Following on from the UK Government’s announcement of additional support for apprenticeship schemes, CEO Amthal Fire & Security, Jamie Allam shows the vital role Apprentices have played, and how their employment continues to be a key strategy to the company’s success.

"Over 700,000 people are leaving education this year and many more are just starting out in their careers. Coronavirus has hit them hard. We cannot lose this generation."

Fire and security industry

This was the outlook of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak as he delivered his Summer Statement and offered employers a significant financial incentive for hiring apprentices over the next six months. Amthal has always been a big supporter of Apprentices as a way to create a more open business environment.

Apprentices gave the company a new dimension to hone in skills and be able to adapt to new innovations

Since the company started their apprentice program over 15 years ago, they have employed, retained (and promoted) the majority of their Apprentices, who have been supervised by the company’s senior team, and now even form part of their management structure, because the company values the opportunity to encourage job-specific skills to achieve more of their customer demands, quickly and efficiently. And they would encourage others in the fire and security industry to consider the same outlook.

Smart security technologies

Apprentices for Amthal, have proven through the years, incremental to solving issues such as the skills shortage in the industry. People have no long-term experience and there has been a lack of engineers understanding the specific disciplines of the industry, instead being trained as ‘multi-disciplined’ which often does not suit the intricacy of design in security and fire safety.

Apprentices gave the company a new dimension to hone in skills and be able to adapt to new innovations, and embrace smart security technologies. In fire safety, there is an essential way Apprentices can rise to a challenge and requirement for a clear understanding to help combat the findings such as those of Dame Judith Hackitt, which highlighted the shortcomings in the wider fire and security industries following the Grenfell Tower fire.

Developing technical competence

The whole of the industry needs to work together to correct years of training neglect by proving and developing the technical competence held by its existing operatives, so they can work on making such tragedies a thing of the past. New apprentices, with an ambition to learn a trade, can embrace the opportunity for change.

The company has had to quickly understand modern methods of communication and embrace new technologies

The essential requirements of key workers through lockdown to keep the UK safe and ‘protect what’s precious’ has filtered into the ‘new normal’ as companies and hospitality industries looked to achieve Government mandates on controlling the Coronavirus. Together, the company has had to quickly understand modern methods of communication and embrace the new technologies available quickly and efficiently.

Body temperature monitoring systems

Again, throughout this pandemic, they joined the country in learning new ways to communicate with their teams, embracing performance management and employee engagement technology that helped them grow stronger. The industry has had to meet the incredible uptake in demands for people counting and access control body temperature monitoring systems, together with latest thermal camera technology.

Apprentices build on the creation of the positive business culture, upon which all their sustainable growth resides. Amthal has three Apprentices on their engineering team currently, one who starts college in September. They are looking for an additional Apprentice to support their growth in Building, Block Management and the facilities management industry. And in addition, another Apprentice will support their team in Finance.

Fire safety

Apprenticeships are an excellent way to get into a wide range of rewarding and valuable careers"

In summary, the Government’s funding is limited and inevitably, now is the time for the fire safety and security industry to act before the opportunity is expired. For Amthal, the new generation and the apprentice program, allows each individual to settle into their defined role, learn their skills and take responsibility with their dedicated line manager for their own growth.

In the company’s experience, they would agree with Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Gillian Keegan who said: “Apprenticeships are an excellent way to get into a wide range of rewarding and valuable careers.”

Technical challenges

Amthal has, from early on in their business life, certainly reaped the benefits of introducing Apprentices to their company. And if the COVID-19 pandemic has taught them anything, it’s that future planning is not a luxury, but a necessity to be able to take on change and the technical challenges that their industry faces.

For Amthal, while they may not have been able to celebrate their 20th anniversary as the company had intended, they look forward to their 25th and 30th with the same passion and drive as they do now, with Apprentices forming an essential part of the company’s team, product and service development.

Share with LinkedIn Share with Twitter Share with Facebook Share with Facebook
Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

Which Security Technologies Are Becoming Outdated Or Obsolete?
Which Security Technologies Are Becoming Outdated Or Obsolete?

When technology performs a required task effectively, there is little reason to upgrade to the ‘next big thing’. In this regard, the physical security market is notoriously slow to change. Much of yesterday’s most robust and dependable equipment is still in place at thousands of customer sites, still performing as well as the day it was installed. However, there comes a point when any technology becomes outdated. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: Which security technologies are becoming outdated or obsolete?

