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A solid foundation in academia.


THE IMPORTANCE OF HIGHER education in security and loss control can hardly be questioned. Security education is needed to develop new loss control strategies. It is needed to prepare personnel for entry into the field and to develop and refine the knowledge and skills of working practitioners.

No professional field of endeavor is without a solid foundation in academia. Security cannot afford to be an exception. Higher education and the critical thinking skills that accompany it are desperately needed in the real world. Successful dealing with upper management demands highly developed written and oral communication skills--skills that are often enhanced during the course of college study. The creativity that higher education can promote is an essential attribute of protection management. In fact, creativity is at the heart of security; without creative thinking, security managers cannot devise cost-effective approaches to their many loss control problems.

In answer to the need for higher education, numerous institutions have begun to offer courses in security. The curricula vary widely, but the vast majority of programs are offered in the form of concentrations, associate degrees, or certificates. A few programs are offered at the master's degree level.

In almost all cases the programs are run under the auspices of the criminal justice department. Too often, however, the programs have been implemented to salvage those departments, whose enrollment declined because of a loss of funding through the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration.

SAVING A DECLINING DEPARTMENT is not the best reason to institute a new curriculum. For that reason, many academic security programs are being cancelled, and other potential programs are being held back.

One factor in academia's reluctance to accept security programs is the lack of a discernable theory of security. The academic establishment will not (and should not) support vocational, how-to programs of instruction. College is not a training academy, and few practitioners or academicians have put forth the effort to define and establish a theoretical foundation for security.

This very serious lack makes it difficult to establish meaningful loss control strategies as there is no theory to test in practice. Just as the absence of theoretical foundations causes difficulty in academia, many security training programs fail operationally because trainees cannot use a basic concept when confronted with a unique situation not covered during training or addressed through post orders. There must be an underlying theory or philosophy from which to launch practical applications.

Another dilemma that can easily drown an academic program is a paucity of contact with practitioners in the field. Academicians cannot remain aloof. Isolation in the ivory tower does little to engender trust, respect, and understanding from working professionals. Isolation also heightens the incubator effect that the college experience tends to have on students. It certainly does nothing to address the employment needs of the security industry and the students.

Obviously, job placement of graduates cannot flourish if there are no ties between security professionals and college faculty. This situation causes problems for all concerned: The security field cannot harness the creativity and energy of the graduates, the graduates become soured with the industry, and the institution's program eventually loses enrollment as prospective enrollees turn away due to the dismal employment outlook.

The qualifications of instructors in any endeavor should be open to examination. Setting the requisite qualifications for persons teaching security or loss control at the college level is an elusive task. If one simply hires a practitioner with a master's degree to teach on an adjunct basis, control over the program is lost, and accreditation difficulties may ensue. If full-time faculty holding doctoral degrees in allied yet peripheral fields are chosen, the instruction may not be relevant to what is happening in the security field.

In far too many cases the persons teaching security classes have had no practical experience in the field. Although practical experience does not necessarily make one a good teacher, and college is not vocational instruction, actual security experience is important due to the uniqueness of the profession. The effectiveness of teaching and advising students is highly questionable when the faculty member is a former police, government, or military officer who has a condescending view of private security. When this factor is combined with a substantial age difference between faculty and students, the problem is further compounded.

With most security programs culminating in certificates or associate degrees, another pitfall comes to light. On the managerial level, security is an exceptionally broad field. One-year or two-year programs are simply too limited academically to prepare a student for a security career on the management level. A bachelor's degree is really necessary, both as career preparation and, perhaps more importantly, to gain the acceptance of others in management.

Too many programs are teaching security management without the necessary background courses. A person in security management needs a working understanding of business, management, statistics, law, insurance, English, and psychology. Without sufficient course work in those subjects, prospective job candidates are ill-prepared to obtain a management position or successfully grapple with the daily challenges presented by the position should they obtain it. A 20-year-old associate of arts graduate from a community college who possesses little security experience can easily get lost in the career shuffle. Unfortunately, such persons form a common profile of security program graduates.

