Chair: Martin Gill

Panellists:
Garry Bergin – Commercial Manager & Security Consultant, Manguard Plus
Jennifer Ciolfi – Security Professional
Paul Scallan – Chief Executive, Private Security Authority

Key Points

Jennifer Ciolfi started work in security as a frontline officer and also brings an international focus having arrived in Ireland two years ago via Scotland and Canada. Jenn’s impressions of Irish security is positive and she points to a focus on education and training and the recognition of the specific skill sets that security professionals need rather than relying on former police and military. Security has been spearheaded by the high number of technology companies locating their head offices in Dublin. Supply chain issues brought about by Brexit as much as the pandemic – remain a challenge – and security has a chance to shine here by showing how it facilitates business. But staff have to be up for the task and there are skills gaps, both at the lowest levels but also amongst senior management where the businesses cases for security are made. You will hear Jennifer call for greater diversity as the key to stronger recruitment; there needs to be more identifiable career paths.

Paul Scallan notes the regulator in Ireland is responsible for 12 diverse sectors including guarding, cash in transit, locksmiths and private investigators and they have been impacted by Covid in different ways; guarding has fared reasonably well, with cash in transit it has been more variable. Even within sectors there have been variations yet local research has shown the industry is optimistic and resilient. Paul notes that sometimes the industry is unrealistic about what to expect from its regulator. Some of the problems rest with the industry, the high churn rate, the lack of focus on a career path, the lack of security backgrounds amongst middle management. Paul says that in due course regulation will focus on management levels and although there will be resistance from the industry this is an important step. Regulating trainers though is unlikely.

Garry Bergin characterises the security workforce in Ireland as loyal and generally committed to high standards helped by foreign investment in data centres which has benefited security. Growing areas are mobile patrols and the pandemic sparked interest in companies being asked to check for leaks. The big challenge though is wages, only some clients will pay for the best, and only good suppliers are ensuring they will always pay the minimum/living wage, and the low pay at the point of entry remains an issue; retail is one example. He calls for initiatives that recognise staff and for staff themselves, including at the lowest levels, to take some personal responsibility for their own career development.

When the panel were asked to suggest the key strategic issue that would bring about a better security sector all three mentioned higher wages which as Jennifer noted could be brought about by an increase in education. Similarly, Paul underlined the importance of better training and more identifiable career paths. Garry stressed the need for legal regulation to generate an improvement in wages. Their suggestions would have a wider applicability and attractiveness around the world, but is the world listening?

Martin Gill
18th November 2021