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INDUSTRY FOCUS

Changing of the Guard

Retail store security recruitment is going through something resembling a ‘changing of the guard’, according to a leading expert.

Recruitment for retail store guarding is now drawing from a more diverse talent pool, according to figures from one of the UK’s biggest security screening businesses which is seeing greater interest from women, ethnic minorities and disabled candidates.

Approximately half of all security staff intake around the Midlands are either women or BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) candidates, says Paul Lawton-Jones who heads up Birmingham-based Mercury Training and is also a director of security screening agency EMPS. Mercury run a free security recruitment service for the industry and provide all students with their SIA licence on successful completion of the training academy.

“Businesses are not interested in simply getting a big bloke on the doors – they don’t want that image which is why 48 per cent of our current learners are women while 52 per cent come from BAME communities.

“Many of our best candidates come from these talent pools, which sadly have been untapped for too long. These guys are recruitment sergeants for the industry – real role models because they bring a wider variety of life experience and cognitive skills that enables them to confidently communicate and empathise with people on a one-to-one basis.

“Such skills help diffuse situations before they even escalate to difficult confrontations (such as refunds) – they don’t need to be fighters to be successful.

“Many of our best women trainees have been so successful, that they are now coming back to us as trainers for the next generation – they are really inspiring,” he said.

The training business, which is endorsed by Jobcentre plus (DWP) and has coached staff for a wide variety of retail brands, BIDs, tourist destinations and blue-chip financial institutions, boasts a 94 per cent success rate when it comes to landing trainees permanent positions.

“We provide a unique service in training and apprenticeships for all of the major security companies and retailers and working with the DWP, which is partnering our scheme, we have to be able to demonstrate to Ofsted that we are offering value for money for the taxpayer.”

He said that the industry has a high level of churn because of a lack of investment in the right kind of training and getting the best out of candidates.

“In our training sessions we don’t discriminate against people who have had life challenges. In fact, when we asked the question about anyone experiencing mental health challenges, there are very few hands that do not go up. There is no stigma here, because they are all potentially amazing members of staff who may have just had darker episodes in their lives,” said Paul, a former Royal Navy submariner which taught him valuable life lessons in teamwork.

The business carries out the BS7858 security training and DBS checking as well as running reference and credit checks on all candidates.

“Coming from my background in the communications branch of the Submarine service and working closely as a team taught me a lot about people, mainly that you treat them as a someone or as you would expect to be treated yourself if you want to get the best out of them,” added Paul who also takes part in a regular employment phone in on Black Country Radio.

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