Getting A Job In The Uk Security Industry 1920


Getting a Job in the UK Security Industry 19/20

Getting a Job in the UK Security Industry - we catch Peter French MBE speaking with IFSEC Global Editor Adam Bannister

SSR Personnel is an award-winning recruitment and executive search practice dedicated to the security, fire engineering, health and safety sectors.  Founded in the UK in 1986, the company now has a strong presence around the world. Their Dubai Office was named Best Security Recruitment Agency in the UAE for 2019 following the company’s recognition as the global Recruitment Consultancy of the Year at the IFSEC Security & Fire Excellence Awards.

IFSEC Global spoke to the firm’s founder and CEO (and an IFSEC Global influencer), Peter French about the sector prospects, their ‘Bright Mind’ initiative, bringing the next generation through to work , and why the firm is donating its IFSEC 2019 stand to its charity partner.

PF “The third part of the question is easily explained, we have supported Embrace - Child Victims of Crime and the Security Benevolent Fund for many years. Both have relevance to the world of security.  Understanding what the security sector is,  needs a broader explanation.

Security is high on the UK agenda and now, there is virtually no major public or private organisation without a team of dedicated to managing issues of security risk, referred under a broader professional term of Enterprise Risk Management (ERM).  A Profession will always have two elements;

The real James Bonds not only work for the security services but also for a pharmaceutical  or tobacco manufacturers, putting his/her life at risk whilst investigating the sources of dangerous or contraband goods, the real Money Penny does not sit typing memos but is putting their excellent linguistic skills to effective use when analysing intelligence data. Add a computer sciences degree to that skill set and you have an excellent cyber professional investigating system penetration by terrorists or Organised Crime Groups (OCG). City of London Police Jobs

Continuing the 007 theme, Q, the fabled techno head probably has a PhD in mathematics and is working on algorithms that will help CCTV users or software developers predict suspicious behaviour or recognising suspects through facial recognition. The Chief, identified by Ian Fleming as M, is probably the most closely identified character, who will work from various office, around the world, co-ordinating efforts, supporting corporate decisions and working with business leaders throughout their territory.   The UK security profession is exciting and effective and there is a variety of careers to be part of.

The second part of that profession will be in the industry of ancillary services, Consultancies, Systems installers, manned guarding providers who employ globally,  millions of people. There is an entire sector devoted to providing business-to business-security solutions. Security professionals can be involved in providing crime awareness advice, working to reduce vandalism on urban estates, monitoring behaviour on our streets or protecting buildings for clients who contract their services. In Europe SSR estimate there are 3 million employed in security from a working population 213 million in EU. European Salary Survey

IFSEC Global what is your view on the direction of travel for this profession?

PF The future of security will be dominated by the need to have physical security capabilities both integrated with, and protected by, cyber/information security capabilities, not only to ensure the security of any component that touches a corporate network but also to capitalise on the power of the networked world that facilitates automation, frictionless business activity, demonstrating compliance to policy and regulations, and driving efficiency.

In parallel with the business desire for secure and efficient security environments, there will be further innovation in delivery methodologies, particularly though biometric technologies and the adoption of cloud computing which we are now just seeing the risks. While increasingly accepting facial recognition (and other biometric technologies), national restrictions on identity related data transfer will however create barriers to further innovation.  By 2025 we believe that current annual global spending on compliance and regulatory programmes of around £20 BN will be overtaken by the annual amount spent on cyber protection. This is fanning already a shortage of talent. This may be offset in the Middle East, which suffers from a disproportionate number of hacking attacks, by women entering the work force from 2024 , with better grades in sciences, technology and mathematics.  Middle East Salary Survey

In 2011 the Chartered Security Professionals Register, which I sit on, is the gold standard for someone who could start off as a security engineer or security officer,  and wants to show they have reached the pinnacle of their career. We hope this is demonstrating to these Bright Minds this is a profession you could get involved in. That’s why I was very involved in establishing the register: to give people a cradle to grave [career path] – “you can start from here and that’s where you could end up.”  I think the security profession sometimes does itself a disservice by not understanding that it has something it should be proud of.

