With technology evolving rapidly, it’s critical for security professionals to keep their skills and knowledge base up-to-date. Fortunately, a wide range of training options are available to them — often at little or no cost.

Sometimes security industry training needs are driven by state licensing requirements. Some states require a certain number of classroom hours or certain certifications for technicians to be licensed to perform certain types of work. The Electronic Security Association’s National Training School, for example, has a long history of providing classroom training about alarm system installation, maintenance and troubleshooting that is recognized by many state associations. On the fire system side, some states require technicians who are working on fire systems to be certified by the National Institute for Certification in Engineering Technologies — and organizations such as Las Vegas-based National Training Center offer classes aimed at preparing technicians to take and pass the NICET test.

To maintain their licenses, security dealers typically are required to obtain credit for a certain number of continuing education units per year — and numerous training organizations, as well as equipment manufacturers, offer CEU-approved classes on a wide range of topics.

Certain business requirements are also driving the need for training.

“We’re increasingly seeing jobs where CPP or PCI certification is a requirement,” comments Gene Ferraro, CEO of Denver-based security integrator Business Controls Inc. The Certified Protection Professional (CPP) and Professional Certified Investigator (PCI) certification programs are administered by ASIS International, an Alexandria, Va.-based security industry association with a strong focus on training. The board-certified CPP program is aimed at verifying a recipient’s competency in the areas of security solutions and best-business practices, while the PCI program focuses on investigative skills and case management.

“CPP certification is the most prestigious and recognized certification program,” comments Ferraro, who has both CPP and PCI certification. In addition, ASIS offers a physical security professional (PSP) program, which emphasizes physical security assessment; application, design and integration of physical security systems; and implementation of physical security measures.

NICET certification also is showing up as a requirement in more and more bid specifications, notes Bryan McLane, vice president of sales for National Training Center.

Meanwhile, as security products become increasingly complex, more and more equipment manufacturers are creating their own certification programs and requiring security professionals to obtain certification before they can purchase those products. “Virtually every manufacturer is coming up with some level of certification for their higher-end product to ensure a successful installation for dealers,” describes Doug Hoerle, director of the systems business for Melville, N.Y.-based security equipment distributor ADI.

Hoerle notes that “A lot of vendors will allow a 60-day window once a company bids a job to get certification training so they can purchase the necessary products for the job.” This, in turn, has lead to a rise in what Mike Masten, national training manager for ADI, calls “just-in-time training.”

Often dealers wait until they win a bid to obtain certification training, Masten says. “They don’t jump into the certification training until they have the job, and a reason to use it.”

That makes it critical for manufacturers to offer plenty of opportunities for training on products that require certification. One security manufacturer that has been particularly aggressive on the training front is Chelmsford, Mass.-based Axis Communications, which offers frequent classroom programs at geographically dispersed locations, as well as online training options.

Axis recently announced a certification program centered on its IP camera line that will be conducted through third-party testing facilities. “If they pass the test, they become an Axis-certified professional,” explains James Marcella, director of technical services for Axis.

Security professionals already familiar with the Axis line may be able to pass the test without additional training, perhaps filling in any knowledge gaps by taking online training that breaks material covered in classroom training into smaller modules.  But Marcella advises companies new to the Axis line to attend Axis-provided classroom training. That training is available for a minimal charge, and attendees receive Axis equipment that has a greater monetary value than the training cost. The certification test costs $150.

Networking Is Hot

Some security industry training needs are driven, not by specific legal or bid requirements, but by security professionals’ general overall need to learn how to install, maintain and troubleshoot new technologies.

“Right now it’s all about the network — how to add an IP address to a device, how to troubleshoot and get things to connect and how to set up virtualization to save on hardware costs,” comments Sharon Shaw, director of education for PSA Security Network, a security industry cooperative. Based in Westminster, Colo., PSA Security Network offers a wide range of training options at its annual PSA-TEC event (scheduled for May 16 to 20, 2011 in Westminster, Colo.), which is open to members and non-members, including a popular course on security project management.

Numerous parties have stepped in to address the need for network training, including the NTC, as well as distributors such as Tri-Ed and ADI. Jeff Stout, network solutions manager for Tri-Ed, provides what he calls “product-agnostic” network training at numerous locations nationwide, and ADI offers network training from Chicago-based training organization Slayton Solutions at ADI Expos around the country.

“For 2011, Slayton Solutions is doing a class on taking an analog job and moving it into the digital world so the customer can utilize existing equipment at the site,” Masten notes.

