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Work in progress

July 23, 2024 by Alistair Enser

With another national lockdown threatening our recent progress we are undoubtedly still in very unsettled waters. What can we do to build a strong and sustainable future?

Recent statistics from the ONS show the UK labour market is turning. Unemployment is up 4.6 per cent over the previous quarter, and 8 per cent over the last year. Companies are shedding people they don’t need, which is causing an increase in unemployment; but they are not taking on new people, which provides a double whammy for youngsters joining the market: unemployment amongst 16 to 24 year olds is up 15.3 per cent year on year.

In response, the Government has announced support for young people entering the workplace through its Kickstart scheme, which covers the wages for 25 hours of work each week by those aged 16-24, claiming Universal Credit and at risk of long-term unemployment. But as the scheme only considers organisations that can take on 30 people or more, it effectively rules out vast numbers of companies who might otherwise give a young person a chance.

New talent

The security Industry has been saying for a long time that there is a shortage of skilled labour, and that it needs to attract more people with fresh perspectives into the sector. It has admitted that it needs to invest in young people and attract those that are retraining, or changing careers. Given the current environment, and the risks that private companies and public sector organisations alike face at the moment, there is a demand for security services, and room for the industry to take on more people. Isn’t this the time for all of us to step up and review our investment in people, taking on apprentices and seeking out those with the skills on which our industry depends?

As a company which already invests in apprenticeships, Reliance High-Tech is highly supportive of any initiatives to raise the profile of the industry and attract new talent. We see equal balance in bringing young starters into the industry as well as people with great parallel skills who can retrain from another industry. We already work closely with partners such as SSR and Zitko, who both actively champion the development and acquisition of talent for the security sphere.

As an example this year, as well as new apprentices, we have recruited talent with specialist Police, Criminal Justice and Digital Forensics experience and a number of CISCO, Microsoft and Cyber Professionals, who have subsequently received in depth security applications and product training.

Careers for the future

This weekend we saw talk of renewed national lockdowns, as well as local lockdowns that are affecting many millions of people. It’s a fluid and challenging situation, but one that presents an opportunity for the security industry, as customers are keen to maximise investment, minimise risks and repurpose technology to address these new risks and meet fast emerging needs.

If we consider the buoyant labour market full of lots of young unemployed people and skilled workers who through no fault of their own now find themselves jobless, the industry has a unique opportunity to reskill and develop its DNA with people who can add additional value.

Of course, experience is always important, and we absolutely should develop and invest in our existing teams, but we should also look at balance and the opportunity to reinvent ourselves, with fresh eyes, new skills and new ideas. The industry has traditionally drawn on a strong engineering base, and this will remain the case, but at Reliance High-Tech we are trying to take a more holistic view. As security evolves into a more dynamic, consultancy based business which is crossing over into IT and the IoT, we need to stay ahead of the curve in order to satisfy our changing customer requirements.

Culture club

A separate consideration is how organisations take in new recruits and shape them, nurture them and manage them remotely. I have written previously about the difficulty in impressing a corporate culture onto new workers over Teams or Zoom. It not just about formal training, but showing young workers how to collaborate and communicate. It’s about how a company introduces its working culture to new recruits, and how we learn from them, in the absence of shared moments around the water cooler, or brief conversations  grabbed in an office corridor.

Consider Netflix, the streaming platform that is now the darling of Silicon Valley, having added in 10 million new subscribers during lockdown. Its business is built around our online lives. Yet the famous Netflix corporate culture, which favours “radical candour” to ensure creativity and innovation, depends on people working alongside each other – feeding off each other’s ideas, sharing insights and thinking their way around problems.

CEO Reed Hastings wants his people back in the office as soon as possible: “Not being able to get together in person, particularly internationally, is a pure negative,” Hastings said when asked about the benefits of working from home.

No doubt there are many who are extremely happy to currently be home based, but ultimately there are many industries and many roles that will suffer unless we can get this pandemic under control and get back to ‘normal’ – whatever that looks like.

Regardless, whether working online or face to face, the security industry needs to do more to build skills. Ask yourself: what are you doing?, what is your business doing?, how can you do more? Now would be the perfect time.

Stay Safe.