We’re getting there. The Security Institute is a good ally and I think we should take notice of what they’re doing. ASIS in the UK is, again, a very good ally. It’s full of volunteers who want to share their knowledge, to give them a helping hand especially people who are transitioning from public to private sector.

IFSEC Global What are your thoughts on artificial intelligence for the security professional?

PF: AI, automation, robotics: these are things we must welcome. We shouldn’t fear AI. As it diversifies, it will come with highly paid jobs. SSR are recruiting ‘white hat’ hackers on behalf of companies, because they’re fed up of being terrorised by individuals, sometimes for gain, sometimes not. So, they’re trying to make it a harder landscape for hackers.

For those coming through – those late millennials, Gen Z and Alphas – the smart or IoT revolution will be second nature. They won’t know a world without it. It’s now more about security professionals who are innovators. It could be a budgetary gain, lifecycle gain, a due diligence gain.

The security industry has got to learn to de-people on the front line, to embrace the technology. There is a place for front line security, for giving people reassurance. You’re never going to teach empathy to a machine, incorporating AI is perhaps one reason why security is increasingly no longer seen as a ‘grudge purchase’…

IFSEC Global what do you see in the world that seeks convergence of physical and IT security? 

PF: The industry has some amazing champions – directors, chief security officers, directors of risk and resilience – who engage thoroughly with their boards and embed good security practice.  If security is only a grudge purchase, then the value has not been demonstrated to the senior leadership of an organisation.

The debate about strengthening cyber/information security capabilities will be dominated by the need to protect the liberties of both citizens and corporations.

Politics will affect civil liberties, technology assistance in one country might well become restrictive in another. For instance, if we’re at war with an increasingly sophisticated terror group, such as IS, for 100 years, civil restrictions that repress elements of the population might become accepted as a price worth paying.  But we will want to capitalise on the power of a networked world that facilitates automation, efficiencies, friction-free business activity and compliance with policy and regulations.

The convergence of real-time analytics, machine learning, commodity sensors, embedded systems and the internet of things holistically describes connected sensors, wireless networks and cloud platforms. Yet this creates a new sphere of vulnerabilities by increasing the number of ways that confidential data can be accessed and stolen.  

You have to maximise your technology usage, and that will help you keep costs down and more importantly, make the person operating around that environment, who has to stand six out of 12 hours, more engaged. There’s got to be something in it for both parties.

In security you have to be respected, you have to have integrity, credibility, you have to have compassion, and above all else, you have to have ethics. If you don’t fit into any of those you shouldn’t be in the security sector.

Useful links

IFSEC Global - How we see the future of enterprise risk in the corporate world

IFSEC Global – Watch the future of security tech in a networked world

How big is the security sector?
Following licensing for prescribed activities 355,000 SIA licensed holders where active in October 2019.  There are around 125,000 police officers in the UK. Then there is the technology sector where it is estimated there are around 100,000 people employed. The element where we cannot get consensus is onshore and offshore people employed in UK cyber defence and resilience, but best guess is a population of up to 10,000 people.

Estimates put the total number of professional security managers at between 10,000 and 18,000.  They can be found in almost all of the FTSE 500 organisations, local government, hospitals and many of the larger charities.   In each, the security function will differ in scope and size.  This maybe overlaid through the contracting out of the guard force.

Some of these professions are autonomous (reporting to the CEO or Board) whereas others report into other functions (such as finance or facilities).  The size and remit of the role will almost certainly be dictated by; the nature of the operations conducted (e.g. the needs of a manufacturing site will differ from those of a bank or heritage building), the number of people involved (e.g. employees, or on-line customers), the point of contact or transaction (e.g. one office or many branches throughout regions).  As such, the security manager may be found in all aspects of life. Top 30 UK Companies in the Regulated Security Sector for 2018, the estimated turnover of the regulated security sector is £4.1 BN. The Top 30 security businesses make up 84.7% of the regulated security services market. The Top 30 mirrors the regulated private security sector, which includes companies operating within the following security disciplines: Guarding, Cash and Valuables in Transit, Close Protection, Door Supervision, Public Space Surveillance (CCTV), Security Guarding and Key Holding.