TO RECTIFY THE PROBLEMS THAT have been discussed, academicians and practitioners must make a concerted effort. There are no quick fixes or panaceas. Careful analysis and planning are necessary, and some hard, objective critiques will be needed to understand the scope and nature of each problem fully.

The dilemma of an absence of theory can be solved through the following strategies:

* Colleges and professional organizations must provide strong support for research efforts. Research grants of several hundred dollars can go a long way toward furthering the body of security knowledge. Support of research will spawn new theories as well as increase the understanding of those already in existence.

* Theory concerning such topics as risk management, group behavior, and aberrant behavior can be surveyed. For too long practitioners and academicians alike have ignored the contributions other disciplines can make. An overreliance on police subjects has resulted in a jaundiced, myopic perspective. The social sciences and mathematics have much to offer students of loss control. The wheel need not be reinvented under a different name; it can simply be analyzed for what it is.

* Schools must design curricula that incorporate a multidisciplinary approach to security. Such an approach will help students with abstract thinking. In addition, it will promote more holistic research efforts as the students progress academically. Whatever barriers have been put in place by police-oriented curricula will break down, enabling students to think in terms more attuned to the working environment of private security. Such a design will also allow cross-fertilization from business, insurance, accounting, psychology, and other fields to take place as students enrolled in those majors take security courses.

An exchange of ideas between academicians and practitioners is crucial to the development of any field of endeavor. Security professionals and those from academic settings must try to understand each other's objectives and problems. Mutually advantageous information exchanges can be achieved through the following recommendations:

* Courses should include guest lectures from industry and government representatives. These talks will acquaint the students with the professions represented and vice versa. Such lectures also improve the learning experience--harnessing the expertise of the lecturer results in a more complete coverage of course material than a single instructor could provide.

* Consideration should be given to holding professional meetings on campus. These meetings facilitate the exchange of ideas and present economic and publicity advantages to both the guest organization and host institution.

* Student membership in professional security organizations should be made readily available. Through membership, students get to view the profession and acquire a sense of belonging. They also receive membership benefits such as publications, book discounts, and placement services.

* Internship programs where students work in carefully supervised settings for college credit are excellent career developers. Such programs also present economic advantages for the employing organizations and, in many cases, the students.

* Independent study courses for graduates or senior-level undergraduates can provide students with flexible hours and research opportunities tailored to their individual interests. These classes can also provide local security managers with low-cost research capability when students study a problem or topic relevant to the local organization. These classes also help further new research and publications.

Job placement of security program graduates can consist of obtaining minimum-wage guard jobs. This type of placement is certainly not desirable and can be avoided through careful planning by academicians coupled with close coordination between colleges and local industries. The following ideas for academicians and practitioners might result in better job placement:

* Security faculty and loss control managers should look to the medical profession for an example of internship programs. Students serving internships get a chance to make a realistic, objective career choice. They can assess the relevance of their education and provide meaningful feedback to their colleges.

* Placement programs run by colleges and professional organizations are of great value. College faculty should attempt to coordinate their placement efforts with those of the school placement office. Local security organizations should use the college as a low-cost recruitment source. Chapters of security organizations can also start local placement services to complement those in existence at the national level.

* Colleges should research the employment needs of local organizations. This research can present a much clearer picture of job prospects while at the same time precluding the development of easily shattered illusions on the part of students.

The qualifications of faculty in security and loss control are extremely important. The following considerations should be addressed if academic programs are to have credibility with the industry, the collegiate hierarchy, and the students:

* Colleges should hire persons with security management experience. Investigative experience is valuable, but the major portion of the curriculum revolves around prevention and control of losses. Since the security industry is complex and the working environments diverse, persons with actual experience may be the only ones capable of understanding the profession's needs. Faculty cannot very well teach what they do not understand.

