Editor, IFSEC Global

Author Bio ▼

James Moore is the Editor of IFSEC Global, the leading online publication for security and fire news in the industry. James writes, commissions, edits and produces content for IFSEC Global, including articles, breaking news stories and exclusive industry reports. He liaises and speaks with leading industry figures, vendors and associations to ensure security and fire professionals remain abreast of all the latest developments in the sector.
August 11, 2021

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The Video Surveillance Report 2021

Opinion

Looking beyond the pandemic – “An opportunity for fire and security engineers”

In January 2020 we met with Amthal’s Directors, Paul Rosenthal, John and Jamie Allam to create a 20th anniversary celebratory feature for the fire and security installer and integrator specialist. Nobody could have predicted what was to follow, with the planned celebrations and indeed any events or industry analysis, following a rather different and unexpected course as a result of the pandemic. 

JamieAllam-Amthal-20

Jamie Allam, Amthal CEO

We catch up once again with CEO Jamie Allam, who looks at the industry response to COVID-19. He believes in a sign of strength for the sector that has proven so critical to essential services, the current climate presents a once in a lifetime opportunity to move forward and re-write the existing rulebook.

2020 was certainly a memorable and historic year that even the most grounded of business plans would have been difficult to predict. As we learned to handle and grew to recover, from our industry perspective, we have one of the best chances to reflect on our support role in ensuring the safety and security of businesses, homes and essential services.

In 2021 mid-year snapshots, new research has revealed that 86% of UK businesses feel ‘somewhat to very confident’ about growth prospects for the remainder of 2021 with many managers anticipating growth due to opportunities created by the pandemic.

The new data shows a 10% increase in optimism compared with survey results from January, while over a quarter of businesses feel very confident in their potential for growth, and 58% are somewhat confident. Additionally, almost half (47%) of workers are more optimistic about career prospects now than they were 12 months ago.

Skills shortage

The biggest factor standing in the way of growth is employers struggling to find employees with the right mix of skills, with the majority focused on reskilling and upskilling employees to meet evolving business needs and opportunities brought on by the pandemic.

At one end of the scale, we have the new generation coming into the workforce. Better known as the ‘connected generation’, who live on their mobile phone and love the internet. They have seen their career and personal ambitions derailed by the COVID-19 closures, just as they were gaining momentum.

Following over a year where they have seen education shut down and social lives and career aspirations restricted, some are now using the recovery period to make major life changes having had their entry into the workplace disrupted.

At the other end of the scale, the ‘maturists’ have had established skill sets and working patterns disrupted. They may have stayed within their industry, are fully trained, and developed a clear understanding of the technicalities surrounding traditional fire and security solutions. Their idea of working environment centres more around a ‘fixed workspace’ with a ‘defined’ role in which they are comfortable.

In the same vein as the new generation, through the pandemic, this fixed workspace and defined roles has been interrupted as we have been forced to accommodate home working, social distancing and embrace new forms of communication such as Zoom and Teams to stay in touch.

In between, is the generation that traditionally has witnessed the complex transition to mobile domination and in a working environment has looked to creating flexible working opportunities. Again, in the crux of the pandemic, this need was excelled and left many struggling to balance work, home and family life.

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In the fire and security industry, who early on were identified as key workers, teams regardless of generations had to pull together to respond quickly and efficiently to customers seeking help and peace of mind. This was especially through the extended periods of lockdown and uncertainty and resulting vacant offices, now susceptible to new heightened issues such as vandalism, arson and theft.

Lessons to learn

As we look to the recovery, and the workforce slowly returns to offices and events, if there has been a positive from the experience, it’s the seamless drawing together of the generations looking to combine individual skillsets.

To maintain this momentum, organisations need to remain clear on team members aligning with business goals and career progression opportunity, ensuring they feel they are making a contribution, and recognised in doing so towards any company success.

Certainly for the fire and security industry, there is a renewed focus on safety, especially with the introduction of the Fire Safety Act 2021 and all its repercussions on compliance and responsibility. Looking towards the more skilled traditional workforce who can confidently maintain weekly and monthly testing in accordance with legal requirements.

In business and commercial security, there is an excelled shift towards remote monitoring and smart technology, a nod to the newer generations and their ability to embrace mobile first authentic control.

Introducing apprentices

Encouraging a workplace environment ripe for multi-generational collaboration has been the Government push towards Apprenticeship schemes.

Launched at the heart of the pandemic and in recognition of the difficulties younger generations faced when entering the current workplace environment, the Government offered employers significant incentives for hiring apprentices.

John and Luke Allam, Amthal Fire & Security

John Allam, founder of Amthal and now Operations Director has seen first-hand both the evolution of the security industry, the benefits of apprenticeships to a business and the critical value of the blended working environment, especially over the last 18 months.

John explains: “The struggle to find the right skillsets in our industry is not new. Whether people have no long-term experience or they are trained as multi-disciplined, which often does not suit the intricate design in security and fire safety.

“Instead of seeing this as a barrier, we established our business to ensure our seasoned professionals could train junior engineers and apprentices by working together. We put our trust and confidence in our team, allowing new starters to choose their course, through installation, MSR, software commissioning or fire specialisms and tailor their work and supervisor appropriately.”

“Whilst this is something we have invested in for the last 15 years, it proved invaluable during the pandemic period, where as key workers we had to continue to meet the requirements of our customers in difficult working conditions. For our apprentices, the support offered, even remotely, by senior members of the team at such an uncertain time was of paramount importance. And vice versa they helped us to understand different communication methods whilst embracing new smart technologies quickly and efficiently.”


READ: “Why now is the time for the fire and security sector to embrace apprenticeships”


John’s son Luke Allam, joined the company as an apprentice two years ago. He added: “Amthal has always been part of my life, having been involved from a young age, helping dad on different job assignments. I was determined to do an apprenticeship here and as I enjoy mostly the practical aspects I chose to work with the security installation engineers, and was quickly assigned a supervisor.

“I have since developed my specific skills and knowledge, based on my course, but also been given the opportunities to explore new innovative ideas and approaches, which I can share with the team. This really helped when we had to practice social distancing, and there was more of a reliance and take up of mobile first monitoring services. I had to adapt systems quickly, blending traditional installation skills with smart technology.”

Moving forward

Bringing all these elements together and the workplace of the future is here. Where not only is it the case that multi-generations can work together in the so called ‘new normal,’ but also there is an opportunity to maximise company culture.

Amthal has maintained a proactive approach to its team, seeing our role as a fire and security specialist in the context of the future of a sustainable society. One where each of our team members work together, from our new apprentices to our seasoned workers, to successfully manage the transition from the pandemic and support businesses to once again grow safely and securely.

Within this, we encourage career flexibility and collaborate with teammates in a social and family-orientated environment. We have the mechanisms in place to offer essential support and open communications to understand uncertainty and any anxiety on the future of career progression or a team member’s importance in our business growth.

As we reach the hopeful end of the critical pandemic period and achieved the Day of Freedom, we are excited by the future prospects.  This is not only for business growth and recruitment, but also the opportunities for the fire safety and security sector to assertively protect what’s precious.

Find out more about Amthal and its apprenticeship opportunities.

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