Yes, security officers and key-holders will not need a badge for another two, maybe three years. Yet there are no end of things that can go wrong and delay such a complicated undertaking as a licence system for hundreds of thousands of people, from scratch. The SIA faced – and still faces – setting out those training standards without anybody licenced (and funded) by the DfES and the SSDA to put flesh on the bones – to write the training packages, to train the trainers, and to apply for funding for it all – in a word, to do the sort of jobs SITO was there to do. This was not something the SIA could get around, once the authority said that a licence would depend on a competency standard, not only a piece of paper from the Criminal Records Bureau to say Mr X or Mrs Y does not have a criminal record (or at least not a bad one – one of the many things the SIA has to decide upon).
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Timetable paramount
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Therefore the departure of such a high-profile security industry figure as Ray Clarke – and to many people Ray Clarke was SITO – underlines the relentless timetable of security industry regulation. It also says something about the state of training in the security industry. One delegate leaving the room after Mrs Meacher’s speech remarked that seven million people lack basic literacy and numeracy skills. Half of those are in work. This is official; Skills Minister Ivan Lewis said so in a recent speech. How many work in the security industry’ Mr Lewis spoke also of three challenges: of employer engagement; of individual skills, especially young people’s; and of raising standards. SITO argued it was an outstanding NTO, but as the fact that NTOs are no more suggests, the Government wants Sector Skills Councils to be different from NTOs. So not only SITO but all NTOs faced change. That Mrs Meacher identified a need for more training among not just operatives but managers shows how much work the security industry has ahead of it, to satisfy the SIA. And this SIA means business.
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The SITO annual conference studiously avoided the name of Ray Clarke, its founder and chief executive, who left the Worcester-based training organisation in September. Acting SITO Chief Executive, BSIA Chief Executive David Dickinson, signalled a change of direction for the training body.
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Giving the SITO annual report, David Dickinson admitted he was departing from tradition by reporting not on the past year, but on the year ahead. He said that the last year had not been a very good one for SITO; it stopped being a NTO (National Training Organisation) at the end of March, and in the summer was searching for a role, that search including conversations with the Security Industry Authority. Mr Dickinson said: ‘Those who wrote off SITO a few weeks ago as dead and buried are a little premature in their obituaries. SITO has a huge future – the only trouble is that we don’t know what it is?. With so much going on, SITO is going to have to change in what it does, how it does it and change in its relationships with the major customer base, the security industry. We are determined to do exactly that.’ Here he praised Molly Meacher and John Saunders, chairman and chief executive respectively of the SIA, both attending the event. Under them, Mr Dickinson said, the SIA is working with the industry rather than doing something to it. He added: ‘We could not have a better regulatory body and that gives us a great deal of hope for the future, whatever shape SITO turns out to be.’ SITO has ‘streamlined’ some of its administration to give better support to customers, he said. In what could be seen as a move away from the Ray Clarke-era SITO, Mr Dickinson recognised there was a difference between saying ‘guess what we have for you this morning’ and ‘tell us what you want, what you really really want’.Underlining this, Mr Dickinson said SITO would show determination and flexibility to deliver what customers want and need. SITO, he added, would be guided by regulation, and the competencies set by the SIA for staff to gain a licence; and the need for what he called ‘tailored solutions’ for the industry.
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‘Never take you for granted’
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In yet more signals that SITO would change to meet outside, notably SIA, demands, Mr Dickinson said SITO was committed to change with the industry, and to meet the challenges emerging from the Sector Skills Council. SITO will look to make its offerings competitive in value and price: ‘We promise never to take any of our stakeholders for granted. SITO is re-inventing itself as a forward-thinking, customer-responsive organisation which is precisely what our industry needs.’
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Dickinson endorsed
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As a sign of how SITO minus Clarke is in tune with the SIA, Molly Meacher, the following speaker, began with a personal endorsement of David Dickinson and Stefan Hay, who as General Manager is the day to day manager of SITO. Mrs Meacher spoke of ‘incredible opportunities’ for the security industry, and indeed her wide-ranging speech lived up to that. First, she said the threat of terrorism has turned attention to the security industry as never before. Half a million men and women are guarding companies and banks and shopping malls, pubs and clubs, and are clearly going to be absolutely critical in the fight against terrorism. The private security industry is four times the size of the police, she added. ‘The Private Security Industry Act at last brings this country into line with the rest of Europe and I think will lead to a much greater awareness of the strength of this industry.’ The SIA aims to make clear to the public the day in, day out work of the industry, she said. She set out how the need for improvement in the industry is far-reaching. ‘One of the biggest challenges, I think, is at the management level. We have of course many good managers, but I think there is a huge challenge ahead in bringing all of the managers in the security industry up to the level of the very best. At the operative level, the challenges are daunting.’ Up to half of security operatives have literacy problems, and many have communication difficulties. Mrs Meacher returned to this topic later in her speech, making the point that security officers who have English as a second language need the basic skills – to read instructions, write reports, and communicate with customers.
