Raymond Clarke, chief executive of SITO, the national training organisation for the security industry, is being contacted by an increasing number of colleges that are considering whether to place security in the hands of a private company. "It's an issue which is being confronted by many college corporations," he says.
The British Security Industry Association has about 350 members, ranging from large companies, such as Group 4 and Securicor, to smaller firms that only supply alarm systems and CCTV, sometimes at lower cost.
Five years ago, Securicor did not provide security at any educational institutions, but today it has contracts with nine FE colleges and nine universities, mainly for "static guarding", which includes securing and opening premises, managing reception areas and monitoring CCTV.
Colleges looking to contract out should check that firms are members of either the association or the International Professional Security Association. This means that they are approved by the Inspectorate for the Security Industry (for companies providing security personnel) or registered with the National Approval Council for Security Systems (for firms supplying alarms and other electronic systems).
To gain approval from the Inspectorate, staff must have at least gained SITO's entry-level qualification, awarded by he National Open College Network. This consists of two days' off-the-job training plus one day's monitoring while they are at work.
Although there is no training programme specifically designed for college security staff, the issues they face are broadly similar to other bodies. "It's similar to any organisation with a large through-put of individuals, although you have to take account of the fact that it's an environment for young people," says Mr Clarke.
As public-sector organisations, FE colleges that contract out must use firms that meet minimum training standards. College staff are not required to have the same level of training to carry out a security role.
New regulations covering the industry are due to be announced by the Home Office soon and are expected to include college staff with a security role. Meanwhile, SITO is close to developing a full training framework, stretching from entry-level qualifications to masters degrees.
Security courses are often run by private firms, such as The Training Network, while most enquiries come from security firms. "We do a small amount of training for colleges," says director Carol Clare. "Usually, it's either for desk supervisors or gate personnel who have a security function."
SITO is now set to launch nine "centres of excellence", which will offer training for college staff and outside companies. The first three will be at Stafford, Waltham Forest and West Suffolk.