Well trained = Well prepared
Whether joining the security industry, upgrading skills to offer new services such as executive protection, or learning about new trends and best practices, the right training class is essential.
Even for security personnel who’ve been in the industry for years, refresher training is highly recommended. The key is not just reviewing the basics, but also learning about new technology and security tactics, such as open-source intelligence, intelligence analytics and new security opportunities that require new skills.
Questions to ask before choosing a course
Security training and classes are available in every state, in every duration, and at every price point. Depending on your goals, ask these questions before signing up for a class.
Is the course recognized?
States vary wildly in professional licensing and regulations. A training course should, at a minimum, be registered, sanctioned or otherwise approved by the state(s) where you plan to work, and meet all of the state’s licensing requirements. Virginia, for example, has training standards that exceed those of many states; passing the Virginia DCJS (Department of Criminal Justice Services) personal protection specialist course and subsequent exam will qualify a security professional to apply for registration to provide executive/VIP protection in the state of Virginia.
Ask, too, whether a course only includes the minimum requirements to pass a licensing or other exam, or whether it goes beyond state mandates.
Who are the instructors, and what are their backgrounds?
Ideally, you want an instructor whose background matches your professional goals. An instructor who specializes in high-risk environments, for example, might not be effective in preparing students to work in a corporate setting. An instructor whose career primarily included investigations isn’t the best option when learning executive protection. Chemistry can be as important as background: if possible, talk to the instructor(s) who will be teaching a course you’re considering before signing up. If the company doesn’t know who will be teaching that course, or won’t let you speak to him/her, that’s a red flag.
Also, go beyond the company’s website to check the backgrounds of instructors. Have they been mentioned in the news for good or bad reasons? Are they involved in the industry, asked to speak at events, recipients of industry designations, medals or recognition? An hour or two of research can avoid an expensive and time-consuming mistake.
When was the last time they operated in the field?
Best practices change often, and a “career instructor” who hasn’t operated in the field in 10-15 years may not have access to the most current information. The best instructors keep their skills and knowledge fresh by getting out of the classroom and working in the field regularly.
How often is the course updated?
Technology, laws and techniques change often. Any security course that isn’t updated regularly is guaranteed to fall short of current practices. The Internet and digital technology have transformed the security industry, as have privacy laws.
Security philosophies change as well. Gun fights, car chases and action may make for good movies, but are poor security. A proactive approach that identifies and mitigates potential security incidents before they happen is far more effective. Try to get a sense of whether the philosophy and approach of the school, course and instructor(s) make sense to you.
Does the course include specialists in specific areas?
A course that covers many security topics should include several instructors with specific expertise. Firearms training, for example, should be taught by an NRA- licensed instructor, while a certified martial arts expert might teach defensive tactics. No instructor knows every security-related subject in-depth. An effective course matches the strengths and backgrounds of the instructors with the subject matter.
Does the course include classroom and practical training?
Just as a good driving class includes classroom and behind-the-wheel training, so should security training offer hands-on practice. A 50-50 mix, where a technique or strategy is learned in the classroom and then practiced in “the real world,” is ideal. Surveillance learned from a book and surveillance practiced in a vehicle are very different.
What will I gain from this course? What will it prepare me to do?
These questions should be asked of the school or instructor, but also of yourself. Are you transitioning from another career? Looking to upgrade your skills to further your career? Refreshing and updating your knowledge because it’s been a few years since you set foot in a classroom? Investigate what course graduates do and where they go after taking a class you’re interested in, and understand your goals and what class(es) are needed to reach them.
Keeping up with the changes
One area of training that everyone at every experience level should understand is how technology has changed the security industry.
Initial advance work, for example, no longer necessarily requires a site visit; Google Maps and Google Earth can provide a comprehensive look at an area. Social media and online intelligence can pinpoint organizations and individuals who are potential threats to clients, companies or travel plans. Smartphones with GPS, digital cameras and other technology have changed surveillance.
Years ago, for example, finding someone might have involved knocking on doors, making phone calls, talking to people. Now a person can get on a computer and search a social website, plug in a name, and do some reverse engineering. The days of door-to-door investigations haven’t ended, but the Internet and social media have enhanced the effectiveness of field investigators.
AT-RISK International training
AT-RISK offers a variety of entry-level and advanced security courses for professionals in every stage of their careers, in Virginia, Florida and on-site for any client. Many courses are designed to lead to professional certifications, and are taught by instructors who regularly work in the field. Our instructors and management are also actively involved in the industry, serving as officers in security and law enforcement organizations, speaking and teaching at industry events, and working to advance the security field and highlight best practices.
We invite you to explore our classes, ask us your toughest questions, and think about how AT-RISK can help you further your career.