Private security plays an essential role in protecting people, assets, and infrastructure. Supply chains, public spaces, events and critical entities are prime examples. While the demand has been increasing, the sector has been facing structural labour and skills shortages since the last few years. The European Social Partners for the sector, the Confederation of European Security Services (CoESS) and UNI Europa, have led a two-year project to analyze the drivers of these shortages. They were able to find solutions and presented them on their joint platform www.securityskills.eu, which just launched today.
Private security services used to be, and will be even more so in the future, essential services provided in support of law enforcement, a development which has been confirmed in the context of terrorist attacks in Europe and the COVID-19 pandemic. The demand for security services has been increasing. Between 2010 and 2019, the European private security industry grew significantly in terms of the number of workers, diversification of services, and the upscaling of the technical and professional expertise provided.
However, roughly 48% of security companies currently struggle to respond to the market demand due to labour shortages. This is a strategic challenge to public security and the economy. The ‘INTEL’ project, which is funded by the European Union and led by CoESS and UNI Europa, recognized and studied this challenge thoroughly.
The two-year project has delivered the first-ever evidence-based data on the extent of labour and skills shortages in the private security industry across Europe. Principally, the project partners organized multiple workshops, online as well as in Germany, Sweden, and Croatia, to discuss solutions to this challenge. The project shall support businesses and workers in addressing labour and skills shortages in a sector of strategic relevance for the functioning of our societies. These solutions, as well as the best practices of Social Partners from all over Europe, are assembled at www.securityskills.eu – a website that just launched today. It will be presented at a high-level conference in Brussels. The European Commission will make their appearance at the conference as well.
The key barrier for the industry, which is to become more attractive for new workers, is also identified by the project: low-cost focused procurement practices. Catherine Piana, Director General of CoESS, states: “Labour shortages are a real issue for our industry and they are also an opportunity to finally consider private security as the business enabler that it is, and let go of the old vision of security as a mere cost or commodity. Social Partners have been supporting this view since the inception of the Social Dialogue, and have been warning against the negative impact on working conditions of cost-driven procurement practices. If we are to attract, retain and motivate people to deliver quality security services to society, procurement has to move to best value practices.”
Oliver Roethig, UNI Europa Regional Secretary, agrees: “With this project, workers and employers have together identified common issues in our sector. One major sticking point is public procurement. We are seeing that public money is fueling a downward spiral for both private security workers and employers. Public procurement treats them as a budget line to be honed and thinned. The good news is, fixing procurement practices can be easily rectified. We have the evidence, we have agreement among the Social Partners concerned, now we need political action at the EU and national level.”
With the INTEL project and launch of their website, CoESS and UNI Europa will continue to support the exchange of solutions across countries to tackle this strategic challenge of labour shortages to companies, workers, society, and economies. This support was enabled thanks to a dedicated funding for EU Social Partners of the European Commission.
Find out more about the INTEL project, its findings, and recommendations at www.securityskills.eu.
Alexander Frank, Head of EU Affairs, CoESS (email@example.com)
Mark Bergfeld, Director Property Services, UNI Europa (firstname.lastname@example.org)