Company Name

2018 Turnover                 

Est. Market Share


G4S Plc*




Mitie Total Security Management (VSG)




Securitas Security Services Ltd




Interserve Plc       




Ultimate Security (Noonan)*




OCS Group UK Ltd




Loomis UK Ltd*




Wilson James Ltd




TSS (Total Security Services)




Cordant Security








Axis Security Ltd




Kingdom Security Ltd




Corps Security Ltd




ISS Facility Services Limited








CIS Security Ltd




Profile Security Services Ltd




Carlisle Security







Supplied by Infologue - Top 30 UK companies in the regulated security sector 2018

Whereabouts in the UK is the security industry?
The UK Security Industry is very heavily concentrated in the southeast of England. Here are the figures worked out by Paul Osborne from Cranfield University, who mapped the regional distribution of the UK Security Industry in 2006.  These figures continue to have credibility as the SIA says that they have issued 64,621 guarding licences. There are 262,162 licences issued for workers in the night-time and events economy, which was not measured in 2006.

People employed in security guard and related occupations (percentage of sector in brackets):
London:                      26,500             (18.4%)
Midlands:                   23,300             (16.2%)
South East:                 23,200             (16.1%)
Northern Ireland:      3,300               (2.3%)
North East:                 3,800               (2.6%)
Wales:                         5,100               (3.5%).

The analysis shows a concentration of security sector organisations in the South East followed by London.  It reflects the general picture of employment opportunities throughout the UK. 

Who works in security?
The sector is truly diverse in its employment practices. Non-EU applicants seldom suffer from discrimination beyond the basic language issues.  Equally, the sector is increasingly well represented by women at a senior level although the general employment level is around 7%.

The security industry as a whole works longer than the average UK working week of 42 hours. In 1993 it was calculated that security managers worked on average 55 hours per week. This figure has reduced to approximately 46.3 hours per week and for the majority this will be most probably involve shift working. 

Front line staff are facing less pressure to work longer hours , this is in part due to Working Time Directive (being stipulated by end users to their contracted companies) and through competitive pressure from some firms, such as  Axis Security , CIS , G4S , ISS, Ultimate Security , Wilson James, who have been pioneering best practice.  However, trade unions (such as the GMB and UNITE who are becoming increasingly more represented in the sector) are quick to point out that many workers choose to opt out of the working time restrictions to maximise their earnings.  Either way, choice is an option. There are however still companies that offer only zero hour working contracts.

Benefits offered to staff relate to the organisations ability to pay.  Larger organisations tend to offer broader benefits but with lower basic remuneration whilst smaller firms compete with higher pay and less benefits. Consequently, there’s a wide choice of employer and benefits packages for job-hunters. The Minimum national wage 2019 is £8.20 the London Living wage is £10.55.

Trade body
The major industry trade body is the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) who claim that their members provide over 70 per cent of UK security products and services and adhere to strict quality standards.  As such, they are a credible source of reference.

Is there a job for you in the UK security industry?
Traditionally, security staff are in their second career, drawn from either ex-police or ex-armed forces, with little or no academic security background. Now we are seeking to attract to our Bright Minds programme, which operates as a conduit for companies to trail a person prior to full employment, and also for roles that are being developed or may be in transition for a short period of time.   

Does it matter what age you are?
Until recently, security departments were structured similarly to uniformed services, this method of operation being brought over from the services as cultural baggage. The knock-on effect from this was that ‘security’ was perceived as being there to stop staff and act as policemen, rather than taking a proactive stance and delivering business benefits. An upside of this tradition is that middle age is not seen as a barrier – older people do begin a job in the security industry without prejudice. Corporate front line security officers are being developed in a role of host as you find at any high-quality hospitality venue. Age discrimination is illegal.

Management roles and professional development
In recent decades, there has been a marked expansion in the field of security management with security now being viewed as a critical part of most organisations.  With the expansion of security into a major aspect of commercial business the role of the head of security is now viewed by as a management function that is subject to organisations’ quality and return on investment.

