Are standards in the security industry really the fault of the SIA?

Raising standards in the security industry is something some people are very passionate about but what does raising standards actually mean and is it all the fault of the SIA? One of the biggest debates in the UK security industry is whether the SIA’s regulated learning hours for a close protection course are fit for purpose. The topic is hotly discussed on the various forums and views differ wildly.

In order to obtain an SIA licence you will need to show that you are trained to the right level. To get one of the qualifications linked to close protection licensing you will need to attend and take two training modules and take and pass an exam. The training should take a minimum of 138 hours and is normally conducted over 14 days. Attendees typically have an Army background and over the past ten years most have completed numerous hostile environment operational tours. Others may have a police background, including some weapons experience but those with neither background also conduct the same 138 hours guided learning. When applying for your licence you will also be required to produce evidence that you have attained a recognised basic first aid award. In addition to the normal formatting of classroom and practical scenario based courses the industry is now experiencing distance learning courses through the use of various multimedia channels, part time courses taken over a number of weekends and operators not conducting any course but using fake certification.

If you compare this to other international close protection courses like those in the USA for example there are federal regulations that govern the Industry and in addition each state has their own additional requirements, but no overall regulatory body like in the UK. Courses can typically be between three and ten days in length, although the syllabus is similar to that taught over 138 hours in the UK. In the Middle East the Israeli courses focus heavily on weapons, close quarter combat and training that UK operators would refer to as harder skills. Courses are of similar length to those found in the UK but can be made up of modules and attendees take some or all of them which ends up with a tiered level of operator. Therefore are the standards of the SIA really that different to those implemented in other countries around the world?

A number of training providers are flying the flag for raising standards by conducting courses in excess of the SIA’s regulated hours using experienced quality instructors. Operators completing these courses are recognised by employers as having completed the basic close protection training to a high standard. However in an industry where many operators are struggling to find consistent ‘close protection’ work, whether you have completed a two week or four week course is irrelevant, if you can’t find work then skill fade will become a significant problem. Following on from this if you are not working then you are not earning so trying to combat skill fade by conducting continued professional development courses becomes difficult due to a lack of funding. Therefore would a four week minimum course actually raise standards enough if operators then didn’t conduct consistent work or continued professional development?

The health and safety industry is similar to the security industry in that practitioners have accountability for the safety of personnel. The NEBOSH General Certificate is similar in price and study time to a close protection course. Similarly like a close protection course you don’t have to have prior experience in health and safety to conduct it. At the end of it those who pass are then able to conduct health and safety risk assessments for organisations which if not done correctly could have a catastrophic impact on the company. Therefore is the security industry any different to other similar industries that allow practitioners to be responsible for the safety of personnel after completing a short course?

If you look at the medical industry, paramedics have to show that they are conducting continued professional development using a portfolio to record it, as there is a need for those professionals to be accountable for their practice. One of the main reasons for this is that the medical industry changes so frequently so it’s important to keep up with current doctrine and procedures. Compulsory recertification on certain areas such as cardiac is done to ensure the paramedic is always competent on the most critical of treatments. In addition paramedics are also required to record patient contact to show the skills they are using throughout their career. Therefore would a continued professional development portfolio work in the security industry especially to highlight operators who may be suffering from skill fade due to a lack of personnel development or time on task?

Raising standards in the security industry is always going to be an emotive debate. The SIA’s regulated learning hours aren’t that different to those implemented by other countries around the world. Once courses are complete then raising standards is actually up to the operator and the amount of continued professional development they choose to conduct especially if they aren’t consistently working. Other industries allow practitioners to be responsible for personnel after completing courses similar in length to a close protection course. So who is responsible for standards in the security industry, operators, training providers or the SIA?


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