Job: Security guard
The role: The role of a security guard has changed significantly in recent years. Previously the work largely concerned monitoring security cameras and conducting patrols. Security guards now have a much wider breadth of responsibilities, and are employed for a much wider array of services.
“You have everything from concierge services in a condominium building to immigration detention centres, which are protected by security guards in Canada,” explains Jeff Ketelaars, the secretary-treasurer of UFCW Local 333, Ontario’s largest security guard union. “Even the U.S. embassy employs security guards, both as access and egress control, and in an investigative capacity.”
Security guards have also been deployed to help manage the coronavirus crisis, and are now commonly found at grocery stores, pharmacies and hospitals managing crowds and conducting temperature checks on people.
“If I had to sum it up, I would say it’s about policing private property,” says Mr. Ketelaars, who previously spent 32 years working as a security guard. “The cops are in charge of the streets; we’re in charge of the inside.”
Mr. Ketelaars explains that in Ontario there are four security guards on duty for every one police officer at a given time. As a result, private security often has the responsibility of mediating conflicts, responding to emergencies and calling in first responders when necessary.
"The security guards tend to be the first-first responders,” he says.
Salary: The hourly wage for security guards often depends on the type of client they service, which Mr. Ketelaars says can be divided into two categories: those who need security and those who want security.
“Clients that need security need a security guard for specific reasons and then they try to pile on a lot of duties, and put out RFPs [request for proposal] to find the cheapest price possible,” he says. For example, condo buildings often need to have onsite security, and typically require security staff to manage a number of other responsibilities, such as concierge and valet services. Mr. Ketelaars says about 70 per cent of the industry is dedicated to clients that need security, who typically pay about $15 an hour.
“The clients that want actual security, just securing the property and not doing a bunch of other ancillary things, they tend to pay a bit better,” he says, adding that those dedicated to traditional security duties typically earn between $17 and $23 an hour. “Pharmaceutical faculties, marijuana growers, they’re looking for a more professional level of security, so they pay a bit better.”
Mr. Ketelaars adds that unionized security guards – and some non-unionized guards – have benefits such as health plans and paid sick days. Many also have pension or self-directed registered retirement savings plans.
Education: All 10 provinces require security guards to hold a licence. In most provinces, applicants must complete a 40-hour training course – which can be completed online in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan – and includes CPR and first-aid training.
Applicants are also required to pass a provincially administered exam and undergo a criminal record check before a licence is issued. “Only certain criminal offences will stop them from licensing you,” adds Mr. Ketelaars.
Some non-violent offenders may be eligible.
Job prospects: The security guard industry was already struggling to keep up with demand before the coronavirus crisis further increased need.
“There has been a surge in available jobs as a result of COVID-19,” Mr. Ketelaars says. “There’s probably not a single security agency in Canada that isn’t constantly hiring.”
Challenges: One of the biggest challenges of security guard work is the odd hours and overnight shifts, Mr. Ketelaars says.
“The other difficult issue is the social interaction with clients, because you’re always trying to play peacemaker. For example, in a condo you’re the middleman between the condo corporation and the tenants, in a mall you’re between the management and the customers, you’re always that middle person," he says. "Being a mediator is the most difficult part of the job.”
Why they do it: Security guards are often motivated by the ability to provide protection and comfort to others, whether by responding to an emergency, administering first aid, or simply providing peace of mind.
“There’s this sense of fulfilment that you get at the end of the day when you know you’ve done something quiet and heroic, even if nobody notices,” Mr. Ketelaars says.
Misconceptions: According to Mr. Ketelaars, many have an outdated impression of security guards as overnight patrolmen.
“The role of the security guard has dramatically changed in the last decade,” he says. “We’re not just walking around with a key and a clock doing patrols at night; we’re more front-line, we’re more public service-based, and it’s a more dynamic industry than it once was."
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