According to research by Sennewald, to be a security professional the modern security manager must:
·        be a leader
·        have a broad profile with high visibility within their organisation
·        be a contemporary professional and an innovator
·        act as a counsellor, mentor, trainer and advisor
·        and of course, are a goal setter and strategic planner”.

This has required the security function to embrace general management theory and apply it to their practices instead of delivering reactive policing.  We would recommend the Security Institute who have membership commencing at an Associate level , full member and then Fellow to help with courses and certification.

Career structure in management roles
This demand has led to growing numbers of security managers being employed and in receipt of professional development and a career structure is slowly evolving. The advent of a career structure is attractive to those starting out in their careers (rather than embarking on second careers) or for those using the security function as a steppingstone to other corporate roles.

Management salaries
With a career structure that is relatively broad and establishing, salary bands currently range from security supervisors up to £30,000 to corporate heads c £250,000. UK Salary Survey – Articulating your worth in the boardroom

In the ASIS vison of Security in 2025 security managers identified the most sought-after traits in security leaders was (in order):

·        personal integrity / credibility
·        concern for employees / people
·        security competence and risk understanding
·        ability to persuade others / present your business case
·        understanding of business

Technical jobs
Technical security roles are now a diverse sector, working with high tech equipment for fire and security. Most new technology is presented as plug and play but clients will need to be trained and there will be upgrades.  SSR have a high number of open vacancies recorded for October 2019.

A few of the larger alarm installation firms now have apprenticeship schemes (with bonuses and a professional development regimes) designed to attract new recruits into the profession. 

Finding work in the UK security sector
Access to work is relatively simple in the UK, with most of all roles open to direct or indirect applications. Direct applications are those that are either unsolicited (e.g. sending your CV to prospective employers in the hope of a role becoming available) or through gaining support for your application. Indirect applications are those who apply in response to advertisements (e.g. found on job boards) as well as those applying through recruitment firms. (Note that under legislation, the work finding services of recruitment firms in the UK is free).

Criminal records and screening
The industry carries our routine screening of all applicants, throughout their career and for some roles this includes screening for drugs and alcohol.

Who needs a licence and how to get one?
All contracted front-line staff, (a person that would be contact with the public) such as security guards working for contract firms, CCTV operatives and their supervisors or managers, require an SIA licence.  The Security Industry Authority is the organisation responsible for regulating the UK private security industry. They are an independent body reporting to the Home Secretary, under the terms of the Private Security Industry Act 2001.

They have two main duties. One is the compulsory licensing of individuals undertaking designated activities within the private security industry; the other is to manage the voluntary Approved Contractor Scheme (ACS), which measures private security suppliers against independently assessed criteria.

SIA licensing covers manned guarding (including security guarding, door supervision, close protection, cash and valuables in transit, and public space surveillance using CCTV), key holding and vehicle immobilising. Licensing ensures that private security operatives are ‘fit and proper’ persons who are properly trained and qualified to do their job. There are just over 355,000 licence holders issued and some people hold multiple licences.

Cash & Valuables in Transit                         7,470
Close Protection                                            14,541
Door Supervisors                                           262,162
Key Holding                                                       956
Public Space Surveillance (CCTV)               50,633
Security Guarding                                         64,621
Vehicle Immobilisers                                         20

Academic requirements
Lack of academic qualifications has not traditionally been seen as a barrier to entry, with skill and attributes being the primary criteria.  More recent developments indicate that employers are looking for applicants with an ability and desire to qualify at an appropriate level and the introduction of licensing has set a minimum standard for front-line staff . 

This has led to a burgeoning of qualifications from NVQs to highly specialised Doctorates, all of which are available through further or higher education (with funding often available through the employers).  This is attractive to Gen Z applicants that are now looking for an alternative in their development rather than going to university. 

Moving to the UK from abroad
Nationals of the EU or the EEA are generally free to take up residence in the UK without prior immigration formalities (certain limitations do apply to some citizens from the new EU member states). Stay in the UK after it leaves the EU ('settled status'): step by step .Gov settled status EU citizens families

Immigration rules The rules are designed to simplify the routes of entry by whittling them down from over 80 entry types to just five tiers:

·        highly skilled individuals
·        skilled workers with a job offer
·        low skilled workers to fill specific temporary labour shortages
·        students
·        youth mobility and temporary workers.

