The Real Solution To The Industry's Talent Shortage

By John Honovich, Published Jan 04, 2021, 08:19am EST

Recruit poor and working-class young people. This is the best solution to the industry's "talent shortage.'

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In this essay, the successor to Debunking 'No One Grows Up Wanting To Be In The Security Industry', I argue for a realistic solution to the industry, based on my own experience managing an integrator and having successfully recruited many individuals into the industry from top universities.

Be Realistic - Recruit Poor and Working Class

Most jobs in the physical security industry (technician, guard, inside sales) offer average pay, prestige, and quality of life. Literally so. That's the problem, not that people just don't know how great it is.

The solution, therefore, is to lower the expectations for the credentials of people hired into the industry. The industry should focus on hiring people from poor and working-class backgrounds that did not have the opportunity to attend good 4-year universities. These people will be far more excited about the pay and opportunities of working as an integrator, reseller, guard provider, etc.

Moreover, this is ethically just as it will give opportunities to people that need them and, in the process, increases the ethnic and racial diversity of the industry.

Fool's Game To Increase The Prestige Of The Industry

The industry should not, as it often wants, somehow convince the public that working in the industry is so great or some sort of hidden gem. While a small percentage of industry jobs offer the fundamentals that attract high credential young people that have many options, most industry jobs do not.

Trying to do so is wrong, a waste of money, and simply a fool's game to try to trick young people to think the industry is better than what it is. Most will easily see through it, the few that actually join will likely leave within a few years as they realize the limitations of the industry.

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Lower Expectations

Watch the video, please:

That guy (played by Artie Lang above) is like the physical security industry.

The main element I differ is the implication that 'lowered expectations' means worse people or worse results. More appropriate expectations make for a better outcome for all involved.

My Integrator Experience

When I was the GM of an expanding security integrator in the 2000s, I had to hire a number of entry-level techs paying only $13 - $15 an hour. It was obvious to me that, despite being an Ivy League graduate, there was no way I was going to be able to hire talented 4-year college graduates into such roles at such pay. It was also completely unnecessary.

Hiring Trade School or High School Grads

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We hired ~10 people who either graduated from 2-year trade schools or people with no higher education we found from local connections. They were happy with the pay and opportunity, especially coming from modest backgrounds and more limited opportunities. We were happy with their productivity and eagerness to develop their careers. In particular, we found a number of people who would have easily excelled at 4-year universities if they had the chance to do so. Rather than trying to convince someone who went to USC or NYU, etc., we had people who easily did a comparable job and were much happier doing so.

Why Work For You?

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The flip side of hiring high credential young people with many opportunities is that they are unlikely to tolerate the mediocre management common in this industry. As an integrator, I worked for an owner that might have graduated from college but if he did he either majored in surfing or partying. His main contribution was to confidently tell clients what they wanted to hear, whether or not it was accurate.

If you are one of these security industry 'leaders' that want to hire high credential young people, you need to ask yourself - what do you offer these people? Why, long term, would they want to work for you?

Address Inequality And Cost Of College

Two of the biggest social issues today are increasing economic inequality and the high cost of college. Having the physical security industry focus on hiring people from poor and working-class backgrounds benefits both parties. These people often have the talent and drive to be highly productive but not the money and opportunity to spend hundreds of thousands on 4-year colleges. Moreover, especially with the increase in online education, most of what is taught in average 4-year programs are either irrelevant or able to be learned online for the needs of most physical security jobs.

Comments (11)

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When I ran an installation business we hired techs without a higher education. We trained technically and customer relations.

Several honored us by eventually leaving and starting their own company with the knowledge we provided. We stayed friends

Many very successful alarm companies started from a tech and a sales person joining forces.

Set Better Standards

More oversite

Pay for better Management

More Incentives to those who perform , less to failure

Expect More , Accept less of the Incompetence

Train More , Expect ongoing Training as with any apprentice

You want the Best , than Expect and hold accountable for the best

Better communications and transparency

Stop the numbers game of racism in the work force thru mandatory hiring and you will get better performance

one standard , not selective standards

If you want the Best , YOU have to expect all to perform at the best and allow room for failure and correction

Instead of walking around with chips on shoulders and feeling s for someone to hurt and agendas contrary to the mission .

start the process of Goals , Achievement , direction ( lacking in the schools )

Start the Higher levels of Expectation s ( zero Tollerance for higher paid people )

the less you make the less you expect , the more the more oversite

Higher standards produce better outcomes


wish you the best

When hiring people, i rarely consider college completion as a hiring standard for me. I am one of those weirdos who think the whole 4/6/8 year University deal is one of America's biggest scams (with a few specific exceptions: Doctors, CPAs, etc)BTW, I have a 4 year degree that is completely useless. Bacherlors degree with a major in General Business! Woopty Doo!

