Job market for guards set to grow

Industry experts say more security officers will be hired in 2012

As the economy has slowly begun to show signs of improvement in recent months, the outlook for security officer jobs also appears to be on a positive growth track in the U.S. and Canada.

According to industry insiders, however, while the job market may be improving, the recession has created its own set of challenges for employers. One of the biggest hurdles that companies looking to hire have to clear is sifting through a large number of applicants for available positions to ensure that the right person is matched with the right job.

"The security officer job market for 2012 we think will be strong. We also think that there will be, because of the fragile recovery and the recession, quite a few applicants for those particular positions," said Jim Gillece, chief people officer and senior vice president of human capital management at AlliedBarton Security Services.

Gillece said that AlliedBarton employs about 55,000 security officers across the U.S. and that the company plans to do "quite a bit of hiring" this year.

Lee Achord, vice president of human resources and recruiting at G4S Secure Solutions, said that one of the good indicators he uses to determine the strength of the job market is how many of his company's more than 100 field offices are going to need to participate in upcoming local job fairs.

"I got a big turnout in December. A lot of offices wanted to schedule in advance their participation in job fairs so that to me indicates that they not only have a current need, but they are anticipating that need to increase throughout the year," he said.

Last fall, G4S committed to take part in "Joining Forces," a White House-sponsored program that encourages the hiring of veterans as more troops prepare to return home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Achord, the company made a commitment to hire a minimum of 3,000 veterans and they have already more than 1,000 since early November.

"We've had a long, long history of hiring veterans, but when you see 1,300 in the space of barely two and a half months, that's a good indicator that we are doing a lot more hiring," he said.

Garda Security Solutions, which provides guard services across a variety of vertical markets in Canada, expects to add nearly 2,000 positions attributed mainly to new contract wins, according to Marc-Andre Aube, the company's chief operating officer.

"As a company we expect to grow and we expect to do that by capturing market share and winning large contracts," Aube said.

According to industry experts, there are also several vertical markets that could see an uptick in the hiring of guards in 2012, including in the healthcare, higher education, government, petrochemical, and critical infrastructure sectors. While many of these industries have traditionally hired their own guards, Gillece said that many of them are now looking at hiring contract guards as a way to offset their costs.

"Across the security industry and across this general economy, there are certain verticals and sectors that are under significant price pressures," said Gillece. "Many of these sectors have been proprietary, but as more and more cost pressures get placed on them, like every other sector they're looking to provide value and seek value."

Achord said that the manufacturing and banking verticals have been particularly strong for G4S.

"A lot of the verticals G4S serves have regulatory compliance issues that are important to understand. Our customers are looking for that higher-level security officer and training program that G4S provides," said Lew Pincus, senior director of marketing and communications for G4S. "It begins by recruiting the right candidates who have a certain level of discipline and leadership skills as sort of the raw material to then be able to receive the required training to go out and be a well-trained, highly skilled security officer. So many of our recruits begin as security officers but then through career development their job becomes more of a profession rather than just a security guard job."

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