The detailed requirement for these is being drawn up at the time of writing and will be published by The Borders and Immigration Agency.  It is important that visitors hold a current visa for the UK.

Non-EU nationals
For those non-EU nationals entering the UK permanently and wishing to become a British Citizen , expect to be required to prove that you have a standard of English (entry level 3) or to sit a computer based test answering a range of question such as “Where are Geordie, Cockney and Scouse dialects spoken,” to gain this knowledge you have to purchase online  'Life in the United Kingdom'

At the point of entry, immigrant officers have the power to require any immigrant to undertake further health screening.  However, in practice, this is normally only applied to those intending to stay for over six months (who will be required to provide acceptable evidence that they are free of tuberculosis) and may, if the entry officer suspects the presence of an infectious condition, be directed to undertake further health screening.

Employers in the UK are under a lot of government pressure to ensure that you have all of the right paperwork before you start work and they are required to check this annually. It is normal for all job seekers to be asked to prove their right of abode and right to work, many times in the job seeking process.

Finding somewhere to live
Whilst London is an expensive city in which to live, the rest of the UK is reasonably priced for anyone with combined earnings over £30,000. Less than this and finding long-term accommodation can be both difficult and time consuming. 

Many estate agents provide a free letting service for people looking for somewhere to live and the larger chains provide access to networks of agents through the UK.  Expect to pay 5 weeks rental as a deposit in advance. Regardless of buying or renting property , you will be expected to provide proof of your identity, ability to pay and anti-money laundry or background checks.

Cost of living in the UK
The cost of living in the UK is stable, though far from cheap.  Prices in independent chains that mainly trade outside the South East can be cheaper. Bartering in major stores and outlets is not expected – but always ask if there is a manager’s discount available on an item in a big-ticket sale. A good deal can be secured if you shop around especially online!

After a good meal, it is normal to tip 10 per cent but bar staff and shop keepers do not expect anything.  Anyone who lives near a major town and has a basic (entry level 2) grasp of English can access a plethora of home delivery services which include everything from shopping, fast food and even televisions.  Those living outside of the major centres have a more sedentary life and expect to wait or travel further for luxuries.

Health service
The UK National Health Services is highly regulated but provides a free service at hospitals for all emergencies (although a post-incident charging system exists for people unable to prove they are eligible EU nationals and for some incidents that involve insurance claims).  There are a number of excellent private hospitals, GP and dental practices scattered across the major cities in the UK and a NHS is available for anyone.

Much of the UK has excellent mobile and internet connectivity increasingly 5 G, although access does depend on the provider and if you are buying a mobile phone, check coverage before you choose your provider.  This can make a real difference when calling internationally, downloading data or just trying to speak to friends when you are in the beautiful hills of Wales and your friends are in London.

UK culture
You will find queuing is a national past time that smooths the way the UK functions.  Expect to queue to enter theatres, board busses and even in traffic. Whilst you are unlikely to be ejected for barging in, the hostility will be felt if not seen or heard. Always offer your seat to elderly people, expectant mothers or people with small children.

There is no written constitution in the UK and the legal rules are abided by in practice by most people.  The UK laws are often conflicting, which in part, is attributable to the fact that they are derived from three main sources:

1.      Unlike many continental European states, the UK's legal system is principally based upon common law. The common law system includes the law of contract which governs the employment relationship and enforcement of the employment contract. England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland each have separate legal jurisdictions and systems, however the contract law of each country is similar in most respects.

2.      The UK does not have a civil law code but instead a plethora of statutes and regulations that govern most aspects of the employment relationship.  Except in very limited circumstances, it is not possible for parties to contract out of the statutory protection rights. In some cases, the legislation is supported by Codes of Practice (that have no direct legal effect but are taken into account by Courts and the highly specialist Employment Tribunals).

3.      The UK Government is also required to interpret employment legislation passed under the EC Treaty and judgments of the European Court of Justice, which it does through statutes and regulations.

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