* Colleges should obtain input for their programs from various faculty members. Because the security field is vast and complex, it is generally advantageous to tap the brains of everyone involved. In most cases, no single instructor can teach all the courses in a security curriculum in an expert manner. By involving several faculty members in curriculum design and instruction, the school is more likely to be able to offer a well-rounded approach to the subject.

* Academicians can help prepare prospective faculty through graduate assistantships. Such assistantships also further the research effort and can be an asset to course instructors. Graduate assistantships enable both students and practitioners to pursue graduate degrees affordably.

* Serious consideration should be given to hiring faculty members who are Certified Protection Professionals, Certified Protection Officers, or Certified Security Trainers. A person who has completed one of these certification programs has demonstrated both a professional commitment and subject mastery within the security profession. Instructors who have already been hired should be encouraged to obtain professional credentials.

Graduates of academic security programs must be properly prepared for entry into the profession. They must also be prepared for more advanced study. Unfortunately, most associate degree programs do not prepare students for either option. The course work is simply not sufficient for professional management development and is not easily transferred between institutions.

To some people, this situation might suggest that associate degree programs in security should be abolished. A more productive, positive, and realistic approach would be to restructure and reorient the curricula within these programs. In that way graduates would derive more benefit from the programs, and the security industry could welcome better prepared loss control personnel entering the field.

The academic community should consider the following suggestions to improve security curricula:

* Curriculum design for graduates must address professional needs as well as students' potential need to transfer credits to other programs. Therefore, security curricula at the associate and bachelor's levels should contain only generic courses. Program administrators should refrain from placing a vast array of specialized security courses within the curriculum due to transfer considerations.

Generally, a security curriculum should limit the number of security courses required and should instead take an interdisciplinary approach. Students should take related courses from other departments, such as business, insurance, physics, statistics, criminal investigation, and personnel administration. In this way, an associate degree student can transfer more easily into a bachelor's program where security courses are not accepted. Some credits would be lost, but the student could then pursue a bachelor's degree in business, criminal justice, or psychology, for example. Bachelor's degree students would have a more rounded education, enabling them to become productive members of the management team after graduation.

* Along with streamlining the curriculum to preclude a specific (and sometimes overly vocational) approach, curriculum planners should suggest an introductory security course as an elective or required course within other majors. Management, accounting, criminal justice, and computer information systems majors could all benefit from an understanding of security. This approach would boost enrollment in the security program and help sell the idea of majoring or minoring in security to students who would never have thought of it otherwise. Moreover, future managers would better understand the role of security and security personnel in an organization.

* Since certificate and associate programs do not fully prepare students for managerial positions, it may be better to orient such programs toward entry-level jobs as security officers, personal protection specialists, alarm technicians, or locksmiths. An associate's degree program in applied science would probably meet the students' needs better. It would also be easily marketed to job-oriented students.

* Graduates of certificate programs should be qualified to perform their jobs according to state and professional regulations. Programs should include student certification in weapons training, first aid, and CPR. Certifying students in these activities enables students to assume job duties readily, creates professionalism in the security industry, and, when combined with academic course work, gives students a well-rounded perspective that combines both theory and practice.

Higher education in security and loss control is certainly needed. To create attractive programs, college faculty members need to plan carefully and gather input from security practitioners. When sound programs of higher education that meet the needs of graduates are established, professionalism in security will flourish. Both academicians and security practitioners have a stake in the results of such an undertaking. They also have a professional obligation.

About the Author . . . Christopher A. Hertig, CPP, teaches security courses at York College of Pennsylvania. He has studied security in a two-year program as well as a master's program.
COPYRIGHT 1989 American Society for Industrial Security
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Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:higher education in security & loss control
Author:Hertig, Christopher A.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Feb 1, 1989
Previous Article:Weapons in disguise.
Next Article:The time has come.

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