Chair: Martin Gill

Houdah Al-Hakim – CEO and Founder, Quick Click Security
Tim Mann – Partnerships, Projects & Training Lead, National Volunteer Police Cadets
Paul Barnard – Founder and Managing Director, Solace Security Consultancy

Key points

Paul Barnard believes the security sector is not doing enough to engage teenagers. One key area that lacks focus is the narrative around what security is, what it does, and how it is communicated; it certainly does not engage teenagers. Paul laments the fact that ‘we are not telling people the story’ and are guided by what they see on television and that is too often negative. Talk about the lack of diversity is important but the narrative here does not sufficiently address a failure to engage teenagers. Most importantly there is no strategy to connect with teenagers and that is a precursor to making meaningful improvements in connecting with younger age groups.

Houdah Al-Hakim agrees the security sector is not effective at engaging teenagers despite some outstanding examples of good practice. Part of the difficulty is the tendency for the sector to talk internally rather than externally. Moreover, the communication methods adopted by teenagers are focussed on social media and they don’t link with what the security sector puts out nor the forms it does that by. Even then the security sector does not discuss the sorts of issues that might engage teenagers, the opportunities for example and how they might appeal to the young. Interestingly Houdah highlights the tendency to focus on the work of frontline workers rather than what can be achieved by those at the top. Other industries offer less but are instinctively more attractive to teenagers which suggests a lack of awareness about security. There is a need to outline the career pathways – which clearly exist it is just that there are many of them – but to do so in a digestible way and supported by a national campaign. She calls for an interactive tool to engage young people. She also calls on companies to look at the long-term gains from investing in young people.

Tim Mann discusses how work with the volunteer police cadets which engages 17,000 13-18 year olds some of whom are disaffected and have been involved in minor offending. The cadets get involved in tasks such as community projects, visit security exhibitions and visit companies to expand their horizons. There is a role though in helping those in the corporate world to relate to teenagers. Tim highlights the value in personal face to face contact in making a difference, ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’. The security world can be exciting and some organisations – you will hear him discuss examples – provide benchmarks as to what can be done.

When asked what they would most wish for to generate the most positive change Paul emphasised the value of a strategy supported by a charter committing companies to showing initiative in engaging teenagers. Tim focussed on the value of partnerships and noted there are plenty of good ones to engage with. Central to initiatives is an opportunity to empower young people. Houdah focussed on everyone talking responsibility for doing something, and the good thing about that is that we can all contribute.

Martin Gill
31st March 2022

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