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Outlook 2012: Security an industry that will always be necessary

Sunday, February 19, 2012
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Union Campus Security officer Anthony Bucci, and his officer in training Jonathan VanWie, patrol the campus in front of the Nott Memorial Tuesday, January 24, 2012.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber
Union Campus Security officer Anthony Bucci, and his officer in training Jonathan VanWie, patrol the campus in front of the Nott Memorial Tuesday, January 24, 2012.

— It's an industry that experts say is never going away.

As long as there is stuff to secure, information to safeguard and people to protect, the security industry will be trying to do that.

From entry-level security guards on up to high-tech Internet security jobs, companies will always be looking for workers, experts say.

"It's the same as a police operation. It's never going to go away," Hudson Valley Community College security instructor and former Union College head of security William Sickinger said. "Crime is always going to be with us."

Locally, there are a host of companies and businesses looking to ensure their buildings and their information are secure.

The booming nanotech industry in the Capital Region brings its own set of security concerns, officials said.

The security sector is a vast one, with several different disciplines, according to Robert Frederick, Schenectady County Community College coordinator of career and employment services.

There's the type of security with which people may be most familiar -- physical security -- that involves the protection of people, property and buildings.

Another familiar area, especially to anyone who travels, is homeland security, protecting against potential terrorist threats. Critical infrastructure protection works in a similar way.

ELECTRONIC THREATS

There's information security that deals with the Internet and electronic threats.

A similar area of information systems security deals with the protection of government and classified information.

There's also personnel security, involving background checks, drug testing, efforts to keep the workforce safe from within.

"Every industry niche uses security," Frederick said. "A lot of times people only think of the typical security guard at a large business."

Especially in the Capital Region, though, security is everywhere, Frederick said.

There is a large concentration of colleges, each needing its own security force. There's banking and finance, as well as industry. Even the railroad has its own security staff.

With the burgeoning high-tech industry comes its own security issues, Frederick said, keeping company secrets secure and employees safe.

"There'll be more and more opportunities related to that," Frederick said.

On the technology side, more and more threats are coming over the Internet, with more companies storing sensitive data online. That data needs to be secured, too.

"I recommend to students that they should incorporate more technology in their training to be able to serve that area," Frederick said.

For anyone looking to get into the industry, Frederick suggested starting with professional associations. There are a variety of local and national ones.

An entry-level position is often as a security guard. The basic requirements are an 8-hour pre-assignment training course. Those looking to be armed guards must complete a 47-hour firearms course. Licensees must also not have been convicted of a serious offense.

Most students in SCCC's criminal justice program are aiming for jobs in law enforcement and corrections.

But being a security guard can be one of the entry-level, "foot in the door" career paths that they start with, Frederick said.

"Some stay in it," Frederick said. "There's a lot of mobility in certain fields."

Loss prevention is one such area. Administrative positions pay well, especially where they're saving the employer a lot of money, Frederick said.

The outlook for security guards and gambling surveillance officers is favorable, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, with employment expected to grow by 14 percent from 2008 to 2018.

FOURTH HIGHEST

New York state has the fourth-highest concentration of security jobs by state.

The number of licenses issued by the state for security guards have already increased sharply in the past decade. In January 2002, there were 108,660 security guards registered in the state. By January 2012, there were 173,608, state records show.

Jeff Flint, executive director of the National Association of Security Companies, said his organization sees a great demand for security services over the next several years.

One reason, he said, is that government revenues will be hurting and with that comes pressure on police department budgets in the form of cutbacks. With that comes more focus on security guards and other such alternatives.

Those wanting to get into the industry, Flint said, should be able to demonstrate responsibility and good decision-making ability.

The trade group advocates for greater regulation to ensure that all security guards have the proper training.

"We're trying to make sure that the public knows that when they see somebody working in security, [he or she has] passed a background check, [has] a clean record and is somebody you can rely on," Flint said.

Sickinger, of Hudson Valley Community College, is trying to teach just that.

For nearly two decades, security guards in New York state have had to pass state-mandated courses. Sickinger teaches those classes at Hudson Valley. He also teaches through his own school.

What kind and how much security an organization seeks can be determined by the demographics of the area. Colleges or businesses surrounded by areas of higher crime rates would seek more.

Sickinger served in the state police for three decades, before working for another decade as head of Union College security. At Union, Sickinger recalled, they had twice as many security guards as comparable colleges in the Northeast.

"The issue is what assets, what people, what proprietary information needs to be protected," Sickinger said.

COMPENSATION VARIES

As far as entry-level security guard positions in general, there is a lot of turnover, Sickinger said. Pay rates can vary significantly. Pay depends on the employer and nature of the industry, he said.

Registration requirements for security guards vary by state. New York has that 8-hour course to register. There is also a 16-hour course required within 90 days of employment and annual 8-hour refresher courses.

Sickinger offers such courses two to three times a month.

Individual companies can require and offer more training, Sickinger said.

"In today's environment, it's not an issue of taking a guard and giving him basic 24 hours of training and throwing him at the client," Sickinger said. "Employers that are serious about security issues are spending a lot more time and money in training their officers to do things the way they want them." Regarding the industry itself, Sickinger said, "it's a growth industry."

Frederick at SCCC echoed that.

"We live in a world of fear and with that comes people spending some money on that," Frederick said.

"Entry-level jobs can be lower paying," Frederick said. "Sometimes people don't always stick to it or get enough education to move forward and upward in the field. But it's going to be around forever."

 
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