Industry needs to close the ‘expectation gap’ to fill
60,000 manned guarding vacancies

Closing the gap between what firms need and what employees want will be the solution to attracting new people to a career in security and filling the sector’s 60,000 jobs vacancies, according to one of the industry’s leading professionals.

John Fitzpatrick, Managing Director of Danhouse Security, says that while security jobs used to be easy to fill, the industry has changed: “The role of the security officer has become considerably more skilled,” he says. “Security used to be about protecting the perimeter, monitoring who goes in and out of the building and looking for troublemakers and whilst still important now, it is more about the customer experience.”

“In the city’s largest buildings, facilities managers and tenants want dedicated front-of-house staff who can help keep the building secure, but as important, is their ability to make people feel welcome. Visitors expect the front desk team to be polite and helpful and guide them to where they need to be. Companies expect a concierge-style service and will pay a premium for good front-of-house people.”

John says both the public and an employer’s opinion of security officers has changed for the better since the pandemic: “Security staff are now valued as never before, as they kept working while everyone else was at home. Many firms paid more attention to what staff were being paid and the holidays and the benefits they receive. The industry has become more attractive, and many more firms and security clients are willing to pay above London Living Wage”.

“The starting salary of a security officer is now more than a junior police officer or nurse with some security personnel in senior managerial positions in London earning between £70,000 and £80,000 a year.”

Recruits increasingly view security as a career rather than a temporary role or a stepping stone to a career elsewhere. They are also more demanding about terms and conditions. John says that the industry needs to recognise how new recruits are more focused on wanting a decent work-life balance: “Today, because they are better paid, many security staff can afford to work less hours. They also only want to commute around 40 to 45 minutes each way which means they are becoming more selective about where they are prepared to work”.

“But the biggest positive change we’ve seen is their interest in training and career prospects. Good candidates want to learn and don’t believe training is simply about getting a licence. In Europe some companies now offer 12-week training courses, and in certain countries, there are degrees in security because the technology for access control and monitoring has become far more complex. The UK market is moving towards this model with the introduction of various apprenticeship levy programmes specifically targeting the security industry.”

With better pay and conditions, training, prospects, and a visible career path, John believes that attracting a new generation of security staff should become easier: “With such high staff shortages, the industry needs to do everything it can to look after its staff and to attract new candidates,” he concludes.

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