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Exclusive: Serving those on the frontline

March 18, 2021

Darren Chalmers-Stevens, Director of IFPO UK and Ireland explains what the association offers to UK security professionals.

The issue of training and education within the security industry has become even more of a key focus in recent times. Training providers are reporting a significant surge in demand as security professionals use any spare time they have whilst working from home to enhance their knowledge and understanding.

However, there seems to be somewhat of an imbalance when it comes to who actually receives this training with security management professionals being more likely to receive training than those working on the frontline.

Security Journal UK sat down with Darren Chalmers-Stevens, Director of IFPO UK and Ireland to find out how the association is planning to correct this imbalance and how it differentiates itself from other membership organisations.

The complete community

The International Foundation for Protection Officers (IFPO) was established in 1988 in Canada by Ron Minion, a former member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and owner of a large Canadian contract security business. He served as its Executive Director until 1992 and was succeeded by Sandi Davies, who has held the office ever since. 

IFPO is a not-for-profit, professional membership association which provides professional learning opportunities for security practitioners, to impart the knowledge, skills and competencies required to maximise job performance and enhance career potential. It has members in 68 countries and has security professionals in 56 countries studying its educational programs.

The association’s UK branch is headed by Mike Hurst, who is assisted by an Advisory Board which includes Darren Chalmers-Stevens and several other distinguished security professionals. As Chalmers-Stevens explains, IFPO is very different to other security associations.

“There are lots of different organisations out there, however we differentiate ourselves in a number of ways. Firstly, we are open to all. The low cost of entry to IFPO facilitates individuals joining as opposed to having to rely on their organisations to pay their membership costs. We are also open to security companies and, unlike many other organisations, open to end users. So we have a complete community.

“In addition, IFPO has an extensive range of affordable education programmes which could be self-funded by security officers, although we do prefer their companies to fund this for them if possible.”

Chalmers-Stevens is fully aware of the day-to-day challenges of being a frontline security professional having began his career as a security officer himself more than 20 years ago. Since then, his career has included management positions at IBM, Vidsys and Veritas Symantec before taking up his current role of Managing Director of CriticalArc in 2013.

He reveals he agreed to join the IFPO UK and Ireland Advisory Board because the association’s aims and values very much match his own: “IFPO’s objectives are very fond to my heart, with the priority of course being to support the education of frontline security professionals.

“We also aim to help the career development of those on the frontline as well as support the new emerging areas of interest, such as the mental health and wellbeing of security officers, supervisors and their managers.”

Access to training

The capability for all security professionals to access training and education programmes has been a key focus for discussions across the industry for some time now. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the number of individuals looking to develop their careers by enhancing their knowledge and understanding.

The need for a security professional to continuously improve their expertise is a vital part of the job, states Chalmers-Stevens.

“It is an area that I’m incredibly passionate about. A lot of training nowadays is one off, you go and do your annual course and then you go back to your duties. However, threats are always evolving and the landscape is always changing, so you have got to be able to respond to that.

“I also believe the expectations of what’s expected from a security officer have drastically changed. Originally, they were looked upon as a night watchman but now they are not just providing security services but safety, wellbeing and emergency management as well. We are seeing security officers responding on the frontline during the COVID-19 pandemic which is a great example of how they are adapting to the evolving threats around them. If those individuals are on the frontline then we need to invest in them.”

IFPO UK and Ireland offers the chance to conduct this career development with a wide range of cost-effective training courses available as well as the opportunity to connect with thousands of like-minded security professionals.

“From my point of view, the community we offer is very powerful. There are lots of associations out there that support managers and senior directors but very few that support frontline officers and champion their specific cause. We have a lot of like-minded individuals supporting each other with their career development and their professional attainment.”

IFPO is continuously looking for ways to support frontline officers, including by providing quality training courses. Chalmers-Stevens continues: “There are any number of training courses aimed at managers and the progression from a manager to a director but very little for those on the frontline. I guess some of that comes down to the increasingly small margins built into security contracts these days.

“We really want to encourage a continuous approach to learning as opposed to a one off course. We want to see our officers regularly invested in so that they can respond to the needs and challenges of their business and the wider community.”

He adds: “One of the main benefits we are offering is an extensive range of training programmes which will support the community with knowledge transfer and equip them with the right skills. We also offer a fantastic mentoring programme which will help these officers.

“Furthermore, we are trying to champion the cause of increased diversity within the industry. Bringing in lots of different people with varied backgrounds, ethnicities and genders gives us a much more diverse workforce across the sector.”

Security in the 21st century

Alongside the regular “day job” of supporting frontline security officers, there is one particular highlight on IFPO’s calendar for 2021. The association is collaborating with Professor Martin Gill and Perpetuity Research to produce a research paper on the role of the security officer in the 21st century.

The study is expected to be released in early Autumn 2021 and understandably, Chalmers-Stevens is incredibly excited about the impact it will have. He said: “It will be the definitive guide to the 21st century security officer. It is something we believe will set the benchmark and be a reference document for the sector across the globe. The research will help to define the role and the expectations of it and from an end user point of view, it will enable them to get a better feel for the diversity of the role as well as the respect and investment it should be given.”

In addition to this, IFPO will also be participating in a number of educational webinars, leadership seminars and appearing at conferences and trade shows as soon as they are allowed to take place.

It has been an enormously challenging period for every security professional plying their trade in the current environment and things may not get any easier in the near future. However, they can rest assured that Darren Chalmers-Stevens, Mike Hurst and the rest of the team at IFPO UK and Ireland will continue to champion their cause and provide all the necessary support to those working on the frontline.

Darren Chalmers-Stevens

To find out more information about IFPO UK and Ireland, visit:

This article was originally published in the March edition of Security Journal UK. To read a free digital copy of the magazine, click here.

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