Security Journal UK hears more about the ASIS UK Young Professionals programme from Board Director, Richard Brooks.
With the perceptions, roles and responsibilities of security officers changing significantly over the past decade, it has become more important than ever for those joining the industry to feel represented and supported. Whilst this representation and support can come in the form of in-house training and frontline experiences, face-to-face conversations with a network of industry professionals can be just as, if not more valuable. Although this type of interaction has, admittedly, been hard to come by over the past two years, as the UK looks to move its security personnel offering from strength to strength, the need for opportunity and equality is critical to such success.
As the COVID-19 pandemic brought change on a mass scale, membership bodies and supporting associations for the UK security industry had their own internal reshuffles. During this time, The ASIS UK Chapter announced the appointments of Letitia Emeana as Chair, Suzanne Collins as Director of Women in Security and Richard Brooks as Board Director of the ASIS UK Young Professionals programme. Creating a movement of positive change at a time of great social unrest, the direction of the ASIS UK Chapter evolved further and initiatives supporting diversity and opportunity were thrust into the spotlight more than ever before.
Speaking with Brooks in an exclusive interview, Security Journal UK gained a deeper insight into the work he is doing with the ASIS UK Young Professionals programme and how the Chapter’s wider initiatives are supporting members and encouraging industry growth from the ground-up.
Working as Regional Security and Safety Manager (UK, Ireland, South Africa, Benelux and the Nordics) for Louis Vuitton in his day job, Brooks’ initial career path into the security industry was all “a bit of an accident”; getting involved in the security industry 12 years ago, he initially took on a role in a very operational capacity and was instantly hooked. “There was something about the industry I really liked about it,” explains Brooks. “Working in security felt, in a good way, very different. I commenced on the service side and worked my way up quickly.
“I developed a strong management and leadership foundation and then migrated to the client side, pursuing my interest in physical security instead. I moved to more of a corporate management, corporate security-type role; this was very much about looking at physical security, managing vendors and a bit of crisis management. Three years ago I completed my three ASIS certifications: CPP, PSP and PCI – this really cemented my interest and involvement within this part of the industry. In my current role, there is a lot of work to do surrounding loss prevention, physical security and investigation. For this part of the industry, you need to be quite a strong generalist and, resultingly, this has encouraged me to develop my skillset in a number of different domains.”
Before joining the ASIS UK board, Brooks’ first interaction within the organisation was as a result of pure curiosity. Like many working across the security industry, he quickly saw the value in attending networking events – big and small – as they provided great discussion and career guidance. In taking up a position at ASIS therefore, both Brooks and the other newly appointed board members have put a major focus on maintaining the visibility of the organisation whilst creating an approachable persona across all of its subcommittees; these objectives align with ASIS’s long term missions. Brooks adds: “I became aware of ASIS in 2013/2014 and did not know too much about it. I initially joined in 2015, enjoyed some of the networking events and then started to look into the certification options further down the line – it was a very organic journey.
“My initial involvement was with the Young Professionals element and I then became the Vice-Chair for this subcommittee. Then, at the beginning of 2021, I was elected as the Board Director for Young Professionals on the main Chapter Board. I personally found that out of the many security membership organisations – which all have many benefits respectively – I found ASIS to be very inclusive, friendly and dynamic.
“We are continuing to grow and the UK remains the largest Chapter of ASIS outside of the US; the global perspective that ASIS brings can really aid its members. I have seen some really fantastic networking and events and long may it continue.”
A transitional period
Whilst many changes have emerged since March 2020, for membership-based organisations specifically, it has been a significant challenge to manage and grow numbers. At the height of the pandemic, circumstantial shifts in working and socialising hindered networking opportunities for those that needed it most. As a result, methods of inclusion and support were more important than ever for ASIS UK; putting the ‘Grow, Retain, Support’ mantra at the forefront of its interactions with the wider security community, ASIS UK has moved from strength to strength in its operations. Brooks continues: “There were quite a few changes made throughout 2020 and many of our long-standing members stepped away and retired from roles at the organisation. 2021 has been the first full year under a new operating structure.
“Our mantra has been a really good guide for helping us to efficiently interact with existing and prospective members; we have achieved this over the past 12 months by delivering, for example, some really engaging virtual seminars and events. One of the major focuses is our ‘Diversity Streams’ – this includes the Women in Security, Young Professionals and Diversity, Equality and Inclusion initiatives. As we see more and more young professionals joining the industry, it is about making the industry more inclusive, raising awareness of issues and having the difficult conversations so that we can represent the interests of our members.”
Working on a local level, ASIS UK’s subcommittees mentor those who are present in the industry – and could potentially be struggling with certain issues – and organise engaging events to encourage discussion. In addition, the Chapter’s volunteers create and promote a wealth of interactive content relevant to young professionals in the industry through various online channels. “We are really keen to get more people involved in these strands, particularly those who are and may feel underrepresented in the security industry,” Brooks adds. “We are currently preparing the board for a full calendar of events next year, COVID-19-permitting of course!”
Advancing the industry
The security industry has undoubtedly come on leaps and bounds over the past few years both from a training and technological perspective. However, there is still much to be done across the board to improve opportunity for those joining the industry and to support the journey of individuals as they face day-to-day challenges to overcome. Whilst many issues do arise as a result of the job role itself, ASIS UK are aware of the challenges that also come directly as a result of prejudice and inequality. Brooks elaborates on the work the Chapter is doing: “I think the definition of the security industry, by its vast and growing nature, is difficult to define and quantify.
“I think a lot of young professionals who work in the industry currently may end up working in security and security-related roles without even realising. Therefore, I think it is important that from the outset, we show them the support networks in place, that there are membership organisations available and that there are networking opportunities.
“By promoting the value of continual professional education and development from an early stage in your career, it sits with you throughout. What we try and do, by working with universities and other education bodies, is try and reach out to people who are thinking of security industry careers to let them know that there is support for them every step of the way. Certainly, with the Young Professionals, we try and avoid the hard-sell too soon. In doing so, we look to produce relevant and insightful content that encourages people to meet people and introduce themselves to the wider community.”
As ASIS UK looks towards 2022, the organisation is hopeful for another successful year of growth and development, supporting the industry every step of the way. In doing so, they plan on hosting a range of smaller scale events such as coffee mornings and hybrid events so that people can interact in-person and online. “It is all about reaching as many people as possible,” Brooks explains. “For those wanting to get more involved and join ASIS UK, we are always here to chat to people and see what support plans we can encourage to help individuals gain membership.
“Although certifications can sometimes be an oddity, for young professionals, the APP (Associate Protection Professional) is fantastic as it is an entry-level certification that is designed to consolidate your foundational knowledge of the industry which you will have required at the start of your career. It is important to remember however that certifications do differ from qualifications and, not only do they require commitment and patience, they are not a guarantee of anything; they are a part of the journey and they should not just be seen as the end result. Match your certifications to support your goals.
“We have our four quarterly seminars that take place – Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter – and we are continuing to take ASIS UK into new directions under the leadership of the Chapter’s Chair, Letitia Emeana. We are looking at creating more collaborations and just generally spread the message about the work we are doing. If anyone is interested, please reach out, even if you are a non-member.”
To find out more information about the work that ASIS UK is doing, visit: https://asis.org.uk/
This article was originally published in the December edition of Security Journal UK. To read your FREE digital edition, visit: digital.securityjournaluk.com