Security course rises in popularity at UW-Whitewater

Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:22 pm

Enrollment in the Introduction to Security course at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has doubled since last fall, a likely result of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.

People have more awareness regarding security since Sept. 11, contends course instructor Robert Lepkowski, a former law enforcement officer who now works as security manager for Rockwell Automation in Milwaukee. Before the terrorist attacks, he noticed that security was considered "a necessary evil" in businesses and other aspects of society. Now, instead of just being tolerated, the security industry is being accepted as a more integral part of the whole business picture.

Wakenhut Corp., a leading provider of security-related jobs and services worldwide, estimates that security-related employment, from security officers to management positions, has increased more than 30% since the attacks. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, one of the occupations to gain the most jobs in the next decade is that of security guard which is expected to increase by 391,000 jobs.

"The industry is in need of professionals and is working to improve the pay and incentives to hire the right people and to decrease the turnover rate," Lepkowski said.

The course is offered through the occupational and environmental safety and health department. About a third of the students are safety majors. All will learn about home, retail and industrial security systems. Workplace violence, security law, and security technology will also be covered.

"As an elective, this has become a very popular course," noted safety department chair Alvaro Taveira. "There is a clear shortage of safety professionals. In addition, students’ personal concerns have increased."

Lepkowski said it’s tough to get a job in the security industry because of the background and training necessary, but it can be a lucrative and rewarding field. Lepkowski himself has worked as a U.S. Treasury agent, a Secret Service agent and an IRS criminal investigator.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, he was asked by executives at Rockwell what the company needed to change regarding its security. Lepkowski responded that he had already taken safety measures, including adding surveillance cameras and more locked doors. He felt his expertise in the area was finally recognized as a sound investment.

"The world has changed; there’s more violence," said Lepkowski. "Each person’s actions can make a difference, like just locking a car or turning on a light. We all have an obligation to try and make it a safer and more secure place."

April 12, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee

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