Working as a security guard
Security guard work attracts many newcomers, as there is readily work available and relatively little training to undergo.
There are different roles and work environments available, some in isolation and some involving significant interaction with the public; some indoors and some outdoors; some in large facilities and some in small businesses. Employment can be directly by a property owner or by a security agency that contracts on a long- or short-term basis with a property owner and places its guards on a client’s premises. There are opportunities for both women and men. An individual can work full-time or part-time, with part-time work supplementing income from other jobs, or in conjunction with time spent in classes.
Starting pay is likely to be minimum wage ($14.00 in Ontario).
While it may not be difficult for a newcomer to obtain work as a security guard, aside from low pay, the work may be boring, especially if working in isolation or in off-peak periods. Long periods of standing or walking may be required. Shift scheduling may not be predicable. Night and weekend shifts may be required.
The responsibilities of a security guard, as outlined on the Monster.com website, include:
- Secures premises and personnel by patrolling property; monitoring surveillance equipment; inspecting buildings, equipment, and access points; permitting entry.
- Obtains help by sounding alarms.
- Prevents losses and damage by reporting irregularities; informing violators of policy and procedures; restraining trespassers.
- Completes reports by recording observations, information, occurrences, and surveillance activities; interviewing witnesses; obtaining signatures.
- Maintains environment by monitoring and setting building and equipment controls.
Value of English language proficiency
Because a provincial licence is required, in order to work as a security guard in Ontario, a newcomer must have sufficient English language proficiency to pass the multiple-choice test. Translators, interpreters, and translation aids are not permitted in the test room.
Once on the job, a newcomer security guard may be required to:
- Understand and speak to visitors, delivery personnel, tradespeople, and other members of the public on the premises being guarded;
- Read, understand, and write logbook entries and short reports and comments on forms, regarding incidents and other events that occur during a shift;
- Read instructions, information sheets, and emails regarding procedures, alerts, and schedules; and
- Communicate by mobile phone or two-way radio with co-workers.
A likely minimum level of English language proficiency expected by most employers for this type of work is CLB 6.
Regulation and certification as a security guard
All new security guards in Ontario must complete a basic training course, pass a basic provincial ministry test, have proof of a clean criminal record, and apply for a required licence.
Any person who is paid to primarily guard or patrol, for the purpose of protecting persons or property, falls within the definition of a security guard for licensing purposes.
The required test has 60 multiple-choice questions, takes up to 90 minutes. For more information on testing, see the website of Serco, which administers the tests.
Training programs for newcomers in the GTA
The website of the Ontario Ministry of Community Safety & Correctional Services provides information on training requirements and becoming licenced in the province. A list is provided of authorized training organizations and there are many, including private career colleges, community colleges, and licenced agencies.
Security guard basic training courses can be either classroom- or web-based, but if web-based, the course must allow for real-time interaction with an instructor.
The course must be at least 40 hours long, including certification in Emergency First Aid/CPR (although applicants who already have a valid First Aid/CPR certificate can opt out of this portion of the course.)
Topics for the security guard course must include:
- Introduction to the Security Industry
- The Private Security and Investigative Services Act and Code of Conduct regulation
- Basic Security Procedures
- Report Writing
- Health and Safety
- Emergency Response Preparation
- Canadian Legal System
- Legal Authorities
- Effective Communications
- Sensitivity Training
- Use of Force Theory
- Emergency Level First Aid Certification
Because, by the very nature of this type of work, a very large percentage of security guards are newcomers to Canada, most training and hiring organizations welcome such individuals. In 2018, there was one pilot program in the GTA that was specifically organized for refugee newcomers. This course was part of the STAR Project (Skills Training Advancement for Refugees) at Agincourt Community Services Association. This project not only provided refugee newcomers with the requisite security guard training, but also included occupation-specific, English language instruction, if required (although the minimum level of English proficiency required of applicants was CLB 6.) Upon successful completion of this course and licensing, applicants were provided with employment. Unfortunately, funding for this program was not renewed, due to government cutbacks. To see if there are any current training programs for newcomers in the GTA, visit our Programs & Events section and use the “sector” filter to select “security guard”,
There are no OSLT or ELT English programs offered in Ontario for security guards.
For those in the GTA receiving financial support from Ontario Works, there are numerous security guard training programs for which Ontario Works will pay $250/month for training-related expenses, plus $142/month for transportation to attend classes (these being the current rates as of May, 2019.)
For those in British Columbia, a good source of information about working as a security guard is the website, Skilled Immigrant Infocentre.
Job market outlook
According to the Government of Canada Job Market Report the outlook for Security guards and related security service occupations in the Toronto Region “will be fair for the 2017-2019 period.” Some 20,000 individuals are reportedly hired across Canada, every year, as security guards, especially due to high turnover.
Stories in the media about newcomer employment as a security guard or police officer
The following story, reported in the media, about employment of newcomers in the security sector, may be of interest:
- The journey from refugee to police officer (CBC, Jan 17/19)
- An immigrant security guard’s triumphant homecoming (Nov 21/16, Toronto Star)
- Night shift as security officer, a survival job for many immigrants (May 29/11, Canadian Immigrant)