When most people think about retail theft prevention, images of the in-store plainclothes agent who stops would-be shoplifters at the door usually come to mind. However, retail loss prevention is more sophisticated than ever before and the skills, knowledge and qualifications have increased for those who want to work in the field. Further, the rules of engagement are changing all the time.
A 2013 study done by ASIS International showed 85 percent of employers look for retail loss prevention professionals to have a college degree, even for entry management-level positions. They need employees who can manage the variety of sophisticated programs, policies, equipment, technology and procedures used to combat retail theft or shrinkage. In contrast, a 2010 study of the private security sector in the United States conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics showed only 14 percent of employees have a college degree.
While the need for strong education programs in loss prevention is clear, the process for developing meaningful programs for such a non-traditional academic discipline is not. Through a partnership, the Retail Loss Prevention Foundation (LPF) and American Public University System (APUS) are working to develop relevant education options for loss prevention professionals.
“The demands on retail loss prevention professionals continue to grow as does the complexity of the challenges they face. Education is a key to success in this industry,” said Michael Lamb, Walmart’s senior director of operations support, asset protection.
LPF President Gene Smith built on this point, adding that the biggest challenge for today’s loss prevention professionals is getting a handle on the multiple responsibilities they’re now faced with. It used to be that their main focus was on physical security, shoplifting, security, internal theft resolution and shrink reduction. Now, however, they must also focus on “safety and risk, organized retail crime, fraud, data protection, crisis management, business continuity, supply chain integrity, mobile technology, e-commerce, and workplace violence, to name a few.”
The goal is to educate professionals who are adept at the skills needed today as well as adaptable to the technologies and systems that will develop tomorrow. As one effort of the partnership, LPF worked with the APUS security management program to develop a concentration within the bachelor’s degree program that focuses on retail loss prevention management. The new concentration was launched in March.
LPF also offers two professional certifications that educate and certify entry-level and experienced retail loss prevention practitioners: Loss Prevention Qualified (LPQ) and Loss Prevention Certified (LPC). APUS offers the opportunity for students who take the certification coursework to earn college-level credit.
The degree and certification options have proven to be particularly interesting to veterans who see a natural connection between the skills they learned during military service and those demanded of loss prevention professionals. Veterans who complete a degree or certification program document their skills in a way that’s meaningful for potential employers.
In an effort to attract more military veterans who wish to go into the retail loss prevention field, LPF has recently made available 12 certification sponsorships for the LPQ course to AMU and APUS students who are serving or have served in the military.
Through education, training and certification, both organizations feel the industry will benefit from a better informed and better prepared loss prevention practitioner and the organizations where they work. The partnership is shaped as an ongoing relationship that will allow the programs offered to continue to evolve along with the field.
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