The last few years has seen an exponential increase in the number of accredited courses available to the parking sector. Staff in a number of different job roles have benefitted from this with qualifications now available for, amongst others, Civil Enforcement Officers, Notice Processors, CCTV operators, Private Land Enforcement and Parking Team Leaders and Managers. This can only be positive for the sector as a whole which, with the ever increasing number of cars on our streets, has an important role to play in managing congestion within the UK. So where do we go from here? What does the future hold for training within the parking sector?
The introduction of accredited training has gone a long way to increasing the professionalism of the sector by equipping all involved with the knowledge necessary to carry out their roles efficiently and accurately. However, the parking sector still suffers from a negative public image and is seen by the general public as solely a means for local authorities to make an extra income. This is shown by the fact that there are still many groups and individuals, including the mainstream press, who attempt to undermine the sector. We are aware of a number of local authorities who have received Freedom of Information Requests regarding the training that staff receive; an obvious attempt to find fault in the way the sector operates. Combating this negative image is not easy. Professional qualifications go some way to do this and training has an extremely important role to play in the future of the parking sector.
There is room for further accredited training courses which will aid the increased professionalism of the sector and also create further career paths for those that work within it. An area that I believe needs some specific attention is that of traffic orders. Traffic orders play an important role in parking enforcement and even the smallest error can have huge repercussions for local authorities. The drafting and making of traffic orders is a specific skill that seems to be on the wane. A professional qualification would help to encourage people to take on the role of traffic order maker and the sector as a whole would benefit in the long term.
The creation of a career path in general would also be a benefit. It is often said that many people working within the parking sector ‘fell into’ their roles rather than actively choosing this career path. However, that is not to say that there shouldn’t be a specific route into and through all levels of the job. There will be qualifications available for a career with the development of parking apprenticeships and the introduction of levels 3, 4, and 5 in leadership and management. However, there needs to be a framework in place for this to truly work.
There has been some interest from local authorities in the creation of training plans for staff. Alpha Parking have recently won the contract to develop a training plan for London Borough of Hounslow council which will span the next four years. The aim is to maintain high standards and professionalism within the parking department by encouraging staff to take courses and qualifications to increase their skills base. This is something that would benefit all local authorities and private companies within the sector and believe that the formation of standardised training and career plans will eventually roll out across the sector.
Standardised training plans also allow local authorities to share training resources going forward. Joined-up thinking when it comes to training will only benefit all within the sector. Sharing resources means that local authorities can ensure that training is efficient and cost-effective. A joined-up approach may also open the door for funding from the Skills Funding Agency. These are all things that are in early stages of development but in general the parking sector is making the right moves forward.