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S5C background
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She gave more details as to the background for the change in SITO direction and leadership. SITO under Ray Clarke proposed S5C (see separate article), to bring other industries on board such as cleaning. Within weeks of being appointed to the new SIA earlier this year, Mrs Meacher and John Saunders were asked if the SIA endorsed this proposed S5C. Mrs Meacher told the conference that the SIA became aware of employers’ concerns, and the SIA feared that a link with cleaning might take the security industry in the wrong direction – giving the impression of the security industry having lower skills levels, rather than having policing and counter-terrorism roles. ‘We are aware that the central requirement of a Sector Skills Council is the whole-hearted support of the employers.’ Hence the SIA said it could not support the S5C proposal of SITO, and needed to learn more about the industry, and views of employers before the SIA could endorse S5C or what Mrs Meacher called any ‘sector skills footprint’. She went through four options, of which S5C was only one. The others are a stand-alone Security Sector Skills Council; a SSC with safety; or involvement with the Justice SSC, including the prisons, police and community justice sectors. The SIA has established a Sector Skills Strategy Group (SSSG). Mrs Meacher said: ‘The sector has an abundance of opinion-formers’ – only 20 were able to be members of the group, but the SIA will involve as many people as possible in the months ahead in sub-groups, consultation exercises and surveys, ‘because we have to make sure that this sector skills strategy reflects the views of the industry as a whole.’ Hence Prof Martin Gill’s consultancy PRCI is working with the SIA and the SSSG to develop a sector skills strategy . This will take months, Mrs Meacher said, because of the size of the task, including: a review of security officers’ current roles and tasks, and anticipated changes to those; an analysis of security skills; and what new skills may arise from changes such as the Police Reform Act; and last but not least accurate figures for the number of people within each sector of the security industry – of more than academic interest, for Mrs Meacher added: ‘The simple fact is we will not be able to tell you the price of a licence until we know within 10,000 how many people need those licences.’
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Meacher’s grip
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Showing how she has got to grips with the security industry within months of coming to it as a newcomer, Mrs Meacher spoke about some of the thorniest issues surrounding industry regulation. Such as: how to replace staff who do not satisfy the SIA requirements for a licence’ What about this widespread lack of basic skills – will people be able to raise their game’ If not, where will security industry find replacements’ What of the growing need for communication and IT skills’ And what of the current short supply of highly-trained managers’ This brought Mrs Meacher on to the question of funding for any massive increase in training. She quoted the need for an estimated £30m – ideally from the Government – to help in this training effort. She hoped to bring forward draft proposals by the spring to help employers decide what SSC ‘footprint’ they want.
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About the Record Bureau
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She went on to what she called ‘perhaps the most onerous responsibility we have’ – to ensure licencing. Licences will be issued on the basis of competency criteria, and a criminal criteria, ‘that we will be seeking ministers’ support for’. That brought her on to the Criminal Records Bureau, under fire for delays in supplying licences to new teachers and latterly healthcare starters. ‘All I want to say, just for the record, is that of course the SIA read the occasional newspaper too,’ Mrs Meacher said with droll humour, ‘and we are aware of these problems. Indeed John Saunders is in touch with the CRB nearly every day. We are aware of the problems and we are looking at options and we will find a solution and that’s really all I can say because it is work in progress.’ Mrs Meacher went through the timetable for licencing – first wheel-clampers and door supervisers at the end of 2003; key-holders and security guards in 2004 and 2005; and private investigators the year after.
