Finding and retaining new talent is one of the top challenges facing the security industry, and particularly when it comes to the essential role of security technicians. One way the industry is responding is through the efforts of the Foundation for Advancing Security Talent (FAST), a nonprofit founded by the Security Industry Association (SIA) and the Electronic Security Association (ESA) and dedicated to connecting motivated, talented professionals with new opportunities in the physical security and life safety industry.
FAST recently welcomed its first-ever executive director, Aiden O’Brien, who works to carry out FAST’s mission by raising awareness of career opportunities within he security industry and building the talent pipeline. For this month’s Workforce Strategies column, SIA spoke with O’Brien about the importance of security technicians and FAST’s ideas and initiatives around solving the industry’s hiring challenges.
What role do security technicians play in our industry? Why are they so important?
O’Brien: In my introductory discussions with the FAST Board of Directors and many others in the industry, one point has been brought up over and over again: security technicians play a critical role in our industry. Often, challenges with hiring or retaining technicians impact other parts of the company, or a company’s ability to grow. Additionally, the tasks technicians complete daily often form the core of a company’s offerings to customers.
Technicians are the ones tasked with installing and maintaining the security systems that protect the people and property most important to us. Security technicians work with a large variety of clients, so a diverse array of industries and people rely on them. Access control, video monitoring, detection and fire alarms and monitoring are just a few examples of areas that require security technicians to install.
Beyond installing these critical systems, security technicians also maintain them — this involves working with clients, troubleshooting technology and staying up to date with current industry trends to be effective.
To put it simply: Security technicians serve as the backbone to our industry, but it is also difficult to retain this talent. To help address this challenge, FAST has launched two programs to ensure the important work these technicians do every day is appreciated. FAST recently named January 23 as National Security Technician Day — and we encourage all companies in our industry to celebrate it moving forward. Additionally, FAST has established the Security Technician of the Year Awards — which will be presented each year to 10 security technicians who have best demonstrated excellence, premier customer service and leadership within their organizations. I hope that the entire security industry will continue to join FAST in recognizing the crucial role security technicians play in our industry and join us in celebrating them!
Why is attracting technician talent for integrators so difficult today? Does FAST have any ideas on how to solve this?
O’Brien: In my conversations with leaders in the industry, one thing is clear: recruiting and hiring are a key challenge companies are facing. SIA’s 2023 Security Megatrends report backs this up, with workforce development challenges being listed as megatrend No. 3. Several factors make recruiting security technician talent challenging in today’s landscape:
First: awareness. When students are in high school and college, they are more aware of different careers and different trades than they are of the security industry. A prospective student may have an interest in the technical aspects of the technician role — electrical work and technology, for example — but be encouraged by a guidance counselor toward a different trade due to a low awareness that security is a career. Ensuring that we are educating people on the career paths in the security industry is a key mission of FAST and is not limited to only new hires, but geared toward existing employees in the industry as well.
Another reason attracting talent to our industry is so difficult is competition. All the time, so many things are competing for our attention, and careers are included in this. Our industry needs to work to define a career path for individuals entering our industry. We all know that security technician roles can lead to a great and lucrative career in the security industry, but we need to be able to demonstrate that to stand out from other trades vying for this talent.
I am eager to collaborate with security leaders to spotlight this vibrant, high-tech field and the diverse professionals that comprise it, and FAST is committed to addressing these talent challenges through several initiatives. We are enhancing career content, expanding our job board reach, building relationships with educational institutions, awarding high achievers in the industry and raising awareness of security opportunities, and through these initiatives, I believe FAST can help the industry cultivate the next generation of security leaders.
What is FAST doing now to encourage new talent to join the industry?
O’Brien: FAST has a variety of resources on our website which play a role in encouraging new talent to join the industry. One of my favorites is the FAST Jobs Board, which has a ton of great opportunities we promote to the industry and on social media to encourage new talent to join our rapidly growing industry. I would encourage all companies to post open positions on this board. As a member benefit, SIA and ESA members get free postings on the board, helping to connect these member companies to talent looking for opportunities in our industry.
We also have the Security Technician of the Year Awards, which I mentioned earlier. This program spotlights the impactful contributions technicians make to showcase career growth potential and that the great companies we work with are committed to their success. The 10 winners of this award will be honored at ISC East, giving national recognition to the winners, their employers and the industry as a whole.
In addition to appealing to potential new talent, FAST is committed to helping organizations retain their talent. That is why we are pleased to partner with SIA’s 25 on the RISE awards program. Recognizing the talent in our industry is key to making sure they continue to build careers in security, and the 25 on the RISE awards are an important component of retaining talent.