The plea is the same for every skilled trade industry: “We need qualified workers.” And it’s been going on for a while. It’s not just in the security industry; this is true for electricians, plumbers, HVAC technicians, and construction workers. And it’s not just the workers in the field; staffing in all departments, such as marketing, product development, operations, and management is an ongoing challenge. It’s difficult to fill open positions with knowledgeable and trained people at companies, including manufacturers, distributors, and other firms serving an industry.
It’s relatively easy to figure out why the security industry is facing these problems — the majority of current workers at all levels are in a limited group of older, white males. I’m not passing judgment here. It’s the truth and I’ve seen it for 30 years as I’ve walked trade show floors and visited job sites. And yes, I’ve been discriminated against for being female. I remember 25 years ago when I heard builders say, “It scares me when Helen shows up on a job site with a tool belt on.” No matter that I was experienced, certified, and licensed.
The good news is this has lessened over the years as minds opened up and more women became involved. But now I am feeling transparent with the same lack of acknowledgement and respect because I am “old” with gray hair. It’s a double whammy being a senior citizen and female.
Key actions to take to address the workforce shortage include looking outside the box — reach out to women and minorities; go after non-traditional sources such as returning military, retirees, and older people seeking to start their second career (see “Winning the Security Talent Wars” article in this issue). Become active in your community and visit local high schools, trade centers, and community colleges. Chat with guidance counselors and IT instructors to share the great openings in the security field, asking them to please share your information with their best students. Offer to speak to student groups at schools or organizations like Skills USA. Participate and sponsor events for young people such as career fairs, Boy/Girl Scouts, and robotics clubs.
Another reason for the worker shortage is lack of organized efforts to fill the pipeline. Little has been done to expose young people to the industry. But change is happening. Companies are promoting the industry as a positive place for women and minorities with room to grow. Firms are expanding internal mentoring programs and broadening their reach with training efforts to create the workforce they need. Potential new hires can learn about the industry through interning and apprenticeship programs.
Training opportunities are also expanding. Vocational and trade schools now offer curriculum and certificates focused on skilled trade industries with programs typically ranging from six months to two years. Associations and educational companies offer live and online courses to introduce workers to the security industry and work towards certification. Bedrock Learning has seen increased interest in low-voltage systems such as audio, video, and security, along with an uptick in online courses.
Years ago I saw the impending shortage of skilled workers, and founded Bedrock Learning to offer objective and affordable training, and recently I’ve been busy writing. May I make a shameless plug for a new book I authored, Audio, Video, and Streaming Technologies? At 260-plus pages written in easy-to-understand English with colorful graphics, the principles of audio and video are explained. This technical manual builds a foundation of A/V wiring, components and installation and is a must for every installation company’s library and technicians committed to the trade. One can never have too many resources to help do their job. Visit www.bedrocklearning.com to learn more about what’s in the book and order your “signed by the author” copy today.