The Big Interview – Alan Clamp CEO SIA – Part Two

In the second part of our interview with Alan Clamp, the Chief Executive of the Security Industry Authority, we cover his extensive views on training, development and career progression within the security industry.

Alan Camp on Training….
“Well in terms of the training I suppose there’s three parts to this, going back to a previous role of mine:
• The content,
• The quality with which that training is delivered, and
• The assessment at the end with which you can judge quality.

“If people are passing the assessment you can say that the training must have been at least acceptable. The queries we’ve had, and the television program for example around this time last year, were about the assessment practices and that people genuinely had the skills and knowledge they needed to pass that assessment. I know that in your article on you talk about an independent testing centre, such as we have for driving licences, and I can see the benefits of that in terms of being able to assess that theoretical knowledge and do it independently from where they’re trained. There obviously would be costs and burdens associated with that but if there is a significant problem that we want to look at, that’s definitely one of the options.

“The other option, which we should continue to pursue in parallel with looking at that, is making the current arrangements work better. Currently there is a national regulator in England for qualifications, Ofqual, and there’s an equivalent in Scotland. They essentially keep a close eye on awarding organisations and the awarding organisations are supposed to keep a close eye on centres. There is therefore a system, which no doubt I’m sure can improve, particularly for vocational qualifications which are often short in nature and delivered in private training environments. There is a lack of additional scrutiny here by funders, like The Skills Funding Agency or Ofsted, so there’s much less governance and regulation going on. So what we do, in addition to the requirements that Ofqual have, is any awarding body that wants to offer security qualifications, has to do a few additional things instead. We have contracts with them, which we will be renewing this March, and each time we renew them essentially we build in more checks and balances. We are looking at those very carefully and saying, not only do we have more things in there, we should do more checks directly ourselves of those awarding organisations.

“We are looking at another possibility, which is merely an idea at the moment, of having, within our regional teams, or perhaps an external verification process, whereby a person or group of people can go out and visit training centres unannounced and observe what’s going on. I believe that if we can bolster the current qualification regulation arrangements, this would help. We would certainly look at the possibility, particularly if we found more issues. If we find in fact that there are a greater number of assessment irregularities than we would like, we would perhaps then push for that independent verification through some external testing centres as another option. I therefore do think there’s a lot in there. When people come along and ask for a licence we rely that they’ve got a qualification, however we still check, that the qualification is valid.”

On the candidates who have an SIA licence with poor English…
“We do occasionally pick up reports around the quality of English, and in parallel with that we do get reports of people who’ve got licences and there have been queries about the quality of their English. We look at that through our Partnerships and Interventions Team and conduct an investigation. For example we have an investigation ongoing at the moment, which I won’t go into any detail about obviously, which started from the point of view that there were at least a couple of people who had got the qualification, apparently legitimately, and had received a badge but the quality of their English was definitely questionable. So on the English front, we’re also looking at that.”

On training malpractice…..
“A point I would make about possible training malpractices is that sometimes it’s linked to other things, such as immigration, then training in English and then training in a vocational qualification. We therefore need to work closely with the Home Office, Immigration Enforcement and others on this. It’s not just security that people go into, sometimes its construction, there’s now badges needed to go on construction sites, and other areas like food hygiene and care for example. I believe therefore that there are a number of other vocational areas that should be asking the same sort of questions that we are. We are also talking about doing some extra work ourselves around bolstering the verification of training and qualifications. We’ve received very positive messages back from the Home Office and from Ofqual. The qualifications regulator, says that if it provides re-assurance that people have got the qualifications and are competent when they go out and do this frontline work, we can feel safer as a result.”

On the need for further Training including Refresher Training…’s Bobby Logue highlighted that one of the biggest problems is the minimal amount of margin available for employers to actually afford extra training and secondly the employee churn, (Approx. 60% per year on SIA Licence Churn). This has resulted in employers recruiting people with licences because the cost of actual recruitment and training is exorbitant. Bobby Logue believed the current situation could only be resolved if a professional security industry is developed, where a person has planned career progression, professional training, and security businesses are able to charge fair rates resulting in reasonable wages ….

“The syllabus is reviewed every couple of years and we need to do that because the operating world of security professionals changes. So classically, CCTV is very different to what it was 15 years ago and we’ve introduced a number of new initiatives.