Physical Security And The Cloud: Why One Can’t Work Without The Other
Physical Security And The Cloud: Why One Can’t Work Without The Other

Human beings have a long-standing relationship with privacy and security. For centuries, we’ve locked our doors, held close our most precious possessions, and been wary of the threats posed by thieves. As time has gone on, our relationship with security has become more complicated as we’ve now got much more to be protective of. As technological advancements in security have got smarter and stronger, so have those looking to compromise it. Cybersecurity Cybersecurity, however, is still incredibly new to humans when we look at the long relationship that we have with security in general. As much as we understand the basics, such as keeping our passwords secure and storing data in safe places, our understanding of cybersecurity as a whole is complicated and so is our understanding of the threats that it protects against. However, the relationship between physical security and cybersecurity is often interlinked. Business leaders may find themselves weighing up the different risks to the physical security of their business. As a result, they implement CCTV into the office space, and alarms are placed on doors to help repel intruders. Importance of cybersecurity But what happens when the data that is collected from such security devices is also at risk of being stolen, and you don’t have to break through the front door of an office to get it? The answer is that your physical security can lose its power to keep your business safe if your cybersecurity is weak. As a result, cybersecurity is incredibly important to empower your physical security. We’ve seen the risks posed by cybersecurity hacks in recent news. Video security company Verkada recently suffered a security breach as malicious attackers obtained access to the contents of many of its live camera feeds, and a recent report by the UK government says two in five UK firms experienced cyberattacks in 2020. Cloud computing – The solution Cloud stores information in data centres located anywhere in the world, and is maintained by a third party Cloud computing offers a solution. The cloud stores your information in data centres located anywhere in the world and is maintained by a third party, such as Claranet. As the data sits on hosted servers, it’s easily accessible while not being at risk of being stolen through your physical device. Here’s why cloud computing can help to ensure that your physical security and the data it holds aren’t compromised. Cloud anxiety It’s completely normal to speculate whether your data is safe when it’s stored within a cloud infrastructure. As we are effectively outsourcing our security by storing our important files on servers we have no control over - and, in some cases, limited understanding of - it’s natural to worry about how vulnerable this is to cyber-attacks. The reality is, the data that you save on the cloud is likely to be a lot safer than that which you store on your device. Cyber hackers can try and trick you into clicking on links that deploy malware or pose as a help desk trying to fix your machine. As a result, they can access your device and if this is where you’re storing important security data, then it is vulnerable. Cloud service providers Cloud service providers offer security that is a lot stronger than the software in the personal computer Cloud service providers offer security that is a lot stronger than the software that is likely in place on your personal computer. Hyperscalers such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Service (AWS) are able to hire countless more security experts than any individual company - save the corporate behemoth - could afford. These major platform owners have culpability for thousands of customers on their cloud and are constantly working to enhance the security of their platforms. The security provided by cloud service providers such as Claranet is an extension of these capabilities. Cloud resistance Cloud servers are located in remote locations that workers don’t have access to. They are also encrypted, which is the process of converting information or data into code to prevent unauthorized access. Additionally, cloud infrastructure providers like ourselves look to regularly update your security to protect against viruses and malware, leaving you free to get on with your work without any niggling worries about your data being at risk from hackers. Data centres Cloud providers provide sophisticated security measures and solutions in the form of firewalls and AI Additionally, cloud providers are also able to provide sophisticated security measures and solutions in the form of firewalls and artificial intelligence, as well as data redundancy, where the same piece of data is held within several separate data centres. This is effectively super-strong backup and recovery, meaning that if a server goes down, you can access your files from a backup server. Empowering physical security with cybersecurity By storing the data gathered by your physical security in the cloud, you're not just significantly reducing the risk of cyber-attacks, but also protecting it from physical threats such as damage in the event of a fire or flood. Rather than viewing your physical and cybersecurity as two different entities, treat them as part of one system: if one is compromised, the other is also at risk. They should work in tandem to keep your whole organization secure.