I usually put very little weight on this when looking at resumes and going through the hiring process. From my experience, having a college degree has very little benefit in this industry.

I agree that hiring entry level people is a good strategy. I believe in instilling the vision of the company into entry level people and letting them know that the more impact they have on the company's growth, the more they will be rewarded financially.

I would say that the only painful aspect about hiring entry level people is that you sometimes have to find a diamond in the rough. We usually have to sift through a bunch of people who arent qualified before we find the perfect one. Our hiring process is slow and painful, but it has paid off.

I could not agree more , the more I went to school the less of the direction i had and the more confused i got , so i started just taking class's which achieved my purpose , not a Degree , found that 200 credits of garbage and brainwashing by a bunch of liberal idiots just convinced me i would just get dumber , so I got mission oriented

set goals , set direction and did not care about the system

I found that it did cost me , but learning what mattered really counted in the end

I now have about 160 credits of unusable college which cannot get a job anywhere

wish anyone out there the best when you really see what the percentage of fluff is in the degree .

now I select who , and how I work , what i do , and not many can say the degree got them that freedom .

I own it , I decide it , I select where and what jobs I want and which ones are just more head acts .

Many talk about no good help , but most dont really want to work hard, put in the time , pay the price for experience , education and discipline

So to all you who are users and takers , you get what you give or pay for

Price for everything and either loss's or profit

I work and see so many who dont have direction , just want to play, party, get by , have as much fun as possible , and no care for future .


The Real Answer is : passion , purpose, direction , reason to achieve


Philosophy classes?

This article brings up interesting side point of lack of modern/reasonable people in management in the Integrator section of the security industry.

That's another interesting problem that I often think about and wonder will it slowly resolve as people retire/sell their companies and more consolidation happens, survival of the fittest type situation.

I am curious what others opinions are.

Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of good managers at many integrators(regional & national), but there are still is a lot of "old school" style managers across North America that make it hard for some talented people under them to thrive/rise, which in turn makes it harder to implement mind set & programs as described in this article.

I don't think it will go away until managers and owners realize their role should be that of a leader. Understanding that the best way to move their business and this industry forward is through innovation and allowing those closest to the challenges being faced to come up with solutions to those problems. A pop culture example would be when Darryl in the office, just a warehouse guy, was able to change the way the businesses were loading and shipping trucks to drive real change. Allowing that to happen seems pretty scarce in the world let alone this industry. Enabling employees to grow and find out what their comparative advantages are, fostering that growth and when possible allowing them to mold a role around it will truly help in becoming a leader. He's just a new tech or we just do it this way should not be an answer but sadly it is very common.

Wow sorry about the rant long story short I don't think there will be meaningful change until the top levels stop managing and start leading.

Owners need to have a long range mentality. I suggest doing a through background check on prospective hires. Then spend the time to really get to know your employees. One of my clients could easily earn mid to upper six figures a year from his integration business. However, he has focused on building the business and rewarding hard working loyal employees. As a result, you have a a guy with a GED earning between 100-175k (bonus pool included) a year as lead network technician. If their are good years, the owner will fund the bonus pool with 250 to 600K and apportion it to leads and techs. A 1 year tech starting at 30K received a 15K bonus in his first year. His turnover is low and he can cherry pick good techs from competitors. However, its hard for a lot of owners to give up the large salaries and settle for the 250K a year. To sum it all up, owners need to think about what kind of organization they want to be responsible for and how they want to incentivize people to create that organization. Anybody can run a business it takes a leader to create an organization that becomes larger than themselves.

NOTICE: This comment has been moved to its own discussion: This Is One Hell Of An Integrator - "You Have A A Guy With A GED Earning Between 100-175k (Bonus Pool Included) A Year As Lead Network Technician"

update the the image from wire-puller with hammer on belt.

I always looked at what kind of person the applicant was, not so much what their experience level or education. Were they honest, did they want to learn, did they seem to be team players. If the applicant said they grew up on a dairy farm, that could be an automatic hire. I knew they were used to hard work, responsibility, could run and repair equipment, and were able to deal with problems.

In my experience, a university degree is nothing more than a 4 year basic intelligence and attendance test. It's an imperfect test of whether someone is reasonably functioning upstairs, and can counted upon to "show up" for a long-term goal. Companies cannot legally test candidates for these things, but universities absolutely companies delegate that filter to universities.

That said, in the last 2 decades I have seen the critical thinking abilities of the typical college graduate decrease, yet their relative sense of self-importance increase.

Excepting certain very specific jobs, field experience is far more valuable to me now. In my time, I've hired many college-educated software developers, who nonetheless needed assistance with the most basic networking and even database tasks. In contrast, structured-cabling techs nearly always are very good at the IT side of things as well.

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