I was absolutely delighted to see the Government COVID-19 travel restrictions ease this week and finally allow the travel industry to start its phased recovery. The industry is hugely important not only to the UK economy, but also to allow us to visit friends and families living in other countries, as well as providing well deserved holidays for those seeking some sunshine!
Kickstarting what goes on behind the scenes in an operational airport is critical to the safety and security of both the travelling public and those working in airports and airlines. A concern that I have frequently heard over the last few months is around skill fade and the need for refresher training as we transition back to some form of initial recovery and normality in the aviation and travel industry.
I have read with interest a number of articles on the re-emerging terrorist threat as travel starts to increase over the coming weeks and months. As a former Detective Officer working in areas including counter corruption, organised crime and counter terrorism at airports, the threat from terrorism, is not a new phenomenon, and has indeed not gone away during the pandemic. Over the lockdown period, the internet has continued to act as a multiplier for radicalisation and crude teaching in how to plan and execute unsophisticated attacks.
As crowded environments start to become the “norm” again, the police and security services will again face increasing challenges to prevent such attacks which could happen at any time in any place, with airports always being an aspirational target for terrorist groups.
Security training is an investment. The transport sector continues to face evolving and emerging threats from terrorists and organised crime groups seeking to exploit vulnerabilities, and it is recognised that the private security industry across the globe now undertakes many functions that were previously deemed the role of the police.
Working with a number of airports across the UK, I have been involved in many discussions about what normal may look like as we emerge from lockdown. The key conclusion is that the sector needs to rebuild and enhance a competent security culture as swiftly and effectively as possible.
Technical security innovations in the aviation industry are a great asset to deter against potential attacks, however coupled with technical innovations, there is a requirement for well-trained staff. This human factor, if invested in sensibly, can ensure a more proficient, skilled and current work force.
As CEO of CAMOR Limited, my vision for the company has always been simple “making a difference and saving lives”. As a team, we have worked tirelessly to ensure our training programmes are rigorously tested, academically accredited, innovative, meaningful, engaging and interesting, to enhance the ability of security staff to protect the public and infrastructure.
A question that I have often raised in relation to General Security Awareness Training (GSAT) in the aviation sector is
How often should those working at an airport refresh their GSAT training, and should training be mandatory for both those working in airside and landside areas of the airport?
This is a really interesting question for me as 60 months has been accepted as the optimum timescale. But there remains a need, especially in current times, to rebuild and enhance a competent security culture within airports more frequently, not just for existing staff, but for new staff.
My personal feeling is that with the constantly changing threat picture, attack methodologies and threat actors, then it is in our security interests to refresh all our staff, both airside and landside, more frequently, and equip them with the updated knowledge they need to protect themselves, colleagues, members of the public and their organisation. A recent poll conducted on our LinkedIn page returned a result of 85% of respondents believing that refresher GSAT training should be carried out every 1-2 years, something which I would fully support.
As a company, CAMOR, a CAA registered training provider, with our Department of Transport Certified Instructors, have invested and developed an innovative approach to train aviation staff in GSAT through the use of our immersive game-based learning, aided with our mobile ‘companion’ App. The concept behind this training is to create a connected community within an airport, ensuring all staff not only receive truly effective training, but that they always have the appropriate security information at hand and can be alerted to urgent or routine security information.
Our innovative security training changes the way we engage with learners and has the power to teach, train, educate and motivate, breaking the mould of traditional methods that learners often do not find engaging. It is a technique that utilises technology to produce simulated or artificial environments in which to learn.
In addition to the core syllabus of GSAT, we have added a key section on the existing threat from an Insider, identified as a key area of risk to the aviation, and soon to become an area mandated for training under the National Aviation Security Programme (NASP). CAMOR are specialists in the area of 'Insider Risk and Employee Vulnerability' and are members of the CPNI approved Register of Security Engineers and Specialist (RSES).
To conclude, it is often quoted that
"Staff are a company's greatest asset" and “Security is everyone’s responsibility”
Therefore it is important to give employees the necessary skills and ability to protect the airport environment, as appropriately trained security staff provide an additional layer of risk management that greatly enhances an airport’s resilience to existing and emerging threats.