Solving Security Labor Crisis FAST Tracked by Industry Associations

Last year, the Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation (AIREF) revamped itself as the Foundation for Advancing Security Talent (FAST). Editor-in-Chief Scott Goldfine examines its legacy.

Solving Security Labor Crisis FAST Tracked by Industry Associations

The electronic security alarm industry has always been hungry for market data and thirsty for knowledge. Ever since I jumped into the field in 1998, the leading organization devoted to filling those voids has been the Alarm Industry Research and Education Foundation (AIREF).

Founded all the way back in 1977 under the umbrella of the National Burglar and Fire Alarm Association (NBFAA, now the Electronic Security Association, or ESA), AIREF actually predates the founding of this publication (in 1979 as Alarm Installing Dealer).

When I came on as editor of Security Sales & Integration, I quickly became aware of AIREF’s prominence and important work. In my role I shared the common mission to disseminate the kind of valuable information the organization was generating.

I supported and endorsed AIREF anyway I could, including soliciting participation in research projects and striving to be among the first to report results, promoting its annual fundraising golf tournament before SSI’s SAMMYs event the day preceding ISC West, serving for a time on the AIREF Board, and frequently attending meetings including those of recent years held during the Electronic Security Expo (ESX).

It was there in 2019, the last year ESX was held (in Indianapolis) as the pandemic washed out 2020, when I sat in on what turned out to be the last such AIREF gathering. The organization was at a crossroads.

The group boldly decided it would reposition and rename itself to focus on what is almost universally agreed to be the industry’s chief challenge: talent and skilled labor. That is as it pertains to recruiting, training, retention, career paths and other aspects to better slot electronic security as an appealing draw for promising young people.

This change makes a lot of sense considering that even in the most recent dealer and integrator roundtables I have conducted, leading owners and managers continue to tell me their most daunting issue is finding quality people to fill an abundance of job openings.

It has been that way as long as I can remember, further exacerbated by trends like more advanced technologies, heightened competition and more sophisticated customers with higher expectations.

Thus it was announced last September that — in partnership between ESA and the Security Industry Association (SIA) — the organization was morphing into the Foundation for Advancing Security Talent (FAST). Like AIREF it’s an acronym few will likely recall the full name of, but also like AIREF it represents interests critical to the future of our industry.

Why am I bringing this development to your attention six months after the fact? Because it’s important enough to make sure you didn’t miss it ― so as to support and tap into FAST’s benefits.

And, as former AIREF Chairman, current SIAC Chairman and SSI Editorial Advisory Board member Kirk MacDowell (MacGuard Security Advisors) points out, that news fell short acknowledging the organization’s four-plus decades of service and the dedicated people who volunteered their time.

March’s magazine being the SSI Industry Hall of Fame Issue makes the list below all the more timely as many of these individuals have been so honored.

“Serving on the board was a privilege, and industry icons living and deceased were integral to the success of AIREF. Ron Spiller, Bob Bitton, Jerry Lenander, Les Gold, David McDonald, Jason Knott, Steve Rubin, Richard and Donna Soloway, Peter and Jamie Orvis, Norval Poulson, Harold Gray, Art Foell, Patrick Devine, Steve Doyle, Stan Martin, Susan Whitehurst, Bob Ohm, John Mabry, Scott Goldfine, James Lees, Ken Boyda, George Weinstock, George Flagg, Ed McFadden, John Knox, Dom D’Ascoli, Mitch Reitman, Keith Baird, Tony Smith and Merlin Guilbeau all played a key role under the leadership of past chairs Charlie Darsch, Leo Guthart, Peter Michel and John Jennings,” says MacDowell.

“Over the years, AIREF provided guidance, thought leadership and well-developed industry reports that were used by law enforcement, trade associations, the alarm industry, academia and the media. The industry owes a debt of thanks for not only what the board and AIREF accomplished, but for the insight of knowing that by stepping down [for FAST] they gave birth to the needs of our industry.”

To learn more about FAST, visit advancingsecurity.org.

About the Author

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Scott Goldfine is Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Security Sales & Integration. Well-versed in the technical and business aspects of electronic security (video surveillance, access control, systems integration, intrusion detection, fire/life safety), Goldfine is nationally recognized as an industry expert and speaker. Goldfine is involved in several security events and organizations, including the Electronic Security Association (ESA), Security Industry Association (SIA), Security Industry Alarm Coalition (SIAC), False Alarm Reduction Association (FARA), ASIS Int'l and more. Goldfine also serves on several boards, including the SIA Marketing Committee, CSAA Marketing and Communications Committee, PSA Cybersecurity Advisory Council and Robolliance. He is a certified alarm technician, former cable-TV tech, audio company entrepreneur, and lifelong electronics and computers enthusiast. Goldfine joined Security Sales & Integration in 1998.

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