In a series of articles some dating back to 2012 and most recently our article “A Look back 2014-2020: Establishing a National Standard for Executive Protection Training; Old News to ISA”. We have tried to convince some of our peers and clients alike of the need for quantifiable standards for the training of new EP agents.
It’s been a hard sell; many see this as a state-driven or federal government takeover of the training industry. Some training providers like the ability to teach whatever, however and not need to worry about accountability and only about profitability.
But we have had a few allies over the years, Mr. Christian West of AS Solutions for example. So we were excited to read and complete a peer review of his newest article on the topic of standards “It’s time to talk about standardization of the executive protection industry” November 20, 2019 – By Christian West & Brian Jantzen
So we will begin this review with the beginning as Mr. West & Mr. Jantzen write
“Standardization” reminds some people of bureaucracy and control – things that limit our freedom.
That is a very true statement as we have already seen some push back against national standards as a federal government encroachment and overreach. Not to mention a state effort to secure more money from training companies. But we believe this to be a non-issue as the federal government has expressed absolutely no interest in EP training industry.
The authors point out
“all kinds of things are standardized without us ever thinking about it, and standardization also gives us the freedom to make better choices. Once we get used to standardization in any particular area, we quickly take it for granted and forget about how things worked (or didn’t work) before standards were agreed”.
We couldn’t agree more, but when quantifiable standards are set there are going to be those who don’t meet those standards. Training providers who are not certified instructors, programs filled with “war stories” no standardized lesson plans, and outdated methods or procedures. So with standards, you will need an industry regulatory office that enforces these standards or at least calls out those that are not in compliance.
The authors also point out
“The groups pushing standards vary widely, and there are different standards to consider. Some standards are de facto – they exist because enough people think they make sense, not because of any law. There are also both open standards and proprietary standards and those set voluntarily and organized by industry associations, professional groups or even dedicated, transnational standard makers such as ISO. Still others, like building codes and car emissions, are de jura – mandatory standards set by law to which everyone must comply.’
Now if we break that down while many reputable training providers do agree on some of the materials and topics they teach there is no “de-facto” standard of training. There are some ‘proprietary programs” such as those taught by the Federal Law Enforcement Training Academies or the military, and nothing stops a training provider from adhering to the FLETC model and standards if they so choose. But by doing so you place your program under very strict administrative and operational procedures or processes, and not every training provider will have the certified staff or budget to meet those mandated standards so the industry may not be able to use that model industry-wide.
So we seem destined for voluntarily organized standards to be put in place by industry associations, but that has been tried before. And it’s not in their best interest because industry associations like ASIS know independent training providers may not adhere to some guidelines written by a council up at ASIS? It should be noted as well that Mr. Scotti also reminds us that “Years back a group of practitioners under the umbrella of the American Board for Certification in Homeland Security (ABCHS) created Executive Protection Standards for a Certification program that would be offered by the ABCHS. The ABCHS EP Board consisted of practitioners from all the disciplines; it took about three years to get it together. Unfortunately, ABCHS imploded” Do we expect ASIS or the IPSB to fare any better?
No regulatory enforcement means no standards, simple. And ASIS can’t enforce a standard unless the training provider is a member and why join if they don’t receive something in return.
Mr. West and Mr. Jantzen note the “benefits of standardization include interoperability which ensures that things and systems work with each other”
And we agree with the idea a student who graduates with us should have the same basic foundation as a student that graduates with another school. But ISA teaches an accredited program of 32 days in length broken down into modules. Our 70+ hour EP course is all EP skills; we don’t waste time with weapons training which is a stand-alone course on the use of force. So compatibility is an issue unless the industry is going to grade or rate programs by type or category and then what happens to the buffet programs with a day of EP, a few days of medical or drivers training and a day at the range?
The authors ask “If standardization is so good, why isn’t the executive protection industry already doing it?
A rhetorical question the authors reply
“We think it’s fair to say that the executive protection industry is not standardized in any way” and they correctly point out “every EP school creates their own curriculum and teaches it in their own way. Every provider has their own proprietary take on organizing and delivering their own version of protective services, and their own system (or no system) for quality control. Every executive protection client trying to decide on a provider has to compare apples and oranges, and make a decision based on a messy fruit basket of criteria rather than a standardized selection menu”.
Wow, that’s an astute observation and we agree completely, but if we are going to move to standardized training who is going to bunch all the apples together? Who decides where a program falls or into what category? Anyone that tries will undoubtedly be challenged by the providers if they feel their program is being maligned or miscategorized.