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More about standards
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Another statutory requirement of the SIA is to set standards – for directors, managers, supervisers, and operatives – and raising those standards over time. Hence the SSSG. First in the queue are wheel-clampers and door staff, which prompted this aside from Mrs Meacher – ‘I have to admit I hadn’t quite imagined sitting around a table with wheel-clampers, calling them Dave and Ted. My experience of wheel-clampers hadn’t been as enjoyable.’ Communication skills will be a basic part of the licence. If operatives – who might not have English as their mother tongue – cannot communicate with customers orally, they simply will not pass for the licence, Mrs Meacher said. That goes for wheel-clampers and door operatives, she added. She urged employers in every sector to ensure their workers especially those with English as a second language to work on their skills. As for the Police Reform Act, she said it was impossible to over-estimate the opportunities – if we can rise to the challenge. Any chief constable will be able to have a community safety accreditation scheme. (As a sign of how highly SITO regard such opportunities, three seminars were devoted to ‘the wider police family’. The speakers were David Dickinson; ACPO representative on the subject Richard Childs, Northants Chief Constable, and Richard Winterton, Chief Executive, Police Skills and Standards Organisation.) But chief constables will not turn to the private security unless the industry is ‘reasonably free’ of criminals and employs staff of the right calibre. Private security firms and local authority security set-ups, when accredited, will carry out core policing – including issuing fixed penalty notices and confiscating alcohol in public places with alcohol bans. She said that companies will be able to compete for a ‘huge amount of work’ – ‘if you want it and if your employees are up to it.’
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About the Record Bureau
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Mrs Meacher ended her speech as she began, with an endorsement of Stefan Hay and David Dickinson: ‘We need a strong and independent awarding body framework capable of ensuring high standards.’ Also needed is a separate ‘training for trainers’ set up, independent of the awarding body, she added.
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The Security Industry Authority will announce basic level training standards for door supervisers and wheel clampers within weeks, after ministers have agreed to them, SIA chairman Molly Meacher told the SITO annual conference in Birmingham. In the first half of 2003, standards for security officers – who are in the second wave of licences, after door staff and clampers – will follow. As reported in last month’s issue, Mrs Meacher sees Sweden, which she has just visited, as a possible model for England and Wales’ security industry regulation. She said: ‘We don’t know where we will be in about five years’ time, but having looked at the Swedish equivalent it provides some interesting targets for us.’ She described Sweden’s regulation: before officers start work they have basic initial training of 217 hours – 97 hours off the job, 120 hours on. ‘I was told this was not enough,’ she added – the Swedes looking at more training in conflict management and communication. Mrs Meacher asked if the UK can reach Swedish levels in five years; namely that the Swedish security officer’s wage is at ‘industrial’ level – a far cry from the UK, she added. She quoted what she was told by an unnamed but significant and global security company that England and Wales was the only country in the world where that company is unable to make a profit.
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Yes, we are under fire, but we are improving, was in a nutshell what Mark Favager of the Criminal Records Bureau told the SITO annual conference. He said: ‘The media keeps on saying we are in crisis. What they fail to point out is that we are doing nearly 40,000 criminal record checks per week, twice as many as were done under the old arrangements with police forces. We have issued something like 500,000 disclosures so far.’ As for recent media headlines that the CRB has not delivered first disclosures for teachers before the new school year and more recently for healthcare workers, Mr Favager offered the defence that, yes, service standards are ‘the difficult bit’. The CRB’s targets are to deliver 90 per cent of enhanced disclosures; and within one week 95pc or basic and standard disclosures. However, Mr Favager admitted: ‘The average turn-around time at present is six weeks … A lot of users have said we are getting better.’ He said the CRB was improving the consistency of its service, while admitting that was not the same as giving the best service. He apologised if anyone was having trouble getting through to the Liverpool-based bureau by telephone – the CRB’s preferable way for users to contact it. He explained the difference between the CRB and Disclosure Scotland; if you are recruiting someone to work in Scotland, you go through the Scottish agency. He made the point that employers should not rely on the bureau alone, but have other checking procedures in place. Nor did the bureau vet staff, or comment on them; rather, the CRB is a portal for information, accessing information from the Police National Computer, the Departments of Health and Education, and local police forces. As for claims that the data held by the PNC is not accurate, Mr Favager said that the information that matters – convictions rather than height of offenders or suspects – is accurate: ‘I can tell you the information we provide is accurate,’ he said. Employers using the CRB need to have a policy on recruitment of ex-offenders. He spoke against a policy of not employing any ex-offenders, and said employers should be more inclusive. The SIA would be a partner and customer of the bureau, approving and counter-signing disclosure applications, he told the conference. Applications would be mainly by telephone; the CRB would send out an application form; the applicant would return it to the employer or the SIA; and the application would go on to the CRB to process it.

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