Where have all the good technicians gone?

Jennifer Brown
Tuesday June 01, 2010
Written by Jennifer Brown
Over the years we’ve heard and written about the lack of talent available to fill security system positions. At first it was the boom out West that was to blame — too many positions, not enough talent. But you would think in this quasi-post-recession economy there would be more than a few candidates to fill a well paying position in a security department of a large organization, right? Apparently not.

For the last six months a government body in Ontario has advertised for a security services technologist. The position was a good one with good remuneration: $50,000 to $61,000 base salary (depending on experience) plus the ability to earn overtime; Monday to Friday, nine-to-five and a government pension to boot.

The job was posted in October 2009 in the local daily newspaper, to the employer’s website, to two ASIS websites in Canada, to the Canadian Society for Industrial Security website and pushed out to a select group of CANASA members.

The hiring manager told me he quickly discovered “The person I wanted to hire doesn’t exist.”
 
The job requirements were as follows: Reporting to the manager of corporate security, the person would be primarily responsible for the operations of physical security systems including access control systems, keying systems, intrusion detection and video surveillance.

They would also be responsible for system programming, database management, troubleshooting and overseeing repairs and preventive maintenance. In addition, the person would provide technical expertise to the procurement process for a variety of physical security systems and projects.

The employer was looking for candidates with a post-secondary diploma in a security and/or security systems technology related program and five years experience as a security and/or alarm system technician. In addition, they wanted someone with strong working knowledge of troubleshooting and managing both stand alone and networked security systems.

Ultimately, a candidate with certification as a Physical Security Professional through ASIS International and/or successful completion of the Alarm Technician Course (levels 1 & 2) through CANASA would be preferred.

Yes, the employer received many applicants, but they just weren’t qualified to manage systems. For the most part, resumés came from guards or consultants with law and security administration diplomas, but no hard systems experience or education.

Mid-way through the search process, with few resumés to consider, the hiring manager went online to see if colleges in Ontario were even offering what he was looking for to fill the job. The two colleges he thought were training students in security system design — Algonquin in Ottawa and Sheridan in Oakville, were no longer offering the programs.

If it’s a fire technologist you need, yes, there’s a program for that, but security systems seem to have been dropped from the curriculum.

Law and security programs may offer one course within the two- or three-year diploma programs, but there appears to be no one program dedicated to producing students who can manage the electronic surveillance and access control systems companies are installing today.

As organizations continue to build complex security systems, the demand for this kind of skilled person is only going to increase, especially as many realize the need to have someone in-house to oversee and troubleshoot systems and support the corporate security manager.

This employer became increasingly frustrated as projects began to pile up. They currently have one seasoned technician, who has a formal education in electronics  and originally worked and was trained by a large integrator on CCTV systems, but the department he is in has grown to the point where they need to add a second person. This should be a good thing for the industry; however, the right skills don’t appear to be out there, or those with the skills are staying put.

The employer told me he will be hiring someone by the end of June, but he knows he will have to do some additional training.

He had a message for those who have good security system technicians: “Hang on to them; they’re like gold.”
He also wants to know what the industry is doing to produce better candidates.

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