AFI launches security training portal
AFI, a provider of security guards and services, has offered in-class sessions for some time, but it became evident that, in order to grow the business, many of those sessions should also be available in an online format, says president Peter Martin.
When the idea first occurred, AFI investigated the possibility of using a third-party training tool, but “we were disappointed,” says Martin. “They all came back the same — they were Flash-media based, narrated PowerPoint (presentations) with some animation. When you look at studies of how people learn, there are certain aspects to learning and retention of information that are very, very important: paralinguistics, pitch, tone, body language . . .”
As such, it was important that AFI replicate the in-classroom experience as closely as possible online. The end result, created by in-house programmers, is called the IMAC Online Training Academy. It utilizes a video format, allowing students to see the trainer’s face up close and an adjacent window of point-form notes.
It is important, says Martin, that the training be a useful exercise — something that imparts actual learning rather than just another certificate used to pad a security resumé. “We want them to be able to learn something, retain a high percentage of that information and then deploy that knowledge in the field.”
The courses, which run 60 or 90 minutes, are followed by a test, and a pass grade upon successful completion. Failed tests can run the session again, and participants are faced with a different set of questions to prevent people from just memorizing one set of answers.
Some of the courses were previously offered as classroom sessions, and others were created specifically for the portal, often by tapping outside resources.
“We’re not experts in everything. Companies that profess to be or put themselves out there (as such), in my eyes and in many people’s eyes, lose their credibility. I can’t be expected to be all things to all people. When you look at my service-line offerings, I’m an expert in those areas. But outside of that, I don’t have to be the expert. I just have to know who the expert is and have a sufficient relationship to have them come in,” says Martin.
The courses are broken down into several categories: workplace violence, labour disputes, natural disasters, executive protection, crisis management, and security awareness. There are dozens of courses available, and the list is growing. Courses are also broken down by job title and focus, as well as seniority: vice-presidents; managers; and security officers and field practitioners.
Initially, the portal was designed for internal use, but quickly grew into something more. “When we started showing our clientele what makes us different and they looked at the internal training, they were very excited by it,” says Martin.
The security training is also translating well into other industries. A course on non-violent intervention designed for guards found an unintended audience, says Martin. AFI was approached by an airline looking for a similar type of training for flight attendants who required help dealing with troublesome passengers. The training has similar ramifications for the health-care industry.
“We’ve been contacted by a major health-care organization, saying, ‘Could you tailor-make the training for doctors and nurses?’ We’re trying very hard to stay focused on where the immediate needs are.”
AFI has no plans to do away with classroom training. On the contrary, says Martin, “we always have instructors we can put on planes and deploy all over the world.” But there is a demand for flexibility when it comes to training, so people can take courses when it best suits their schedule, and, because the courses are offered online, they can do so from practically any location.
AFI is considering a licensing model for its training sessions, offering white label presentations with another company’s logo attached, while providing hosting on its own back end. There are also plans to translate content into other languages or localize it for specific countries or regions. Eventually, says Martin, guard training will match legislative requirements for each of the provinces.
“Training looked like it was something that was going the way of the dodo bird. But with online training capability now, and the unlimited ability to develop all types of different courses, enhance and assist security professionals to develop their own courses for their companies, and to be able to reach more people in more countries — I think it’s going to be about a year before we truly grasp the full scope of what the possibilities are,” he says.