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Home » Demand and Risk for Security Guards continues to rise as Allied Universal looks to Hire 200 People in and around Lehigh Valley

Demand and Risk for Security Guards continues to rise as Allied Universal looks to Hire 200 People in and around Lehigh Valley

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A security guard’s job is a little different during a pandemic. Gone, temporarily, are the large festivals and events. Idled, too, is the buzz of many office buildings, with workers stuck at home rather than filtering in and out, quickly greeting guards as they come and go.

Some security professionals, such as Allentown resident Arthur Wright, also have taken on additional responsibilities at employment hubs.Wright, a 52-year-old shift supervisor with Allied Universal, is based at a large distribution center in Northampton County, where he helps with temperature screening of employees and visitors, ensures mask-wearing at the building’s entrance and reminds people to social distance.

It’s those new job duties ― practically nonexistent for Wright and his colleagues a year ago ― that are helping boost demand for security professionals nationwide, despite an overall economic downturn.

At distribution centers especially, Allied Universal has seen increased demand for security services during the pandemic. In fact, the firm’s traditional seasonal employment has been extended at some distribution facilities, which have been busy throughout the pandemic as consumers increasingly shift to online shopping.

Change brought by the pandemic is one reason Allied Universal is in the midst of hiring about 200 people across a 10-county region that includes the Lehigh Valley. The massive security and facility services company said it also is gaining clients and seeing existing customers add services during the pandemic.

“We’re actually seeing a lot of growth, at really all levels,” said Jason Zigman, vice president of recruiting for the firm’s east division. “With the pandemic, it’s increased the focus as a whole on essential workers, and security and safety workers have new focus on keeping our communities safe.”

Zigman, based in Florida and handling recruiting east of the Mississippi River, said more technology also has been added to the mix amid the pandemic, with growth in access-control systems and touchless entries.

Already, Allied Universal employs about 1,000 security professionals across a region that includes Lehigh, Berks, Bucks, Northampton, Monroe, Schuylkill, Luzerne, Lackawanna, Bradford and Carbon counties.

Generally, an economic downturn that has decreased the number of U.S. businesses and lowered consumer spending would lead to a decline in demand for security services, according to a September report on the industry from IBISWorld. But, security services operators, considered essential businesses, are expected to benefit due to a large increase in demand from different industries, such as retail bank branches as well as hospitals and health centers that have needed additional guards to enforce social distancing, the report notes.

The pandemic also has decreased demand from some industries, including large and special events that would normally hire security guards but have been canceled, according to the report. But that decline has not been enough to offset the gain from other industries.

In addition, as the economy recovers and more workers return to the office, IBISWorld expects the security services industry in the United States to grow at an annualized rate of 0.2% to $40.4 billion in revenue by 2025.

“As overall demand for security services increases, major players are expected to hire more employees to keep up with demand,” the report states.

And Allied Universal is a major player, especially in North America, following a host of mergers and acquisitions over the last several years. That started when Conshohocken-based AlliedBarton, with 62,000 employees, was acquired in late 2015 by global investment firm Wendel. Then in August 2016, AlliedBarton merged with Universal Services of America, creating Allied Universal.

Today, Allied Universal is headquartered in Santa Ana, California, and has more than 265,000 employees, over 50,000 global client sites and annual revenue exceeding $9.5 billion. The company could get even larger, if its buyout offer of G4S is accepted by shareholders of the London security services firm.

Aside from future deals, another component to watch in the industry is the growth of integrated security services, which combines trained security guards with technology such as surveillance, communications and verification systems.

“The sexy aspect of the manned guarding industry, or the security industry, has been this concept of integrated security contracts,” said Michael Field, a senior equity analyst at Morningstar who covers the security services industry.

Integrated security contracts, Field said, have been a growth area for security companies, which have increasingly pushed them when negotiating contracts. For one, he noted, typical manned guarding might have operating margins of 5%-6%, while that figure could jump to 10%-12% with integrated security contracts.

“What we’ve seen over the pandemic is where the companies themselves can say to clients, ‘OK, this is your current setup, but now you’re asking for this and this as a result of the pandemic, and we can actually do it more effectively if you migrate to the integrated security contracts,’” Field said. “So you’re seeing more interest perhaps from clients in these contracts.”

Pairing technology and software offerings with security professionals also provides more of a competitive barrier, making it more difficult for a rival to come in and undercut the price on what a company is paying for a guard.

“As a security firm explained to me before, if all you’re doing is manned guarding, then anyone can come in, buy a blazer with like a snake on it and throw four or five guys into each place and take your contracts, and that’s why the larger companies are trying to move slightly away from that and move toward more sophisticated areas if you will,” Field said.

Security companies remain huge employers and will moving forward, though Field noted many of the positions are often temporary in nature and the firms are constantly hiring.

On its website, Allied Universal lists a variety of positions within 25 miles of Allentown, a mix of full- and part-time positions. Zigman said pay ranges vary depending on the position and the contract.

He said the company’s turnover rate is lower than the industry average, and the positions often attract a wide variety of people, whether it’s someone looking for part-time work, a person working toward a law enforcement position or someone looking for a place to hang their hat for the rest of their career. Many also rise through the ranks at Allied Universal.

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