Training that delivers

Issue 8 2021 Editor's Choice, Security Services & Risk Management, Conferences & Events, Training & Education

The what and how of training programmes is something the security industry has been struggling with for years. What companies require is, in business terms, a return on their training investment. In other words, knowing that the training they pay for will result in improved skills, capabilities and services from their people, which will result in better operational capabilities and customer service.

During the pandemic, digital training has become standard in place of classroom training, but questions still remain as to the viability and reliability of ‘online classrooms’. Will it result in the same skills retention and capabilities as classroom training would? How do trainers make this ‘different’ training medium work?

Hi-Tech Security Solutions hosted a virtual conversation to address the challenges and solutions related to effective and measurable training and education in the security industry. We wanted to find out what the state of training in South Africa is and how companies can be sure that what is often a grudge purchase is in fact a worthwhile investment. In a nutshell, we wanted to know how training can actually deliver measurable results (more than just a certificate).

The discussion was sponsored by ESDA, the Electronic Security Distributors’ Association and Hi-Tech Security Solutions thanks the association for supporting this debate around effective training for the industry.

Diversified participants

The panel consisted of a variety of people within the training field, from a company specifically providing security-related training, through to a professor from UNISA as well as regular Hi-Tech Security Solutions’ contributor, Dr Craig Donald. The mix of online and face-to-face (classroom) training providers among the participants also made for an interesting discussion. The full list of attendees was as follows:

• Ilse Dippenaar, CEO, UP.Ed.

• Craig Donald, director, Leaderware.

• Doraval Govender, professor: Programme Security Management, UNISA.

• Juan Kirsten, director general, International Security Industry Organisation.

• Errol Peace, MD, BTC Training South Africa.

• Michael Tonkin, director, UP.Ed.

• We were also able to welcome an international guest, major general Sanjay Soi (retired), who is currently the CEO of the Security Sector Skill Development Council (SSSDC) and the Central Association of Private Security Industry (CAPSI) in India. The participation of general Soi provided a unique insight into the training challenges and solutions in the Indian security industry. As an aside, CAPSI, SASA and ISIO recently formed an alliance, the announcement of which was published in Hi-Tech Security Solutions (

A look at training in South Africa

Starting out we asked the participants to introduce themselves as well as provide us with their view on the training situation in South Africa at the moment.

Errol Peace has been in the training business in various aspects for over four decades. His current company is registered with SASSETA, compliant with SAQA and registered with PSIRA, doing the grade training as per PSIRA requirements for security guards, among numerous other courses. Peace says that when it comes to training in security in South Africa, we need to have a professional body that understands the industry and requirements of security personnel in a variety of verticals and environments, which then specifies the standards for training to ensure they add value and are applicable to security needs today.

At the moment there is a bit of a minefield with contradictions between various bodies causing confusion and hampering the process rather than supporting it. We therefore need to get back to basics and create an efficient association or regulatory body that defines standards that are applicable to the market today.

Doraval Govender is professor for the Security Management Programme at UNISA (and a former major general from the South Africa Police Service). He says the ‘new normal’ has changed the way things are done in all industries, including education. At the moment there is a mix-up in training, education and development in the country and we need to look at it in specific categories if it is to be successful.

UNISA has the largest programme of security and criminology students, from certification up to PhD level and is therefore not lacking in the facilities to educate and train effectively – and other institutions are just as capable of providing quality education.

The first step is to strategise and find out what the consumers of security services actually need and want. This will determine what competencies and standards are required, which will allow us to do a proper skills audit as a starting point to determining the education required to meet the needs of the country. Again, a central authority able to run this strategy would be of enormous importance.

Avoiding the checkbox approach

Michael Tonkin is a director of UP.Ed, an educational technology company and the parent company for Bukela Training Solutions, which is focused on the security industry. Tonkin was the initiator of the webinar as a means to find out what is required in this industry: is training and skills development really improving skills and performance, or is it merely a checkbox programme?

Tonkin says the solutions we need to come up with must ensure that every person in the value chain gets the best out of the process, meaning that people are really learning, companies see the value and don’t see training as an expensive endeavour, something likely to limit their commitment to upskilling staff – especially when the results aren’t there to see and measure.

Another perspective

To put the Indian security market into perspective, major general Sanjay Soi notes that the Indian security industry consists of about nine million people and boasts a growth rate of approximately 20% per year. This obviously is a significant contributor to the Indian economy and a complex sector to manage.

