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OCS Group UK

Helping to meet the demand for licenced security staff

As an international facilities management organisation, OCS Group UK is used to working on large-scale projects. With this comes the regular recruitment and training of new talent. For years, OCS has used Sector-Based Work Academy Programmes (SWAPs) to support local job seekers and the regional economy through training courses of up to six weeks.

Lucy Haddon, Head of Engagement & Experience at OCS Group UK said:

“One of the main reasons we choose to work with SWAPs is because a large proportion of our recruitment is security officers, requiring you to have a Security Industry Authority (SIA) licence. These licences can be costly and take time to achieve. So, to recruit new people to the industry, we deliver our door supervisor course to obtain the licence which comes at a cost to us.

“SWAP training is especially suited to unemployed individuals seeking a new career, and who may have more flexibility with time and be new to the industry. Around 60-70% of our recruitment headcount is door supervisors, so we're always in the market for them, given the large demand.

“Although they can be classed as “casual” workers, these skilled staff have an average length of service of around four and a half to five years, and because of the high number of people needed in the industry, we're always looking for more skilled workers.”

Working with specialist training providers

After OCS was selected to provide security services for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, the task began of recruiting staff for the biggest event ever held in the West Midlands. Named as the Official Security Personnel Provider, OCS was set sizable targets for SIA licensed staff who needed to be extensively trained for event stadia, sports centres, and hotels.

Given the headcount, OCS was put in contact with the Employer Services team at West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) to initiate additional funded SWAPs. Various training providers were assigned, including Mercury Training Services Ltd, Eventcover Education, South & City College Birmingham, Dudley College of Technology, Telford College, and Birmingham Metropolitan College.

OCS had established relationships with some trainers and some were new providers. Working with sector specialists was an advantage, according to Lucy, as they understood the industry, OCS, licensing, and vetting processes:

“Established providers have got the expertise and knowledge that makes everything run smoothly. For me, this isn’t just about numbers; it’s about social value and legacy afterwards. Eventcover and Mercury both have security backgrounds, so they're able to deliver new clients by really helping them understand what it's like and help them through that employment journey.

“Learners actually become security officers, and that's where the impact is seen. That kind of experience gives you a better calibre of candidates because they are more prepared for what is ahead. If you’re engaging with SWAPs, it’s vital to have a trainer who really knows your industry. Otherwise, you’re spending money on qualifications that nobody's going to use.”

Tapping into supplementary talent

Lucy attends every SWAP course virtually or in-person to talk about what it’s like to work in events and security and has regular check-ins with providers. Once candidates complete the SWAP and pass the course, they are guaranteed a job interview. As it can take 6-8 weeks for SIA licenses to come through, candidates are encouraged to apply for steward roles through OCS to gain experience and an income while they wait to be converted to a security officer post.

Typically, SWAPs run consecutively with around 15 candidates in each session and their progress tracked. The SWAPs prove useful for bringing in small but impactful pools of talent (around 15% of the ambitious security specialist numbers required for the Games). Today, approximately 40 individuals employed through SWAPs linked to the Commonwealth Games still work with OCS.

“Our unique selling point is that we're not a short-term fix. Everybody we've taken on for the Commonwealth Games is still on our books and we're even holding an engagement event to demonstrate the wider roles within OCS to see if there's full-time or supervisory management roles they might be interested in. so for us, it’s about long-term, sustainable employability.

“One great example of this is a SWAP candidate that worked as a steward whilst they were waiting for the SIA licence to come through. After a shout out for admin support during the Games, they became a huge part of the OCS recruitment campaign and helped on-board individuals for other SWAPs! That person is still on our books and working for us today.”

Top tips for managing a SWAP:

  • SWAPs are a great way to support the local community and upskill people but remember to consider the size and scale of the project and be realistic about what can be achieved.

  • Carefully match your needs with a training provider and ensure they understand your business inside out. A specialist who understands your sector can be invaluable.

  • Be engaged with the SWAP training provider and be closely involved. As much as possible, make sure the SWAP configuration meets your specific needs and those of your candidates.

To find out more about how Sector-Based Work Academy Programmes (SWAP) could benefit your organisation, contact: