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Getting security industry training on track

NZ Security, April/May 2017

New Zealand's security industry: llooking for the path to professionalisationNew Zealand's security industry: llooking for the path to professionalisation


Keith Newman asks, in part two of his in-depth look at security guard professionalism, whether training is failing the industry or the industry is failing to train? [click here for Part One]


Changing government and customer requirements of the security industry and a renewed focus on security guard qualifications present a unique opportunity for raising the profile and professionalism of a sector often perceived as fragmented and light on professional development. But with few security companies training beyond the basics, inconsistencies in non-regulated training, and high staff turnover, the industry faces a tough road to professionalisation.

In its October 2016 external review, The Skills Organisation (Skills) saw opportunities within the Security industry for upskilling its employees, while noting the feedback that many security companies have difficulty rationalising added investment in a highly mobile workforce.

While some Security companies have expressed interest in creating their own internal standards, Skills emphasises the importance of a “trained sector” who achieve at least Level 3 NZQA qualifications as the key to having effective and safe workforce. This ensures members of the industry are trained to a consistent, nationally recognised standard.

New Zealand Security Association (NZSA) CEO Gary Morrison is concerned there’s too much focus from external and government parties on Level 6 achievement when the bulk of security guards over the past three years haven’t completed Level 2 and 3.

He concedes that the NZSA has failed to take leadership by working with companies who won’t train or don’t treat their staff well. “I take that on the chin... as CEO I have made that my highest priority.”

The NZSA and other stakeholders are involved in the NZQA’s Tertiary Review of Qualifications (TROQ) looking at the relevance of qualifications and training in the security industry. That review has been a long time coming and it could still be a year or two before industry movers and shakers agree on refreshed, cohesive, standards-based content and delivery.

Progress was slowed by new health and safety changes and the mandatory Certificate of Approval (COA) licencing for all security guards and officers, which came into effect from October 2013.

The COA is a foot in the door toward National Certificate in Security Level 2 but 95 percent of security guards never take the next step.

A major deterrent is the cost of training, the time it takes, the employer’s need to pay another person while trainees are in the classroom, and the likelihood that the upskilling won’t be reflected in the guard’s pay packet.


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Literacy barriers

Some of the challenges begin well before a COA can be obtained. Skills says many employees struggle with basic literacy and numeracy, including English as a second language. To overcome these challenges, Skills offers support in these areas in the form of one-on-one mentoring, among others.

C4 Group’s Chris Lawton says the strong immigrant workforce in Auckland adds to training complexity. “Most licences recently have been issued to Indians who use the industry for transitional part-
time work and often need extra classes in literacy to get through the mandatory requirements,” he observed.

The E tu union, which represents the security sector, continues to push for a collective agreement to improve wages and include free Level 2 training in the first year of employment. Most companies have been reluctant to engage.

“We’ve already told Skills at the last two rounds that we would work with them to try and get more funding to help with training... so those who sign up can get a qualification at no cost to the employers,” said union organiser Jill Ovens.

Most agreements have failed because the clause “wherever practicable” has been used as an opt out. “Compliance is a major issue,” she says. “We put a high value on training in terms of the guard’s professionalism, personal safety and recognition of skills needed to do this job.”


Basic training not enough

Despite an increasing number of workplace assaults on security guards over the past two years, guards are expected to be available on-demand in all conditions and generally with minimum training.

Critics have slammed basic training as not practical or thorough enough for these challenges, with Chris Lawton claiming the COA is wrongly perceived by many as all that’s needed for a security guard career.

Lawton says the COA is insufficient, covering only basic security law and conflict resolution, and should be viewed as a minimum. “The mandatory level in Australia is most of our Level 2.”

He suggests it should be expanded and made more specific for those working in high-risk environments like hospitals, airports, ports, border control and the bar industry. “A higher level of training for control and restraint and how to remove people would be helpful.”

First Security training manager Michael Moriarty agrees the current Level 2 and 3 model “isn’t cutting it”, which is why there have been such poor outcomes. Having to spend 10-hours study to achieve each one of the 51 credits “for basic qualifications” is “bollocks” and too much for many security guards, he said.

“There’s a lot of words in it ... it’s generic with ticked boxes for competency but doesn’t extend or challenge learners to develop as people.”

Moriarty is also concerned by Skills' delivery of an electronic learning environment with multi-question presentations. “I’ve seen grown men cry because of the computer literacy challenges. The way the programmes have been written aren’t always clear and a lot of people have struggled.”


Training wreck

While the industry is becoming more specialised, Moriarty says “there are some deep cracks” appearing in the way skills are taught which often compromise the integrity and credibility of training. Security training companies train to different standards, offer a variety of course material and have different requirements for who can be a tutor.

He’s raised his concerns with Skills, NZSA, the TROQ and others., but says that a lot of people “know things aren’t right in the industry but most won’t talk about it.”

Moriarty believes the industry has stagnated and the ground has become muddied because there are “so many interest and self-interest groups involved” in training. He traces this back – in part – to the 1990s and early 2000s when training was “in vogue” because the government was throwing money at it.

“A lot of people jumped on the gravy train and it took attention away from training those already in the industry to an introduction for those coming into it for the first time.”

He says it was a lost opportunity when the new wave of providers followed the money to provide unit standards without thinking about where the industry was at. “Once the juice had been squeezed out of the fruit it dried up”.


Fresh approach needed

Morrison has been lobbying through the TROQ for a complete review and rewrite of “six-year-old” training content and unit standards up to Level 6 so they are “appropriate and fit for use”. Morrison says a big part of the problem is that security training is mostly classroom based and generally the value is not appreciated by the company or their clients.

What’s needed is a fresh, positive conversation around how training is managed and delivered with a vision for the future, says Moriarty, a long-time advocate for a standardised industry-wide training.

While his views have often been at odds with others, he’s hopeful the TROQ process will get things back on-track and highlight the need for upskilling and promoting an industry career path.

Moriarty helped First Security gain an edge with his in-house training programme, security workbook, demonstrations and written assessments, produced in collaboration with the NZSA. The assessment has been moderated and approved both by Skills as well as the NZQA to meet the requirements of the current National Certificate Level 2 package.

While NZSA and others are re-evaluating training skills, content and networks, others are looking to enter the fray once the TROQ and industry have agreed on the way forward.

E tu is considering its own training enterprise in conjunction with others. “We would use a mentoring system which we think is one of the most effective ways; to have peers encourage others on the job.”

Groups could gather monthly to help each other record experiences and provide evidence of what they’ve achieved, something the union has achieved for the cleaning industry.

Another group wanting greater industry cohesion is the edgling NZ Security Training Association (NZSTA), chaired by Kathy Wright, co-director of C4 Group. It comprises a group of security professionals gearing up for a post-TROQ environment to provide a more holistic industry overview to fill the training gaps around the new national standards.

“We’ve worked together on the TROQ and ultimately our views are likely to be the same... We’re waiting for NZQA approval on what’s been put forward and then the training materials need to be developed and approved,” says Morrison.

Most stakeholders are hopeful more relevant NZQA training and content and the way it’s presented and funded will be more attractive to candidates, employers and clients.

Asked if we’re now travelling down the road to a better trained security industry, Moriarty’s answer was “a hesitant maybe”. 


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