Exclusive: Training the next generation of security professionals

April 14, 2021


Security Journal UK catches up with David Scott, Managing Director of leading training provider, Skills for Security.

What are the main aims and objectives of Skills for Security?

Since I took over in 2019 as Managing Director, our main focus has been on the quality of training and achieving standards. We are one of the very few training providers that hire full-time staff from the fire and security sector to deliver the training instead of using contractors. This drives up the teaching quality which is something I am very passionate about.

Our other goals include making training more accessible by removing barriers with multiple satellite centres for example. We are diversifying our offerings with varying training programmes and investing in resources such as bespoke workshops, which create practical work environments for our learners.

How has Skills for Security evolved since it was first formed?

I can’t comment fully on how Skills for Security (SfS) has evolved, but the Government drive to change apprenticeship frameworks to standards greatly affected the SfS business model between 2016-2019. However since then, we have positioned ourselves as the sector’s largest fire and security apprenticeship provider with over 250 apprentices currently on the programme. As part of our responsibilities as the sector skills body, we are also heavily involved in supporting the industry to develop apprenticeship standards. We are working in England to develop a Level 2 and 5 security officer services (SOS) apprenticeship. In Scotland, we are developing an SOS apprenticeship that should be ready in 2021. Both of these apprenticeship programmes will be hugely beneficial in professionalising the sector and allowing our larger employers to utilise their levy funding for training.

What have been your proudest achievements during your time as Managing Director?

As many people know, I am an ex- Skills for Security apprentice myself, so to see the company go from strength-to-strength has been extremely satisfying. In my first year, we doubled the budgeted surplus, doubled the number of apprentices enrolled, opened a new HQ in Warrington, three new satellite centres in Southport, Oxford and Birmingham and recruited eight new members of staff. It has been extremely exciting and personally rewarding.

My proudest moment by far was introducing the security sector into World Skills UK (WSUK), where we showcased six apprentice’s skills to over 80,000 visitors at the NEC in Birmingham. It brought back several fond memories of my time as an apprentice and why my role at SfS is so vital to the sector’s future viability.  

How has COVID-19 impacted the business?

Luckily it hasn’t impacted us negatively and we believe this is due to a mixture of Government support in the furlough scheme and the sector’s resilience. Redundancies of apprentices have been few and far between and numbers on the programme continue to rise. In a direct comparison of Q1 in 2019 (pre-COVID) and Q1 2020, the recruitment is on par. We now have over 250 apprentices enrolled with us, 30 of which have already completed the programme. Over the pandemic we have recruited around 150 new apprentices. So far, eight new members of staff have joined our team and we are actively recruiting tutors to support our growth.

We are using the pandemic as an opportunity to change our business processes and operations to work and deliver training more effectively online, as well as develop an array of courses for the sector to utilise.

Could you tell us a little more about your partnership with Securitas please?

Securitas UK approached the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) in 2020 to see how their membership could help develop its workforce, presenting an exciting opportunity for me to work on. We developed several courses that are now accessible on the Securitas LMS system that their workforce can access at any time to receive high-quality online training. Some of the courses we have rolled out to Securitas are;

  • Intruder alarm survey and design
  • Fire alarm survey and design
  • VSS survey and design
  • Advanced signalling

The courses are being used to develop the entire Securitas workforce from engineers to managers, administrators, finance and even HR. Arthur Agnew’s passion for training matches mine and I was greatly appreciative to be able to help. This is just the start of the relationship as we now look to other courses with a focus on staff development needs throughout their business which we can support.

Why is it important that the security industry continues to give opportunities to apprentices?

To ensure the security industry’s future viability, we need more skilled people.

The FESS apprenticeship is excellent and was fully developed by the sector, for the sector. In my 10+ years in education, it is the best apprenticeship programme for detail and quality as it includes everything apprentices need. We are currently working on the trailblazer for the Security Officer apprenticeship and the level of engagement is excellent. It is unmatched in any other sector. The Security Industry Authority (SIA) has done an amazing job in pulling so many industry experts together.

SfS is excellent at creating bespoke packages that make training and apprenticeships painless. We remove as many barriers to ensure the quality of the programme is what the employer is looking for.

Every day on Linkedin I see the challenges employers have in recruiting new staff, the salaries they are asking for, their quality of work and the pricing and quality of subcontractors.

Apprentices are not a short fix, but they are the best fix. Investing in apprentices is one way to solve these challenges. They are a long-term sustainable solution for every business. Please recruit apprentices, develop and invest in them and you will see the above problems slowly disappear.  

What’s your vision for the next five years?

We want 5,000 apprentices enrolled at SfS. We believe this is what it will take to eradicate the skills shortage and really make the fire and security sectors a career of choice.  

Our current provisions are:

  • Fire Emergency & Security Systems
  • Team Leader and Supervisor
  • Customer Service
  • Front Line Manager (Security)
  • SIA licence to practice
  • Top up training

Our future options will include Security Officer Level 2 and 5.

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

Read Next

Security Journal UK

Subscribe Now

£99.99 for each year
No payment items has been selected yet