“So for example, in the Counter-terrorism area, there is the Prevent Strategy and for a significant number of trainees, they’ve also gone through the Project Griffin training as well. That’s something that I think, considering where we are now in terms of counter-terrorism, that we should be looking at this again. We’ve actually just had an event related to this at City Hall.”

On Physical Intervention…

“Whenever we’ve had Regulation 28 letters from coroners around deaths which have occurred as a result of interaction with security professionals, we are obliged to respond to those anyway. However we’ve also changed some of the nature of the training within that. Physical intervention training became compulsory for door supervisors and we’re now looking at a version of that, as well as conflict management, in other frontline facing security areas.”

On First Aid and Fire Training……
“We’re also aware of some requests from coroners to have a closer look at first aid training and I’ve noticed that has also written about fire training. There are a lot of opportunities for us to look at it and a lot of pressure for us to build things in. From our point of view, because we’re interested in improving standards, generally we’d be very sympathetic to building those things in. We need to balance, as the Regulator always does, around burden and costs related issues so it’s something we’re always keeping an eye on. Every time we want to change the training we also need to impact assess it, not just from an economic regulatory point of view, but also sometimes from a quality point of view. People have said to us, on the physical intervention training for example, that “this presents particular challenges to me if I’ve got some form of disability”. We therefore need to look very carefully at that but it’s something that is within our power and we should try to make sure that those people who are essentially badged with the qualification are as competent and as well-trained as possible.”
On employers taking the burden for specialised training and career progression…..

“We would also like to make the point that employers who actually recruit people should know that they come in with a certain amount of training and depending on what they want them to have, and where they want to deploy them, they should also take that responsibility for further professional development. This goes back to the desire to have a professional workforce. Essentially they will come in with a certain amount of training but depending on where they’re working, what their duties are and what they’re going to be doing they will require further development. We’re quite happy to work with employers on some sort of progression route through the profession which might be in terms of an SIA approved qualification and then perhaps extra qualifications for team leaders, managers or specialists working in a certain area. I think we need to look at not just the SIA’s role, but the industry’s role as well. Again, we would always be sympathetic to hear what more should be in there so that generally people get a better service.

“You have to bear in mind of course I’m still sitting here living off my O levels, but I’m not relying on the content of them very much anymore. I think the innovative suggestion you make about funds from the Proceeds of Crime Act to develop some additional training, which is online and therefore accessible, is a very good idea. I think we need, as part of that bigger training package as it were, to look at what could be an offer, or at least supported, by the SIA using perhaps that funding stream to further enhance the training, update people, have something more in the counter-terrorism area or whatever it might happen to be. Again, if that leads to higher standards, that’s definitely within our remit and if we can fund it down that route, that’s a very positive thing. By taking enforcement action we can improve standards twice, it’s a double whammy so to speak. You take some people out of the system, you take their money off them and you invest in something better. I think it’s a good idea and something we should be doing. Going back to the point I made about people asking us to put extra things in their training, there may come a point at which we say actually, for door supervisor training, maybe it’s sensible to cap it at a week out to do that. Then, if there are a few things which are easily delivered and assessed independently and safely online, which allows for instant marking, I think that would be very useful. I believe some of the delivery of the current training is quite content-focussed and does not necessarily have to be delivered face-to-face. We could perhaps take some things out, for example knowledge of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 and things like that, and put some things in there around conflict resolution, physical intervention training and even simple things like the Eyes Wide Open, the CPNI work and getting everybody to have a look at that and say what can they spot.

“That goes back to the quality of the delivery, we can take some content out and do it other ways. Its part of the bigger picture – how does all the training fit together? As well as professional career pathways, I think that’s the kind of discussion we should be having with the industry. We started by talking about my background, before I got into regulation I was involved in the delivery and management of education and training and because of this there’s a lot in this which goes to my heart apart from anything else. It’s certainly something I’d like to engage with the industry and the education qualification sector with to look at everything from entry point up to professional qualifications in security and how can we map all of that out. I would like to look at where we play a role, where does the industry play a role and again at the point of malpractice, how can we be sure that everybody has got what they say they’ve got, including the issues you raised around English. So I think that’s definitely an area for us to consider over the next year or two years.”

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