Hybrid Working And The Threat Of Desk Data
Hybrid Working And The Threat Of Desk Data

The transition to remote working has been a revelation for many traditional office staff, yet concerns over data security risks are rising. Mark Harper of HSM explains why businesses and their remote workers must remain vigilant when it comes to physical document security in homes. Pre-pandemic, home offices were often that neglected room in people’s homes. But now things are different. After the initial lockdown in 2020, 46.6% of UK workers did some work at home with 86% of those doing so because of the pandemic. Semi-Permanent workspaces Since then, many have found that over time, those semi-permanent workspaces have become slightly more permanent – with official hybrid working coming into effect for an assortment of businesses and their teams. The adoption of hybrid working can in fact be seen as one of the few positives to come from the pandemic, with less travel, more freedom and higher productivity top of the benefits list for businesses and their employees. The handling of sensitive documents, is a growing concern for office managers But those welcomed benefits don’t tell the whole story. The transition to remote working has undoubtedly impacted workplace security, with various touch points at risk. The handling of sensitive documents for example, is a growing concern for office managers. In simpler times, sensitive data was more or less contained in an office space, but with millions of home setups to now think about, how can businesses and their office managers control the issue of desk data? Physical document security As of January 2021, it’s said that one in three UK workers are based exclusively at home. That’s millions of individuals from a variety of sectors, all of which must continue in their efforts to remain data secure. With that, reports of cyber security fears are consistently making the news but that shouldn’t be the sole focus. There is also the underlying, but growing, issue of physical document security. The move to remote working hasn’t removed these physical forms of data – think hard drives, USBs and paper based documentation. A recent surge in demand for home printers for example, only exemplifies the use of physical documents and the potential security issues home offices are facing. Adding to that, research conducted in 2020 found that two out of three employees who printed documents at home admitted to binning those documents both in and outside of their house without shredding them. Data security concern Without the right equipment, policies and guidance, businesses are sure to be at risk Those findings present a huge data security concern, one that must be fixed immediately. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has since released guidance for those working from their bedrooms and dining tables. Designed to help overcome these challenges, the ‘security checklists’ and ‘top tips’ should be the first port of call for many. Yet throughout, the ICO make reference to ‘following your organization’s policies and guidance’ – highlighting that the onus isn’t solely on the individuals working from their makeshift offices. Office managers have a monumental task on their hands to ensure teams are well equipped within their home setups. Without the right equipment, policies and guidance, businesses are sure to be at risk. But it would be wrong to insinuate that unsecure desk data has only now become an issue for organizations. Modern office spaces Keeping clear desks has long been a battle for many office managers. In fact, clear desk policies are practiced in most modern office spaces, with it recognized as a key preventative to personal information being wrongly accessed and so falling foul of GDPR legislation. Throwing sensitive documents in the bin was never an option pre-pandemic However, the unsupervised aspect of home working has led to a potentially more lax approach to these policies, or in some cases, they can’t be followed at all. For those taking a more laid back approach, organization leaders must remind staff of their data security responsibilities and why clear desk policies have previously proven effective. Ultimately, throwing sensitive documents in the bin was never an option pre-pandemic and this must be carried through to home workspaces now. Securely destroy documents There are also concerns over the equipment people have access to at home. For example, without a reliable home shredding solution, data security suddenly becomes a tougher task. To add to that, several recommendations state that employees working from home should avoid throwing documents away by instead transporting them to the office for shredding once lockdown rules ease. While this is an option, it does pose further issues, with document security at risk of accidental loss or even theft throughout the transportation period, not to mention the time spent in storage. The best and most effective way to securely destroy documents is at the source, especially in environments where higher levels of personal data is regularly handled. Correct shredding equipment The recent findings on home office behavior represent a true security risk Only when home workers implement their own clear desk policies alongside the correct shredding equipment (at the correct security level), can both home office spaces and regular offices become data secure. Realistically, these solutions should, like the common home printer, become a staple in home office spaces moving forward. The likelihood is that many UK workers will remain in their home offices for the foreseeable future, only to emerge as hybrid workers post-pandemic. And while the current working environment is more ideal for some than others, the recent findings on home office behavior represent a true security risk to organizations. With this in mind, it’s now more key than ever for business leaders, their office managers and homeworkers to all step up and get a handle on home data security policies (as well as maintaining their standards back at the office) – starting with the implementation of clear desk policies. After all, a clear desk equals a clear mind.