Canadian Security Magazine

Is security a profession or an unskilled occupation?

By Glen Kitteringham   

Features Opinion

I don’t think anyone will argue that education and certification are prerequisites for professional occupations and the skilled trades. Quite often, years of education and on-the-job training, along with examinations and continued education are required. That is why I am always surprised and disappointed by many people working in the security industry who don't feel it is necessary to get an education either to do their current jobs well or to get ahead in their careers.

However, as disconcerting as it is to me to see those entering the
occupation at a front-line level such as a uniformed guard or loss
prevention officer, it is even more troublesome to me to see those
entering at a middle or senior management level who also feel the same

The impression I get from talking to many working on the front
lines who state that an education is not necessary to get ahead, I
wonder if they think that somehow the hand of God is going to reach
down, pluck them up and put them into a management position. Many who I
spoke to say that they ‘got street smarts’ which is preferable to ‘book
smarts’, obviously thinking that a proper education will somehow wipe
out their street smarts. 

They apparently don’t realize that the former
will complement the latter, not cancel it. I also find it interesting
that these same people are the first to complain about their salaries
but aren’t willing to do anything about it. ”¨”¨As a friend of mine likes
to say, ‘go figure’.”¨

As far as middle and senior security management practitioners go, it is
disappointing that if anyone should recognize the value of
certification and training, it should be these so-called industry


Apparently, many want all the perks and benefits of being in
these positions, they want to attend conferences, conduct
presentations, hobnob with other industry and company leaders yet they
cannot be bothered to actually obtain any industry credentials. In my
opinion, these people are actually holding back the professionalization
of the industry. If they cannot be bothered, what do they care if front
line staff do not bother obtaining any qualifications?

Even more
disconcerting are the ones that expect others to obtain certification
yet refuse to get it themselves. This is the height of hypocrisy. What
is even more disappointing about all this is that these practitioners —
I won’t call them professionals — is that they are allowed to get away
with it. Their employers or clients obviously have not bothered
educating themselves about the required skill sets necessary for people
to be competent.

Can you imagine an organization hiring a vice-president of accounting or an engineer who have no credentials? I wonder if they
would take the same cavalier attitude for other service providers in
their lives including doctors, lawyers or even their mechanics. I doubt
it very much.   ”¨

Until the fall of 2008 and the end of the economic
health we all enjoyed, at least temporarily anyway, I probably got one
phone call a week from people asking me if I could recommend someone
for a junior or middle security management job. Quite frankly, I was
quite often at a loss to recommend any experienced security officers or
supervisors as the vast majority of them simply refuse to get a proper
education. No wonder the industry has to go outside to hire people. 

We, as an industry are doing a very poor job of attracting quality
applicants, then training and mentoring them.ӬӬThis has to change. If
we ever expect security to be a real profession and not just an
occupation, then people at all levels should be expected to meet a
minimum training and certification standard. It is interesting that
several provinces are currently have or are in the process of creating
minimum training standards for the uniformed guard industry.

We are
told that within three or four years, the only people who will get jobs in the
guard industry will be those who only have the requisite credentials. I
find it ironic that front line security personnel will actually be
better trained for their jobs than many industry leaders. Yes, I know
many highly skilled and trained security leaders but disappointing,
there should be many more, all, in fact. ӬӬ

When I decided to make
security my career, I made a conscious effort to invest heavily in
myself in education and training. I didn’t wait around for someone
else to pay for me to take courses.  I often not only took a hit paying
for a course but also lost pay when I took an unpaid day off to take
the course. This is what any true professional will do. Unfortunately,
too many people in the industry will only take courses if it is
provided to them free of charge and they are paid to attend. I have to
hold my tongue when they later complain that they cannot get ahead.
Unfortunately, I predict a long bumpy road ahead before true
professionalism comes to the security industry. Ӭ

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