But although security professionals know the types of networking skills they want to learn, the industry has not reached anything close to consensus on which of numerous network training and certification programs security dealers should pursue.

“A good entry-level certification for someone who is going to work on a network is CompTIA’s Network +,” McLane believes. CompTIA is a computer industry association focused on advancing the global interests of information technology professionals and companies.

Slayton Solutions president and SDM contributing technology writer, David Engebretson, agrees that the Network + certification is a good way to confirm a technician’s understanding of networking, but says only “about 60 percent of the knowledge you get by studying for and passing the test applies to our industry.”
As an alternative, Engebretson notes that the Electronic Technician Association has developed an Electronic Security Networking Technician certification that is targeted more closely towards the needs of security technicians. Slayton Solutions offers a training program aimed at enabling security technicians to obtain ESNT certification which he describes as a “vendor-independent program that trains security personnel to safety and accurately install IP cameras, access control and intercoms properly and safely.”

With so many training options available, what should security professionals look for in a training course?

“Don’t call it education unless you have reference materials and a syllabus of what you’re teaching,” comments John Hunepohl, director of education for the Door Security Solutions unit of Stockholm, Sweden-based security equipment manufacturer Assa Abloy. Catalogs and price lists are not appropriate reference materials, he adds.

It’s also important for students to become engaged in a class, Hunepohl says. With that in mind, “there must be a test at the end,” he believes.
Many of the best training classes also include a hands-on component, Hunepohl adds. Assa Abloy, for example, provides doors for students to work on as they learn the best techniques for installing access control hardware.

People from organizations that charge for training argue that their offerings provide a higher level of value than training provided at no charge, often by specific manufacturers. “You get what you pay for,” McLane says. While vendor-provided training is useful for learning how to install a specific vendor’s product, McLane argues that such training may not provide sufficient preparation for installing an IT network.

Despite the difficult economic conditions that have impacted the security industry over the last couple of years, McLane says he is seeing a greater emphasis on training because companies vying to win projects are looking for every little thing that can help set them apart from their competitors. “We’ve also seen people paying out of their own pockets for NICET training because they’re looking for work and are being told, ‘We’d love to hire you but you need NICET certification.’”

Moving Forward

The current economic environment is causing some security dealers to look at branching out into new business areas — and organizations that provide training for the security industry are gearing up to support new training requirements necessary to make that kind of move. ADI, for example, offers a class in lead-based paint abatement.

Other training providers see new opportunities to expand the ways in which training is delivered. The PSA, for example, is working on a new website design that “will have a landing page for select manufacturers that have shown they have a vested interest in educating the integrator community,” Shaw says. Each manufacturer will have the opportunity to discuss its training programs on its landing page, Shaw explains.

Tri-Ed and some manufacturers also will be developing new online training tools, notes Stout, who hints at possibilities involving You Tube and the iPhone. “Mobile access to training will be a game-changer,” he says.

Opinion: CEU Approach Needs an Overhaul

“Do I get CEU credits for attending your class?”

As a professional trainer, I get this question all the time and my typical response is: “CEU credits for which organization?” In some cases, the student has a definitive answer such as: CEUs for NICET or DHI or ASIS, just to mention a few organizations that legitimize their certification credentials with continuing education requirements.

Requests from students for CEUs needed to maintain a state contractor’s license are of particular interest and concern to me. Many times, the lectures these students attend have little or no merit for their profession, and are simply a convenient means for attaining a license or credential renewal.

With course descriptions often listing the curriculum as simple, generic overviews of the subject, I doubt the attendee gets much usable education from these sessions, especially when I have been present and watched them work on e-mails, texting and yes, even snoring during the 60-minute lecture.

It seems to me the education process is watered down when all I have to do to gain CEUs for a class is fill out a form and send a check for $100.  That entity is looking to collect revenue and has little, if any, interest in content or validity.

It’s time our industry put some teeth into CEUs by joining forces and vetting course material, instructor qualifications and relevance. And quit being so “proprietary.”  If a course for one organization has validity in your organization, acknowledge that and accept it towards your credential renewal. If colleges can accept coursework from other institutions, why can’t we?

I’d like to hear your comments and suggestions on this subject that affects us all in providing security, life safety and freedom in this great country. — Contributed by John Hunepohl, PSP, director of education, Assa Abloy

Industry Training Schedule
For a quick way to keep up with current training schedules from ADI, Tri-Ed / Northern Video Distribution, ScanSource, National Training Center, and other training outlets, visit www.SDMmag.com for a list of locations, dates and subjects covered.