Raising Standards in Security
An exclusive interview with David Gill, Group Managing Director of the Linx International Group discussing the need for proper security training.
At the beginning of 2019, a report by MarketWatch projected that the global commercial security industry will grow by 10% annually until 2023, reaching a value of US$187 billion by the end of that period.
This fantastic rate of growth has, of course, created huge employment opportunities throughout the industry, but it is imperative that those individuals who choose to work in security are trained to the appropriate standards and competent to carry out their role.
The provision of training has become an interesting talking point in recent times with the National Police Chiefs Council even opening up free online counter-terrorism training to the general public in the aftermath of the London Bridge attack in November 2019.
However, for security professionals, Linx International Group is the leading provider of security training courses. Its constituent companies, Tavcom Training, Perpetuity Training and ARC Training International provide a comprehensive range of security, risk management and investigative functions together with operational, procedural and strategic advice and training.
International Security Journal sat down with David Gill, Group Managing Director of the Linx International Group to discuss the company’s work around the world and how he thinks industry standards can be raised.
Leading the way
David Gill is somewhat of an industry veteran with a career spanning more than 30 years in the commercial security market. He was Vice Chairman of the Security Institute for six years and is currently the Registrar for the Register of Chartered Security Professionals. However, it is Linx International Group that is his primary focus.
Gill explained: “We are very proud to be the number one provider in many aspects of technical and security management training. Our group includes Perpetuity Training, which is the exclusive training provider for the UK’s Security Institute, ARC Training which has recently been appointed the first ASIS CPE training provider and Tavcom Training which is the global leader in delivering BTEC qualification courses in technical security subjects.”
The provision of security training is a competitive marketplace but Linx has established itself as the market leader. Gill revealed the secrets behind their success: “We put the client at the front and centre of everything we do. We know that each client, learner and team is different, and experience tells us that to get the best from training, we must tailor our approach. This focus on the client and first-class service extends to every member of our team, not just our excellent trainers.
We are very fortunate to have world-leading training facilities, which host our scheduled ‘open’ courses. Continuing with the tailored approach, we find that many clients prefer to receive their training at their own facilities, meaning teams can learn in their own environment and training material can be customised to their policies and procedures.
Developing accredited courses that carry internationally-recognised qualifications involves significant time and investment. We have also responded to the market which has seen a strong demand for online courses.
“We were the first private training provider in our sector to develop a Masters degree (International Security Risk Management) which we created in collaboration with a UK university. Our classroom-based courses are delivered across the USA, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia.
Middle East matters
With Intersec 2020 fast approaching, it was interesting to hear Gill’s thoughts on the approach taken to security training across the Middle East. Linx has been operating in the region for around six years and Gill pointed out: “We are definitely seeing an increase in demand for security training across the Middle East and especially in Dubai.
“I would say Dubai is at the vanguard of security excellence in the Middle East. It is often used by other Middle East countries as the regional leader in the latest security practices and technologies.”
Linx is also an official partner of Dubai’s security regulator, the Security Industry Regulatory Agency (SIRA), a governmental body: “Licensing requirements across the security industry in Dubai are more stringent than in the UK, anyone engaged in any security activity must hold a relevant license.
There are now approximately 40 000 people working in the security industry in Dubai and SIRA has taken the step of creating a new membership body, to be officially launched at Intersec 2020. The Security Professional Association (SPA) is the first security association in the UAE aimed at connecting people within the security industry to foster a platform for knowledge exchange and development. Its mission statement is “to provide members with the support and tools that will ensure their advancement and success, leading to a world class security industry in the UAE.”
The SPA is expected to grow quickly: “I think the association will have 20 000 members in no time at all. This year alone, there have been over 9 000 people processed through SIRA for training and that includes an extra 4 000 personnel that have been trained specifically for Expo 2020.”
Gill also revealed that Linx is continuing to expand its offering in the region: “SIRA conduct their own security officer training and utilise Linx to deliver a range of higher-level programmes on topics such as: port security, managing oil and gas security and mass transit security (the Metro). We are currently developing a bespoke security and risk management manual which will become essential for those aspiring to become licensed security managers. ”
Stopping the cowboys
After a short while in conversation with Gill it is abundantly clear that he cares deeply about raising professional standards throughout the industry. It is to this end that he and the team at Linx International launched the Certified Technical Security Professional (CTSP) Register.
Gill described the reasons behind the new initiative: “We recognised that with the absence of licensing in the technical security space, the market is exposed and vulnerable to dubious and unqualified operators. It is common practice for many installers, integrators and maintenance providers to utilise self-employed contractors without conducting proper vetting or competency checks. The NSI approval scheme for companies is of course a good measure of a company but until recently, there was no publicly available way of identifying professionally competent individuals skilled in installing or maintaining security systems.
“It is something that many people in the industry complain about. There are a huge number of ‘cowboys’, claiming to be proficient in installing security equipment who in reality are quite often little more than odd jobbers with, at best, some basic electrical know-how. They do not have a comprehensive understanding or knowledge of what they are actually installing.”
After consulting some respected entities within the industry and gaining the support and subsequent endorsement of the BSIA and SSAIB, the CTSP Register was launched: “The register was set up as a means to certify and recognise skilled technicians. To become a CTSP registrant, an individual must have a minimum of a Level 3 qualification in a security or fire detection discipline, a minimum of two years of practical experience and also provide references and a portfolio of evidence. It is a quite rigorous process.”
The register is becoming popular, more than 700 people having applied to be registered and Gill revealed that he was approached by a large installation company at the recent International Security Expo, the firm is looking to put all of its engineers through the process in order to bolster its standing when they tender for work.
Apart from a general raising of standards, the register offers benefits to employers, end users and the registrants themselves: “Employers will feel the benefit because if an individual includes that they are CTSP registered on their CV, the employer can visit the website and check what disciplines they are registered for.
“Furthermore, each registrant is required to sign a self-declaration for the absence of criminal convictions as well as adhere to a professional code of conduct, both of which will provide peace of mind for end users. Finally, all registrants are entitled to use a postnominal of CTSP and they can proudly display the logo on their marketing material, clothing and vehicles which will, of course, differentiate them from their competition. I would encourage anyone in the industry to view the CTSP register online’’.
“The register has been very well received; a security consultant who advises local authorities on video surveillance systems stipulates in his client’s invitation to tender document that installers of the systems are required to be CTSP registered. I believe, the CTSP will become the industry norm.”
The road ahead
Moving forward, as well as developing the company’s work around the globe, Gill is looking to expand Linx International’s footprint within the UK: “We are in the process of setting up a number of regional training centres across the north of England. We recognise that, particularly for our technical courses where equipment is essential, for people based in the north of England then the training at our facility can become prohibitively expensive, given travel and accommodation costs. This expansion will help us to provide training to more clients from the north east, north west and the midlands.”
And what about the industry as a whole? Gill is confident that the message is finally getting through to senior decision makers: “It is all about education, education, education. Gone are the days that an individual can get a security management job just because they are ex-police or ex-military; the security sector has been its own worst enemy for many years. However there are now clear signs it is recognising, like so many other sectors, that professional qualifications are essential if you want a fulfilling and successful career.
“The pinnacle is to attain Chartered status, the highest level in the field of security or as Lord Alex Carlile QC, the former Chairman of the Chartered Security Professionals Registration Authority said, “Chartered Security Professionals are operating at the gold standard of security practice.”
It is a time of great change throughout the security industry but there is no doubt that with individuals such as David Gill leading the way, professional standards will continue to improve across the board, which is good news for us all.