Education V’s Experience in the Private Security Industry
The private security sector is one of the most competitive job market places in the world, especially for former military and law enforcement personnel.
With recent oil price reductions having huge commercial implications, we have seen more and more private security companies utilising ‘local nationals’ for the provision of services such as manned guarding, close protection and mobile patrol contracts in places such as Iraq & Afghanistan.
We have also seen a reduction in successful pirate attacks off the East Coast of Africa which has also led to more ‘cost effective’ local security solutions being utilised.
Both of these industry ‘impactors’ have left 100’s of professional private security contractors out of work and sat at home looking for new opportunities, or have they?
I often here statements such as ‘the industry is dead’, ‘work has dried up’ or ‘that ship has sailed’ (pun intended) which I have always refused to believe.
The world as we know it today is more dangerous than ever before, the list of self declared terrorist organisations seems to grow every month, planes seem to have started falling out of the sky on a regular basis, often as result of a security breach, kidnappings worldwide are hitting an all time high and not to mention the increasingly complex situations in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Chad (all of which have had more than 10,000 deaths as a result of war in the last 12 months alone), Cameroon, Mali, South Sudan, North Korea, we could literally go on all day, I’m sure you get the point.
As much as it may be a cliché to say, it is no secret that ‘where there is crisis, there is often opportunity too’.
So what does this mean to the security professional?
The private security sector is littered with thousands of men and woman who all have extensive experience both from their military or law enforcement careers and of course their time in the private sector.
I interview people for jobs for placements in hostile and complex environments week in week out and everyone of them regardless of rank or time served, seems to have a phenomenal amount of experience.
For example, British Military Operations ‘Banner’, ‘Telic’ & ‘Herrick’ have certainly provided some valuable and indispensable experiences and skill sets for most of the British soldiers who served there.
I often come across young men and women who have served 4 or 5 combat tours of Iraq and Afghanistan, all in a diverse ranges of disciplines such as intelligence, signals, logistics, medical roles and more.
The experience these people have gained is second to none and should be viewed as a valuable asset to any employer looking to hire their services.
However the challenge for these people is they are entering an industry which is already packed with personnel with similar experiences or competing against people with extensive experience in the private sector, which again is invaluable, somebody once told me; a great soldier on the battlefield does not necessarily make a good security consultant – never has a truer word been said!
Contrary to these ‘highly experienced’ security professionals we are now starting to see a lot more ‘highly educated’ security professionals, who do not necessarily have the experience but have a much greater depth of understanding of the geopolitics of the security operating environment, can critically analyse and process large amounts of information quickly, produce in depth reports or deliver a detailed business continuity plan to project stakeholders, all of ewhich is normal practice and not necessarily something you learn ‘on the ground’ (or water) as such.
There are now some excellent higher security education programmes available in both the public and private sectors.
Ranging from Level 5 courses in Security & Risk Management Consultancy through to Foundation Degrees, BA/BSc (Hons) in Crisis & Disaster Management, Masters in Maritime Security and now even an MBA in Risk and Resilience.
Perhaps I have gone the long way around this put I felt it was important to set the scene. So we arrive at; what is more important from an employers perspective, Education or Experience?
It’s a debate perhaps as old as higher education itself, and never more relevant than in a tough economy and tight job market: what matters most when it comes to getting a job?
Does that degree get your foot in the door, or does work experience count for much more?
And beyond actually attaining a job, will experience or education serve you best for staying employed, growing in your career and making a decent living?
Everyone has different opinions on this and this debate alongside the ‘generalist or specialist’ issue have been debated for generations.
The arguments are varied, but the main ones go something like this:
- Argument 1: Higher Education only proves you can succeed in academia, not in a real-world job.
- Argument 2: Success in actual work means more than success in education.
- Argument 3: Work experience doesn’t necessarily provide the specific skills you need for the next job you’ll have.
- Argument 4: A higher degree in a specialist subject guarantees a particular verifiable skill set
The reality of the Experience V’s Education debate is that no single argument can cover all the potential situations of job seekers, potential employers and career success.
For me, in the ideal case, you (the job candidate) should look to show that you have both education and experience which equip you to better perform in the job you want to get and also make you stand out from the crowd.
To end up with this combination, you might have to take a slower route through your higher education journey, in order to have time available for employment while you’re studying (often via distance learning) to get those advanced and highly regarded qualifications.
You’ll lose time, potentially; but you’ll end up with experience and education, and you’ll get to make good money along the way.
You will find you will then have the keys that can open new doors, access better opportunities and often find your CV at the top of a HR managers pile.
Approaching potential employers with a substantial industry degree, accompanied by a good work history, can help you not only get the job, but be sure that you’re applying for the job you actually want.
”Whether were talking about Education or Experience; Attitude is everything” – Jordan Wylie
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