The Indian government has also put a regulator in place to oversee the industry, including setting training standards, but unlike South Africa, these standards are tailored for everyone in the industry, from the security guard at the gate all the way to company directors. For example, a security guard has to undergo 160 hours of training, 100 hours of classroom training and 60 hours of practical training before they are allowed to work. The number of hours varies, depending on the actual position of the individual (including company owners).

While the standards are there, people are often inclined to take a shortcut, as we well know in South Africa and this is where CAPSI comes in, making sure the standards are adhered to and also laying down guidelines for future training and minimum standards etc. The goal is to ensure India’s security operators can be deployed anywhere in the world as their performance meets any global standard for security personnel, even up to university level.

Operational responses

Dr Craig Donald, director of Leaderware, comes from an industrial and organisational psychology background and moved into the security industry ‘by accident’ and has been here for over 30 years. His speciality is human factors and he focuses on control rooms, surveillance and X-ray screening, training people (control room operators, for example) in behavioural analysis. Not only is he an industry standard in terms of control room efficiency in South Africa, but his training is in demand internationally.

As noted, Donald says one factor we need to focus on in terms of training is how to convey relevant knowledge and information to people (theory, guidelines and how to go about doing their job), but secondly, also to ensure that people are able to provide an ‘operational response’ when faced with issues in real-world scenarios (in other words, add value to their employers and/or customers). The key, he says, is transferring knowledge into operational responses.

When it comes to online learning, Donald says it is easy to transfer knowledge to people in this manner of training, but the tricky part is converting that into the operational responses employers require.

Juan Kirsten, director general of the International Security Industry Organisation (ISIO) is also the author of the HIM (Human Investigation Management) training programme, which is endorsed by SASA as well as CAPSI. He says the next few years will definitely be a ‘new normal’ as security operators will have to deal with deadly outcomes (biological threats) on a daily basis. This requires a new skillset, more than simply taking someone’s temperature at the door.

Of course, the job of out-thinking criminals who are focused on out-smarting security systems (technology and people) is not going away and this also needs to be incorporated into the security mindset at all levels. Getting a certificate is easy, but to be relevant is more complicated as there are ‘soft skills’ that need to be learned in addition to the expected security skills.

Ilse Dippenaar is the CEO and founder of UP.Ed (and by association Bukela), a digital learning platform. Bukela is aimed at online training for the security market. As an educationalist, Dippenaar is focused on the learning process and she believes that if this process takes a number of factors into account, such as learning modalities, mother-tongue learning, assessment standards etc., this will translate into trainees that will be able to respond appropriately in real-world situations.

A concern for Dippenaar, not only as it pertains to the security industry but also in a broader context, is the box-ticking approach to education. Too many training companies are putting people out into the job market with a certificate, but they have not made sure that the knowledge imparted has been internalised to ensure they are able to do their jobs, or in Donald’s words, provide an operational response.

The above was only the beginning of the online discussion. Further discussion brought out more interesting facts and opinion from the attendees. The video of the full event can be found at*train1.

Attendee polls

During the event, Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked the attendees to vote on some questions we had to gauge the general opinion of the audience. The pie charts below represent their opinions on two of these questions.

The Electronic Security Distributors’ Association (ESDA)

The training discussion was sponsored by the Electronic Security Distributors’ Association (ESDA).

The main business activity of every member of ESDA is the importation, distribution or manufacturing (or a combination of these) of electronic security technology products, or the provision of services directly related to such importation, distribution or manufacturing. It is of importance to note that ESDA members are excluded from performing installation of security equipment.

The mission of ESDA is to encourage and protect the interests of its members as well as assist them in maintaining a high ethical standard of conduct. The association also represents its members in the context of any proposed or existing legislation which may affect the members directly or indirectly.

ESDA has had a rather quiet year and a half because of the pandemic and most of its usual events, from its golf day through to exhibitions in South and southern Africa have been cancelled. However, the chair of ESDA says the association is 32 years old and still remains strong and committed to protecting the interests of its members.

The objectives of ESDA

• To promote high standards in electronic security technology products, workmanship, maintenance and service to the electronic security equipment industry.

• To maintain an unparalleled standard of ethics and conduct within the industry.

• To support, encourage and protect the interests of all its members.

• To represent the interests of members of ESDA in the context of legislation that affects them.


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