The security industry in Australia is dependent on Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) to provide employees with the requisite industry standard qualification to allow currently employed guards and managers to continue professional growth, and also to educate entry-level employees. Anyone who wants to become a security guard in Australia must have completed an approved course conducted by a recognised RTO. Anyone who wants to consult, teach or install in most states of Australia will need qualifications over those required for a guard’s licence. In NSW, for example, anyone installing, selling, teaching or consulting in security needs a class 2 licence. One of the educational requirements for a class 2 licence is, as a minimum, a Cert IV in Security Risk Management offered by an RTO that has Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) approval to offer and run the course.
It is because of this dependency on the training sector that the Australian security industry has a vested interest in the effective management of RTOs, standard of education and standard of educators (trainers) that are operating inside RTOs, and the effective (and fair) government oversight of these RTOs. One of the most important oversight and potentially consultative positions with RTOs is the human resources (HR) manager. The reason for this is that one of the roles of HR in any organisation is education, compliance and recruitment. If HR is doing their job in RTOs they will ensure the educational standard of trainers meets the needs and requirements of the industry sector. Further, they will ensure that the RTO is meeting the regulatory requirements of state oversight bodies, as well as ASQA. Finally, the HR manager will also ensure that they are recruiting competent, qualified and focused trainers and support staff.
A wide-ranging study conducted by an academic from a regional NSW university on the role of HR in RTOs made several interesting observations on how HR is operating in privately run RTOs. It found that HR was informal and non-procedural; it was usually run or controlled by the CEO (in other words, the CEO was the HR manager) rather than by an HR specialist. Which meant HR was not contributing effectively or independently to the RTO because it reflected the idiosyncrasies and, at times, prejudices of the CEO. It also meant the HR role was in some cases relatively informal. Although this approach can offer private RTOs a degree of flexibility, it can be a problem in the compliant-rich world of RTOs in the security sector. Another problem with an overly flexible approach to HR is the effective management of business growth, which in the growth industry that security in Australia is, can be problematic. The reason for this is that growth heralds the need for a more professional, less personal approach to management, including the need for a more formal approach to HR management.
In this column in the past I have espoused the need for dedicated HR positions in all organisations. It may not be possible in small businesses, but for medium businesses and the larger small businesses, especially those that are operating as RTOs in the security sector, it is vital. As the security industry in Australia continues to grow and professionalise, so too will the pressure on RTOs to continue to grow and professionalise. Growth will force CEOs and their managers to formalise HR and build in stronger principles of equity and fairness to attract and retain high-quality employees. The trick will be to do this in a way that does not sacrifice the flexibilities on which they have built their successes. A vital need exists in RTOs operating in security to develop new and innovative approaches to HR management that incorporate both flexibility and equity principles.