“Do I need training?” “How much does it cost?” “Who is the ‘best’ provider?” Etc. Etc.
These questions are and always will be rampant throughout the various social media groups as the desire to get into executive protection will always be there. In my opinion, it takes a distinct individual to be successful in protective services, so only the top tier of physical security professionals will survive the jump up to executive protection and there-in lies the problem: the desire is larger than the need. Much like a threat assessment, the fears almost always surpass the reality, (and they should), therefore a pragmatic decision must be made. To mitigate threats, the appropriate level of resources are applied, similarly an appropriate selection must be made regarding employment in this small, niche field.
To get straight to the point – No training provider can guarantee employment, there are simply too many variables to do so. Similarly, any training provider who promises a ‘letter of recommendation’ might as well be offering you used toilet paper instead. Another common issue is whether or not educational benefits should be used for training. Personally I do not think you should have to use your VA Educational Benefits for training, considering how the appropriate level/increment of training is affordable enough to fund it on your own and see a return on your investment. Also you should consider how continuous training is much more beneficial than a ‘one and done’ methodology.
Is there a need for training? Unequivocally, the answer is yes. This is not just my opinion, this is based on the facts of current employment criteria of the majority of opportunities out there, especially subcontracted opportunities.
The most straight forward advice I can give anyone is this: Research job posts to find relevant jobs similar to what you would like to obtain. Note the job’s required and preferred qualifications so you can establish a benchmark in which to ‘check the boxes’ so to speak, and begin working towards satisfying those requirements as best you can. Find a training provider who does what you want to do and does it well – avoid the charlatans who talk but don’t walk.
Additionally, market yourself at every opportunity; actively seek out opportunities and jobs and do good work when you get it. Focus on the following: 1. Networking: Network with everyone and through every medium. Don’t pass on any opportunity and don’t burn bridges. 2. Licenses: Get the licenses you need to provide unarmed and armed protective services in your state. This can be affordably done through state sponsored training providers and does not need to cost you thousands of dollars. For example, there are literally hundreds of providers offering the ‘PPS’ license for Virginia for a few hundred dollars. 3. Training & Certifications: Find relevant, valuable and quality training for the job you are looking for – if you need a specific certification, make sure it is of value in your state. Most employers are seeking executive protection training, medical response certification and defensive/evasive driver training. 4. Experience: Expect to start at the bottom and work your way up. Take what you can get when you can get it for the experience and networking. Do a good job when given the opportunity – your referrals will be exponential. Stay out of the media.
Fundamental Soft Skills
Hard skills are impossible to train to standard in one period of instruction, they must be trained continuously. That being said, avoid protective services training courses that involve a heavy emphasis on the hard skills, and rather seek a fundamental lesson of the soft skills. A basic, fundamental approach is the most appropriate methodology for open enrollment training as there is no standard ecosphere within the protection industry; no two corporations or clients will have the same needs and wants. The more specific your training is, the higher the chances it will not apply to your job’s demands. This is the only way legitimate protective services can be applied in the private sector, otherwise you are simply a response mechanism. In my opinion, which is based on my experiences, the biggest vulnerability among current practitioners is the seemingly accepted practice or mentality in which just being there is enough, relying on those hard skills.
Also, be careful to not make yourself a liability with high threat training – make sure your potential employer knows you are licensed and insured and do not present yourself as a weapon. (Weapons/firearms, martial arts training are OK but if that’s all you have you are not employable) Do not waste your time/money on a high threat course – if you want to do that, the company that hires you (Aegis, Triple Canopy, etc.) will train you regardless and private courses will not help.
Age is a Factor, but…
In my experiences, being 40+ is not a bad thing at all. The hiring pool is flooded with mid-late 20s fresh out of the military or otherwise, and to be honest most executives and families I have been involved with prefer someone who fits in with their crowd better than a 25 year old with a high-and-tight, if that makes sense. (I can say this as I am a jarhead myself) So while it is not a hindrance, you will also need the right training and certifications, and licenses, etc.
The most work that I see is in Wash DC, San Fran Bay area, NYC, Los Angeles, Miami, DFW/Houston – In that order – and my input is based on the following: amount of work I have, amount of jobs I find and post on our blog, amount of our students who have had success in those areas post training and salary range. This is important as if you are currently located in another area, as the ability to find work will be reduced.
Don’t Get Sold by Salesmen
A good indicator of the altruism of a provider is whether or not they have a social presence and contribute publicly. If not, chances are they are trying to hide behind the facade of their website only or they are only interested in getting you to sign up, pay and get it over with.
Over the past few years in particular, I have witnessed more and more training providers advertising courses using odorous stereotypes and flashy depictions, falsifying what is needed in order to gain interest and exploit the ignorant. Most alarmingly, much like a toilet that won’t flush, in the aftermath of such poor investment such providers leave students awash in the exact horrific stench of myth and nonsense that got them there in the first place.
My recent efforts and the efforts from others who contribute similarly have the objectives to debunk the growing perception that all training is created equal, and to shine a light on the widening skills gap created by unnecessary and ineffective training.
Like so many other companies who rely on a skilled workforce, security providers like myself are struggling to find the next generation of well trained and motivated tradesmen. Yes, tradesmen, not knuckle draggers and shooters. Right now, as I write this, there are plenty of good jobs available. I know because I post 100-250 jobs per month on our jobs board. But only a select few seem up to the task and the reasons have nothing to do with low pay or poor benefits, they have to do with the lack of appropriate training, licensing and resultant experience.
Know What You’re Worth
As the eloquent Joker says to his fellow henchman in The Dark Knight: “If you are good at something, never do it for free.” The same applies for training providers: we all know what we are worth, but consider the relativity in the ‘value.’ For example, good training is expensive and a track with vehicles and insurance costs more than a banquet room alone… Invest in yourself, ensuring the time and money investment is a valuable contribution to your skill set or marketability, preferably both.
In closing – don’t get fooled; do your research and find what is best suited to meet your goals with a reasonable time and monetary investment and who is best to do it. Along with the help of many who are contributing to this issue, I’m hopeful this message will spread to raise enough awareness to make a splash in the metaphorical miasma of misinformation clogging the proverbial commode as mentioned above. Thanks for reading, you have already done your part, now share.
Joseph M. LaSorsa, CPP® is currently employed as a senior partner managing and conducting: Protective Operations Training Courses, Executive Protection & Bodyguard Services, Risk Management Consultations & Seminars, Workplace Violence Prevention Seminars & Intervention Services, Security Consultations & Seminars, Private Investigations and Technical Surveillance Counter-Measures with LaSorsa & Associates – an International Protection, Investigations & Consulting Firm.