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Changes in the Classroom?

​THE EVENTS OF 9-11 not only reshaped security in government and the private sector, they have also reshaped the security education landscape. Programs designed for security officers didn’t address terrorism at all before 9-11. Now, these programs address basic concepts as they fit within a security officer’s duties, including how to recognize signs of suspicious activity such as countersurveillance on a property. Many companies, however, have yet to take advantage of the opportunity to help shape and benefit from these programs.

While career and technical education courses in protective services have been around since the 1980s, the post-9-11 world ushered in a new era, because there was suddenly a new demand for these types of educational programs. Currently, there are more than 900 secondary and countless post-secondary programs at educational institutions in the United States that focus their entire curriculum on protective services.

These programs, which may span two years or four, have organized instruction on skills related to corporate security, electronic security, law enforcement, and emergency services. Many of these programs offer students the opportunity to obtain certifications from professional organizations. The International Association of Protection Officers offers several certification programs including the Certified Protection Officer (CPO) certification. This certification demonstrates that the certificate holder has proven knowledge in core security fundamentals, including those established in the ASIS Guideline on Private Security Selection and Training. (ASIS International also offers a student membership that provides the benefits of networking and educational materials to those who do not yet meet the requirements of full membership.)

Some education programs offer students training in electronic security systems design and installation. These programs also provide students with industry certifications. Security and Police Science Instructor Jim Sharkey at the Center for Arts and Technology in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, says that in addition to getting CPO training, students also obtain CPR, firstaid, first-responder, and AED training.

Students who are technically inclined are taught the fundamentals of design and installation of access control, video surveillance, and intrusion detection systems. Sharkey’s students have gone on to intern and work directly for security integrators. When these students took their first entry level job, they were already equipped with skills that are normally acquired on the job or through manufacturer training programs. Sharkey says that this can be a benefit to employers who have often had to do all of the training themselves.

Private-Sector Partners Institutions have surmised that a critical part of building and maintaining a relevant and effective curriculum is partnering with industry. Without industry exposure, these programs begin to operate in a silo, and they risk becoming stale and irrelevant. Because of this, protective services programs are increasingly seeking private security professionals to teach these types of classes. They also often have advisory boards that help steer the curriculum and experiences these programs offer to students.

Advisory boards. Advisory boards are a two-way street: They serve not only the schools, but also the security sector, which can benefit from participating in such programs. Often companies do not take advantage of the opportunity, however.

Companies that participate get the chance to help shape what students are taught. They can then have some of these students, who have been given the selected foundational skills, come to their facilities and work as interns before graduation. This allows organizations to have first pick of some of the brightest young people entering the work world. I have seen this process give new energy, fresh ideas, and a competitive edge to both the colleges and the companies.

My own professional career began in a protective services education program. It was through the donation of video surveillance equipment from a leading manufacturer that I first learned about video surveillance systems and the surveillance industry. It sparked a real interest, and from that interest, I learned everything I could about video security.

That was 26 years ago. Since that time, I have been responsible for literally millions of dollars of sales of that manufacturer’s equipment. At the time that manufacturer had no idea whatsoever that the small donation of several cameras and monitors would lead to such an enormous return on investment. My own experience is illustrative of the type of success stories that can result when industry partners with education.

Making It Happen

Following are five essential steps to ensuring that qualified personnel are always in the pipeline.

Seek programs. The first step is to find a program that seems to be a good fit for your company’s future personnel needs. To get started, you can visit the Web site for the National Partnership for Careers in Law, Public Safety, Corrections, and Security (Find the link via “Beyond Print” at The organization provides an excellent list of programs throughout the United States.

Get involved. Once you find an appropriate program, reach out to the instructor and ask how the company can assist in enhancing the curriculum. You can offer to start by providing a list of the most critical skill sets needed by employees in your sector of the industry.

Company representatives should participate in other ways as well, such as by sitting on advisory committees or coming to the classroom to give demonstrations or speak on real-world issues. The company can also suggest or host field trips, and it can offer internship opportunities. While this involvement may seem like an extra effort you don’t have time for, you will gain tangible rewards from this investment. Even if a student never works for your company, he or she will know you and your firm. Positive word of mouth will circulate about your company years, or even decades, after that student has graduated. That’s goodwill that PR agencies would charge big money to create.

Mentor. Students start out having few, if any, contacts in the business world and are often a little timid in getting their feet wet. This is where experienced security professionals can really make a difference. Take the time to connect them to other professionals and industry events. Be a mentor. Soon you will reap the benefits of connecting so many young people to the industry. They will remember you, and it will pay off.

Create a path. Young people tend to be ambitious and want to climb the corporate ladder. Lay a foundation for continued education and growth in your company. Let students know that they don’t need to go elsewhere to continue their career. This will create a sense of loyalty and dedication to your company and a sense of security on the part of the employee. Employees who feel secure in their positions are less likely to look elsewhere or be dishonest.

Let them fly. The very worst thing a mentor can do is keep an employee from growing. That means that if that employee outgrows his or her position and there is no vertical room for growth in your company, you should help that employee move onward and upward, even if that is to a competitor. This may seem like a crazy idea, but it will benefit you more than it does the employee. This will display a level of integrity and openness not only to your employee but to your industry and your peers as well.

The challenges of shaping the next generation of our industry in a post-9-11 world is a big responsibility, and, unfortunately, it often goes unnoticed in our daily workflow and busy schedules. But it is an investment in time and money that must be made so that when the baton is passed, we are confident in the employees who will successfully carry the torch and help us deal with the threats over the horizon. Ten years after 9-11, that’s more important than ever.

Paul F. Benne, PSP, CPOI (Certified Protection Officer Instructor), has worked in the security industry for 24 years. He is a security consultant in New York City and is a member of the ASIS International Academic and Training Programs Council.