New industry transformation map – and skills framework – will transform the sector into a vibrant, technologically advanced one
By Janice Lin
In Singapore, security officers play an important role in keeping the country safe.
However, their duties tend to be extremely laborious, requiring long hours as well as calling on them to run various errands and chores for their employers.
As a consequence, many may be reluctant to take on the job of a security guard.
Despite this, employment in the industry has risen at a rate of 5 per cent annually for the past five years – almost double the growth rate of total employment in Singapore.
There are currently 47,000 security officers in Singapore, spread across 240 agencies and 600 security service providers.
Yet, this is still insufficient to meet increasing demand, brought on by the rising threat of terrorism and a growing number of buildings and facilities being built in Singapore, which will require security services.
Technology, experts agree, will provide the solution.
Blueprint to transform the industry
To address these issues and support an industry that plays a vital role in keeping Singapore safe, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has launched a Security Industry Transformation Map (ITM) for the security sector.
The ITM aims to wean the sector’s reliance on labour and transform it into one that provides high-quality security solutions through leveraging technology to increase productivity and raising security guards’ skills.
Some $10 million will be invested over the next three years to back these various initiatives.
“Our vision is a vibrant, technologically advanced and competitive security industry that provides quality services at good value,” said Mrs Josephine Teo, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Manpower, at the launch of the ITM in February 2018 at the Lifelong Learning Institute.
Push for technology adoption
To support the ITM and promote broad-based adoption of technological solutions, the Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) will partner the MHA in rolling out an Industry Digital Plan (IDP) in the security industry. The IDP will provide SMEs with step-by-step guidance on ways to implement pre-approved solutions. It will be launched by mid-2018 and is part of IMDA’s SMEs Go Digital programme.
“Manpower is a huge issue in our industry because there are not enough people who want to work as security officers, so the only way to deal with that is to adopt technology,” said Mr Raj Joshua Thomas, president of the Security Association of Singapore.
“But many security agencies are largely manpower-based, and have never looked at technology adoption before. I think this digitalisation programme is going to help with that.”
IMDA will also support pilot projects that can be scaled up, with the hope of encouraging companies to move from simply supplying manpower to delivering innovative and integrated security services.
One such project is Concorde Security’s I-Man Facility Sprinter (IFS), a control centre in a van that can wirelessly receive feeds from a network of CCTVs in a designated area.
This mobile command centre is able to monitor multiple buildings at once, and manned by just three officers, providing enhanced security in a labour-efficient manner. IFS is currently deployed at over 140 premises in Singapore.
“We believe (there isn’t a) need to have a dedicated team on the ground,” said Mr Alan Chua, Concorde Security’s executive director.
“Instead, IFS treats 10, 20 buildings as one, monitoring them from a common platform to do the work done by individual security officers more efficiently with fewer people.”
After all, the ultimate aim of the security ITM is to transform the industry into one that is “manpower-lean, and leveraging on greater usage of technology”, said the National Trades Union Congress’ (NTUC) assistant secretary-general Zainal Sapari, who is also co-chair of the Security ITM Tripartite Committee.
Furthermore, IMDA has partnered with the MHA in issuing a joint Call for Innovative Solutions (CFIS) for the security sector. In support of the Security ITM, the CFIS aims to encourage security enterprises to collaborate with service buyers and providers, which will help them innovate and leverage technology to change current service models to improve productivity and effectiveness.
New skills, smarter buyers
As technology alters the way the industry carries out its functions, job scopes will also change and new skills will be required.
“Our decisive push for technology must be supported by a well-trained security workforce, and bring about more attractive careers. The goal must be to have better jobs performed by better workers,” said Mrs Teo.
To do so, the MHA’s Centre for Protective Security Studies and Temasek Polytechnic’s Security Industry Institute will launch a specialist diploma in security consultancy. This one-year part-time programme will cover topics like risk assessment and security technologies. Its first intake is slated for 2019, and it aims to train 250 consultants by 2021.
The security industry’s problems are in part due to procedures which have not kept up with the times. It is largely manpower-driven due to poor sourcing considerations – such as reusing the same manpower requests for years, without due consideration taken on whether it remains optimal. Further, security firms are often penalised under contractual terms by clients when the daily headcount of officers is not met, which could lead to a preference towards overstaffing.
Change on the demand side needs to be made, said Mrs Teo, and part of the ITM will “help buyers become ‘smarter’ buyers”. They will be encouraged to conduct risk assessments to fully understand their needs before submitting tenders, which should be focused on the desired security outcomes instead of headcount.
“This will allow service providers to propose solutions that combine technology and manpower effectively,” said Mrs Teo.
The Smart Sourcing Initiative, a pilot grant administered by NTUC U Care Centre, will provide funding support to buyers who implement outcome-based contracts and familiarise staff with the best sourcing practices. And by 2020, most government agencies will adopt such contracts.
Given the role of the security industry in keeping Singapore a safe place, these changes are necessary. “A successful transformation of the security industry must bring about better value for buyers, better jobs for Singaporeans, and at the same time, better security for all of us,” said Mrs Teo.
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