Mark Harding: Security and the three Rs

22nd April 2008

The event security industry has undergone enormous changes in its image and operational procedures over the last 25 years. As events have evolved into a mature sector, there has been a growing understanding from the industry itself and beyond of event organisers’ responsibilities and those of all the teams who work with them.

Standards have been driven up both by industry good practice and by the formal requirements of government and local authorities. Showsec has always believed that the industry should lead the way on issues, such as professionalism and good practice, anticipating and informing the demands of the authorities rather than merely reacting to them.

The one key way in which we have achieved this has been the development of education initiatives. This has formed the basis of a profound understanding among our teams for high operating standards and strong customer service.

At the most fundamental level, there is an ever-present need for specific training, geared to roles such as stewarding or door supervision. Our training department has 15 qualified instructors, while all our staff undergo a Level 2 NCFE qualification in event stewarding. Employees can also progress to qualify in a range of other key operational skills.

We have long believed that understanding the dynamics and psychology of crowds is vital to delivering a safe and successful event. So much so, in fact, that we felt it merited its own study. Consequently, we supported Bucks New University with expertise and tuition when it decided to establish the world’s first foundation degree in crowd management in 2004/5. Many of our senior management are now graduates of this course and deliver lectures and course materials to students.

There is also a buzz of excitement around the opening of the new Showsec Academy this March; a new education initiative that provides an accredited qualification for employees at managerial level. We identified the need for this project during our search for an existing course which could provide the complex set of skills that we require of our managers. But there was nothing in the education market that could offer the right mix of training – in disciplines such as leadership and accountability, safety, business management and ethics – so we established our own course, with modules accredited by the Institute of Leadership and Management, NCFE, BIIAB and IOSH.

We’ve called the students on this one-year course Showsec Associates and it’s highly possible that the next generation of the company’s senior management will come from their ranks. Looking to the future, we are already working on the next phase of the Showsec Academy’s development, with the aim of providing higher management level education.

The high level of training that our workforce has undergone has been a key driver for company growth. We work with every type of venue, event or audience, be that The Brit Awards at London’s Earls Court, or the Dr Who exhibition at the same venue; from the MEN Arena in Manchester (where events include World Championship Boxing or Celine Dion), to horse racing at Market Rasen or football security and stewarding at Manchester City Football Club. It’s inconceivable that we could provide this consistent level of service to such high-quality clients and event partners, without this proactive approach to educating our teams.

Mark Harding is managing director of Showsec