Getting a handle on door work

3rd December 2004 at 00:00
The club bouncer is now a supervisor, and fully qualified with a special certificate. Joe Clancy reports

He is known as The Shed, stands 6ft 1in tall, weighs in at 20 stone, and is an expert in martial arts.

In his 23-year career as a nightclub bouncer, he has been stabbed twice and been involved in more altercations than he cares to remember.

Meet Sheridan Coulthard, who has been hired as a lecturer by Newcastle college to deliver a new training course for bouncers, or door supervisors as they prefer to be called.

New legislation requires all door staff on licensed premises to have a special qualification without which it will be illegal for them to work.

That has led to a proliferation of colleges offering courses. Already more than 80 colleges nationwide offer training for security staff leading to the level 2 (GCSE-equivalent) qualification required.

From next April, it will be illegal for any of the estimated 80,000 security staff in pubs, clubs and bars in England and Wales to work without a licence issued by the Security Industry Authority.

Mr Coulthard is one of 19 lecturers taken on by Newcastle college in Tyne and Wear to teach around 1,000 students. The new licence will help to rid the industry of the old-style "bouncer" image immortalised by Hale and Pace in their Two Rons characters, he says.

"There are a lot of door supervisors who are intelligent people with partners and families," says the father-of-two with a masters degree in business management from Northumbria university.

"We have practising doormen teaching the courses and that is important.

Doormen feel more comfortable being taught by people who do the job themselves. Coming into a learning environment can be more scary for a doorman than facing a crowd of drunks spoiling for a fight."

He has witnessed dramatic changes in the way door staff operate during his two decades in the business.

"It is very different to when I started, when physical size was the deterrent. Today communication is the most important aspect of the job and is key to nipping trouble in the bud. We have to be approachable so that people come and talk to us.

"We now have closed-circuit television and radio links to the police, as well as to each other."

The 30-hour, two-part training course includes two hours of exams. Part one focuses on roles and responsibilities and includes civil and criminal law, searching and arrest procedures and drug awareness.

It also deals with recording incidents and crime scene preservation, licensing law, equal opportunities and discrimination, health and safety at work and emergency procedures.

Part two is about communication skills and conflict management. It teaches supervisors how to refuse entry and how to eject people while minimising the risk of conflict. To do this they must learn to identify various types of incidents that can happen at a venue and know how to deal with them lawfully.

Once qualified, all door supervisors have to undergo an identity and criminal background check before a licence can be issued.

Peter Hardy, course manager at Newcastle college, says the course brings all door staff under the same national standard, allowing those with a licence to work anywhere in the country.

Under the old system, local councils issued badges to door staff. If they worked in different areas they had to have a badge for each. "There was one doorman in London who had pound;2,000 worth of badges around his neck to enable him to work in all the places that hired him," he says.

Not all students on the course are "heavies" wearing black Crombie overcoats. Many are women, said Mr Hardy.

"We trained one 67-year-old lady in this qualification who works at the Gateshead Flower Show. Because alcohol is sold at the event, she needed to be door-registered."

The SIA estimates that 26,000 people have obtained the qualification since the training - which is also given by companies and training providers - began a year ago. The new legislation also opens up further training opportunities for colleges. By 2006 most wheel-clampers, security officers, key holders, security consultants and private investigators must be licensed, too.

SIA chairman Peter Hermitage says: "Unfortunately the industry as a whole has suffered because of a small minority who give it a bad name. The new licence will protect the public from untrained and unsuitable operators and will improve the industry's image.

"This will be of benefit to everyone in the community. It's important people feel safe when they go out to bars, pubs and clubs."

Hazel Blears, Home Office minister for crime reduction, policing and community safety, says: "This new era of trained professional door supervisors is just the start of the process that will lead to the transformation of the private security industry.

"National training standards and personal licensing will allow the industry to continue to play its vital part in tackling crime, drugs and anti-social behaviour and promoting community safety."

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