AS long-term readers of Security Electronics & Networks Magazine will know, we’ve lamented the lack of coherent training for young techs in our industry since our first issue was published back in October 1998. But for all the breast beating that’s gone on, no one has ever had what it took to muscle through national technical training. 
Instead we all hark back with misty eyes, aching for the glory days of Wormald apprenticeships that ended decades ago, failing to see that achieving Wormald’s singular corporate focus across a whole industry beset with special interests is utterly impossible. 
The result of the impasse is a mish-mash of educational railway gauges, with different RTOs doing their subjective thing in different states and no nationally recognised training standards. And we’ve all simply accepted this parlous condition as the status quo. 
Given the recognised complexities of cat herding it’s not surprising then, that ASIAL has spent the last couple of years talking to one widely respected RTO with a track record in telecommunications and digital, while quietly working to get its training modules sorted before bringing the new course to the market.

“ASIAL saw that developing and administering the Security Technician Certification was the only way to get some basic qualifications recognised on a national level”

What is it? Simply put Security Technician Certification provides training with professional recognition in areas including CCTV, alarms and transmission pathways, with additional levels of certification covering areas like advanced comms, networking and access control. 
From the point of view of installers there are three 3-year certifications. The first is the Certified Security Technician, which comprises online training and face to face assessment (2 attempts). It covers cabling installation, intruder alarm installation, CCTV fundamentals and telco transmission pathways. The course cost is $A760 and includes a study book, the online process and the face-to-face testing. 
Next there’s the Advanced Security Technician course, which covers IP networks, CCTV advanced, access control, optical fibre and structured cabling. The cost for this course is $650 and it, too, includes online training and up to 2 face-to-face assessments as required. 
Finally there’s the Master Security Technician Course, which requires evidence of 10 years practical experience in the electronic security industry in a technical capacity, evidence of currency of vendor/manufacturer training certification, membership of a recognised industry body and a current security license. There’s also an online assessment with the Master STC and the cost for this course is $295. When you pass these courses you get a certificate and a shirt badge applicable to each level, as well as the right to promote your STC capability commercially. 
According to ASIAL’s GM, John Fleming, there’s long been a need for national technical certification. 
“From an industry point of view there’s nothing that’s addressed training at a national level,” Fleming says. “Instead what has happened nationally is that there are TAFEs and a number of registered training organisations all doing their thing separately with none of the courses recognised at a national level. 
“ASIAL saw that developing and administering the Security Technician Certification was the only way to get some basic qualifications recognised at a national level, to give employers a performance benchmark for new staff and to give reputable installers something they could use in their marketing and advertising.”
Listening to Fleming outlining his case I find myself agreeing with him. No other commercial, industry or government body has the desire or the capability to implement this much-needed initiative. Of course, a plan like this has ramifications and those ramifications look likely to have most impact on existing RTOs and TAFEs teaching what must now be regarded by the establishment as independent training courses. 
“It’s important to realise we are not trying to marginalise anyone who is out there in the training market,” Fleming explains. “The decision to select a single RTO was logistical more than anything. Rather than trying to work with 100 RTOs and their different courses and getting nowhere, we are working with one large RTO that came highly recommended – that’s Integracom.” 
According to Fleming, Integracom is a national registered RTO and a government trainer. It undertakes training for things like Foxtel, NBN Co. and digital broadband networks.
“Integracom specialises in telecommunications courses and security. We know its training, we know the quality of its course material, we know it does assessments and can deliver all the modules that we’ve got.” 
Fleming concedes there will be some impact on current RTOs but he suggests there is room for them to come online with the new STC program once things are up and running.
“Absolutely, we’re not excluding anybody,” he tells me. “It’s simply that while it’s possible for us to work with a single national RTO, trying to get the course consensus and consistency the industry needs across 100 RTOs would be impossible. The idea is to get it up and running, get it into the market and then look at other RTOs getting involved with an established course.” 
Ultimately does this national course and ASIAL’s clout as the national body mean the Security Technician Certification program might subsume courses which are not nationally recognised? I ask. And might all RTOs end up teaching this course?  
“Yes, and that would be great for the industry,” Fleming tells me.

The STC program

So, just what is it that ASIAL is offering installers and technicians?
“The Security Technician Certification gives installers all the basics, alarm installation, CCTV installation, access control installation,” explains Fleming. “The course is self-paced and 80 per cent of it is online using a product called Noodle. 
“The process of enrolment for installers is undertaken by simply logging onto www.securitytechniciancertification.com.au, paying your money and being issued with hard copy manuals. These manuals come with login details to the site. Installers read and study the manuals and go online and look at videos and start answering questions. 
“There’s quite a bit to all this. Once the course is completed online, there’s a face-to-face assessment and once installers have been certified they can move up to the advanced course which incorporates IP training.
“Bear in mind with these courses there are then 3-year gap analysis programs. The idea of this is to ensure installers are up to date with changes same as they might be for Cisco or Lenel or Inner Range Concept courses. 
“In 3 years the NBN will have come on board and there will be new pathways of alarm transmission required – PSTN-to-IP converters coming out. There will be redesigned panels so installers will need to understand these.” 
As Fleming outlines the fundamentals, my brain is whirring away with how this might play out – perhaps we should hope for blanket certification on the basis of objective testing. Perhaps it could lead to national licensing, though that might be a hope too far. 
Do you ever see a time when techs will be required to have Security Technician Certification in order to work as installers? I ask.
“Yes, I think so,” Fleming agrees. “It won’t happen overnight but in 3-5 years. It will become a benchmark of technical assessment and if you were a recruiter you’d want installers to have attained this level of capability in order to work in the industry.”
But what about people who have been in the industry and are self taught and are actually exceptionally good installers? There are some excellent self taught, or inhouse trained installers out there. How do these people fit into the new certification? Will they get special dispensation because they are the head of a successful integration company or a senior technician?
“Yes, there are some great guys out there with no formal qualifications and obviously they know their stuff and will have no problem with the course but no, there’s no special dispensation,” Fleming explains.
“We argued about this a lot in the early stages and we agreed the only way is for everyone to do the course – in fact, I just did the course myself,” he says. 
So, is it likely that in the future not having completed the course would affect your ability to get a job, I wonder aloud?
“I would think so,” Fleming tells me. “Some of the major companies are looking at it in a very serious way. There will be a ramp-up period and then there will come a time when companies start asking installers whether they have this certification on board in the employment process.” 
The course began mid-August, runs 24 x 7 and Fleming says ASIAL is expecting an initial intake of 1000 technicians, which is a staggering number – you’d simply never be able to achieve numbers like these with ‘analogue’ training. 
Regardless of where you stand on this, ASIAL’s Security Technician Certification is the best opportunity the electronic security industry has ever had to establish national training based on a certifiable standard. An opportunity like this may not come our way again. 

“There will be a ramp-up period and then there will come a time when companies start asking installers whether they have this certification on board in the employment process”