However long you’ve been in the Armed Forces, you’ll have invaluable skills and experience when it comes to security–and the good news is, it’s a booming sector!
Adapted from CivvyStreet Magazine, October 2013.
Civvy Street can be a tough place. People, property, private assets and both public and commercial operations are potentially at risk from all kinds of unwanted attention, criminal or otherwise. While private security has always been around, it has certainly moved on from the old days of night watchmen warming their hands at a brazier or the simple alarm systems that, when triggered, rang a bell mounted on an outside wall!
The UK’s private security sector now employs around half a million people, contributing approximately £6 billion to the UK economy. It covers everything from operating CCTV and intruder alarms to physical security measures including the deployment of trained close protection personnel. In recent years, it has also expanded into activities that, while previously undertaken by police officers, have no requirement for police powers to carry them out.
And the good news is that, as a member of the Armed Forces, you’ll almost certainly have exactly the kind of experience and training under your belt that could make you an extremely attractive proposition in this burgeoning private security industry. You know, things like: physical fitness, team working, self-reliance, self-confidence, common sense and integrity, courage, and the ability to react to unexpected events.
Chances are that you’ve already seen private security personnel in action while on tour, as many are employed by commercial companies to help protect staff and contractors in the likes of Iraq and Afghanistan. That said, you’re even more likely to have seen them back home: on the door of your favourite club; walking the concourse of your local shopping mall; or in the background of pictures of celebrities and politicians.
Most security staff these days are supplied under contract through specialist suppliers, which range in size from small local companies to multi-national corporations operating around the globe. That said, some businesses prefer to hire their security staff directly, while there will also be opportunities to become self employed if you feel you have particular skills and experience to sell, or you prefer to work one-to-one with clients.
Whether you plan to work for a private security company or set up in business on your own, however, you will need a relevant licence in order to carry out any commercial contracts. The sector across the UK is regulated by the Security Industry Association (SIA), which has two main duties: the compulsory licensing of people undertaking designated activities in the private security sector, and the management of the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS) which measures private security suppliers against independently assessed criteria.
The SIA was set up in 2003 with the aim of ensuring that a previously unregulated industry could be seen to operate both professionally and within the law. For individuals, having an SIA licence is now proof that they’ve completed formal training, gained an appropriate qualification, and have successfully undergone criminal record and identity checks. For companies, it’s proof that they operate to independently agreed standards and do so within the law.
SIA licences are issued for three year periods, in part to encourage individuals and companies to keep their skills and training up-to-date; from this November, for example, the SIA will insist on all door supervisors to complete a course on vulnerable people when they renew their licences–this will include the identification of vulnerable people, the behaviour of sexual predators and signs of child sexual exploitation. It’s worth noting, however, that having a licence in one particular field can, in some cases, enable you to carry out other licensed security work (what the SIA calls “licence integration”).
There are two types of SIA licence. A front line licence covers any licensable activities (apart from key-holding) and comes in the form of a handy credit card-sized piece of plastic which should be clearly worn (subject to the relevant conditions) while you’re carrying out those duties. (The application fee is £220 for a three-year licence, but if you’re paying this yourself you can claim tax relief against your taxable income.) Non-front line licences are for those carrying out managerial, supervisory and/or employment roles in security companies, and come in the form of a letter from the SIA outlining your responsibilities and duties. (Such letters also cover key holding activities.)
Although current legislation allows for SIA licensing of private investigators, security consultants and precognition agents (people employed by defence lawyers to interview witnesses), this doesn’t currently happen. However, at the end of July 2013, Home Secretary, Theresa May announced the Government’s intention to establish regulation of Private Investigators “as quickly as possible”, with the regime beginning next year (2014). “The current arrangements, under which the system is not regulated, allows anyone to work as a private investigator, regardless of their skills, experience or criminal convictions,” she said. “This presents a high risk of rogue investigators unlawfully infringing on the privacy of individuals.”
In contrast, the SIA has cancelled most of the vehicle immobiliser licences held by individuals in England and Wales, given that (under the Protection of Freedoms Act 2012) it is now an offence to undertake vehicle immobilisation in England and Wales “without lawful authority”. The only exceptions made were for those individuals operating in Northern Ireland, where vehicle immobilisation is still legal, and certain key holding and non-front line security roles across the United Kingdom (which any SIA licence allows).
The current government is also continuing with its intention to create a new regulatory regime for the private security sector, with the SIA ceasing to be an NDPB (Non-Departmental Public Body). One of the key reforms outlined in the recent Home Office consultation was that businesses providing security industry services would need to be approved by the SIA, meeting certain minimum standards appropriate to the industry. In return, businesses would be given greater responsibility for checking their employees’ suitability for working in the industry.
Training courses for each sector are available from SIA-endorsed awarding bodies including City & Guilds and Edexcel. These courses usually take four or five days, although the nature of Close Protection work means these take longer (weeks rather than days), and require some level of first-aid certificate.
The courses are normally delivered by independent training providers or further education colleges approved and overseen by the appropriate awarding bodies. Depending on your length of service, many of these courses can be accessed through the Career Transition Partnership as part of your resettlement entitlement. Alternatively, information on such courses can be accessed through the SIA website.
You can expect such courses to cover essential and appropriate skills in the relative jobs, such as: appropriate behaviour; civil and criminal law; search, arrest or patrol procedures; crime scene prevention; emergency procedures; communication and conflict management; plus appropriate and safer physical intervention.
You’ll need an SIA Licence for…
- Manned Guarding, including:
- Cash and Valuables in Transit
- Close Protection
- Door Supervision
- Public Space Surveillance (CCTV)
- Security Guard
- Key Holding
- Immobilisation, Restriction and Removal of Vehicles (Northern Ireland only)
The SIA also manages the Approved Contractor Scheme; a voluntary initiative that measures security suppliers against independently assessed criteria. This accreditation provides security buyers with independent proof of a contractor’s commitment to quality–and there’s a fine of up to £5,000 if a company claims to be an approved contractor when it’s not.
Security Industry Authority
0844 892 1025, www.sia.homeoffice.gov.uk
British Security Industry Association
0845 389 3889, www.bsia.co.uk
National Association of Security Professionals