Again the authors ask a rhetorical question, Why is this the case? Well, they believe
“because standardization would require a coordinated effort that no one until now has thought worth the trouble. We can only speculate, but it would seem that none of executive protection’s stakeholder constituencies, on their own, have so far made standardization a priority”
Here is where we part with the authors because ISA has been advocating for quantifiable standards across the industry and nationally since 2012. In fact, using the Instructional Design Process (IDP) ISA did a yearlong review of the training needs for executive protection agents to address the threats to our protectees and to provide the services required by clients today.
More to the point standardization and accreditation was priority one for ISA course managers and instructors because our students came primarily from law enforcement and federal or state agencies and departments. Of course, this has always been an issue for ISA because we never marketed our programs to the general public and thus it’s likely the authors were unaware of our efforts.
But it wasn’t only ISA, our early mentors Tony Scotti and Joe Autera of the Vehicle Dynamics Institute built their entire training program on quantifiable standards and clear training objectives. VDI was a pioneer in data-driven training standards. But again, VDI specializes in driver & surveillance training, so it’s possible their contributions to EP training standards have gone overlooked.
The authors continue to training schools and write
”Unlike grade schools, universities, and even nail technician schools, no one is setting standards for executive protection training schools”.
Again we differ with their findings because the State of Virginia has the 32E Personal Protection Specialist Program which has legal and regulatory requirements and standards for EP training schools. But we would also mention in 2014 ISA signed an educational credit agreement with a university security management and EP degree program and as such ISA had to conform to the training standards of an institute of higher learning. An institute conducting EP training so the national accreditation board for colleges and universities had in fact set standards for an EP school.
We do agree with the authors when they write
“Anyone is free to hang up their shingle and start offering classes. Everyone is free to do it however they choose”
But isn’t that what we are trying to address? The question is by what method?
Of note is when the authors refer to the AS Solutions training program itself by writing
“We have standardized quite a few things in our own shop” and acknowledge “we know that other EP providers have, too”.
They go on to say;
“This includes operational SOPs, and things like quality control, admin services, and RFP responses”.
It’s here in the article we think the authors hit the heart of the matter when they write;
“Like our competitors/colleagues in the industry, however, we do this on our own, not in collaboration with other providers. To be sure, we believe many of the standardizations that we have created over the years are proprietary and giving them away to competitors would be like handing out recipes for our secret sauce”
We think it’s here the 99% of training providers stop in their thinking because it’s about profitability and not about training students to a standard. But the authors continue with this;
“On the other hand, improved standardization would professionalize the industry and level the playing field for all competitors”
The authors correctly point out AS Solutions “could still spice things up with our own sauce” a reference to their ability to offer a standardized training course but with differences highlighting their instructors, training facilities, role players or maybe their training scenarios?
But here is where we find hope in this article, the authors say;
“That’s a chance that we are more than willing to take. We think many of our colleagues in the industry feel the same way”.
For a training provider to accept a shared standard of training as its competitor to “professionalize the industry” we believe demonstrates the merits and needs for a national standard.
Now how to do it, well the authors believe “standardization should be voluntary, not mandated by law” for various reasons, all of them good. (Read the article) and “If efforts to standardize the EP industry are to be voluntary, then the first thing we need to do is gather a coalition of the willing”.
We agree and would recommend a consortium of training providers who agree to support a common training standard and syllabus and that we approach the clients and end-users of our services for their support. We would also recommend working with the insurance industry to reduce liability costs for those graduates training with providers within the consortium.
The authors ask in their closing “other industries have done it, and so can we. Who is willing”?
We hope the answer will be most of us and ISA will continue to support efforts to establish standards for EP training being made by Mr. Christian West and Mr. Brian Jantzen. We strongly recommend if you’re an EP training provider you read the full article available at the link below.
April 6, 2017; New EP Instructors Beware, it’s not easy
September 6, 2016; Why ISA supports the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services Personal Protective Specialist Program
May 2, 2016; learning from Peers and Competitors alike
May 1, 2016; A comparative review of the ISA EP training program
“A Look back 2014-2020: Establishing a National Standard for Executive Protection Training; Old News to ISA”. https://www.eptraining.us/establishing-a-national-standard-of-training-for-executive-protection-training-old-news-to-isa/
Article by Tony Scotti