By Miranda Reilly

Mason Malin, Security Patrol Officer and Past Apprentice

Mason completed an apprenticeship as a security patrol officer in 2016 with OUSS, Oxford University Security Services, and now works in this position full time. He loves his job, and says there's rarely a day he goes home wishing he hadn't been at work. He particularly enjoys getting to pass on knowledge to new members of staff. 

Mason in his uniform at the Old Observatory, where Security Services is based.

·         Tell us a bit about yourself, what do you enjoy?
      Well, I love football as a start, and going out with my friends – I’m quite a social person, so I like being with mates, whether that’s watching football or something else. I support Arsenal, not so much Oxford United! I also used to be a pool player! … Before this role, I was at college. When I was 17, 18, I was doing manufacturing and engineering: I did well in it but I didn’t like it, I found it easy to study but a bit boring. So this was a big turn in my career.

·         So how exactly did you come across your apprenticeship here?
When I finished college I wasn’t keen to carry on, I wanted new opportunities. I always thought an apprenticeship would be better than university, so I looked for opportunities. I saw one opportunity which was closer to what I studied at college: things like 3D modelling at a local company. I was on the verge of getting that, but the company lost funding, so I was back to square one. Then I saw the University: the advert for the apprenticeship looked really dynamic. I think I just saw it online when I typed in apprenticeships. With security, I thought it would need quite a motivated mindset and I like solving problems, problem-solving. I got asked for an interview after being shortlisted, and heard back the same day, even though I was told they’d take about a week to get back to me! It must have been about a month and a half after that that I started at the job. My apprenticeship was a year, and I did a Customer Service NVQ. The customer service course was quite different to security, but we’re becoming more focused on customer service here now so it’s heavily involved in what we do.

·         And are you from the local area?
Yeah, Watlington – it’s about 25 minutes away. It’s one of the smallest towns in the UK. I could drive at the time as well, so it wasn’t very far.

·      You now have a permanent role at OUSS. Were you offered it straight away following on from your internship?
Well nine months into my apprenticeship it was up in the air, since the apprenticeships scheme was new to my department. There were four of us, and they kept two. When there were about two months left to go, they said the contract would just role over, and it did just like that. Clive [the Apprenticeships Manager] hosted an award ceremony at the Sheldonian Theatre – that was brilliant. So it was a pretty smooth transition once I was asked.

·         Is your current job very different to your apprenticeship, or similar?
In terms of difference… the job not so much. It’s very much the department that’s changing. We got a Customer Service Accreditation, so we’re now more orientated around customers, so what I studied goes well with what we’re aiming for. So it’s not too different, but new staff have come in and there’s a little more responsibility for me. There’s a training programme that’s been set up, so some staff give the training like a tutor. I get to share my knowledge with new people, and it gives people confidence. I’m not told how to do things anymore but I’m asked ‘Mason, can you do this please?’ because I know how to do it.

·         Do you enjoy that mentoring role of getting to pass on your knowledge to new staff?
Very much so. Looking forward, I would like to take up one of the tutor roles if they offer it to me. The support I’ve had and everything has been really good, and it’s very much my mindset to help people out and do my best. So, I’d very much like that to happen.

·         Could you talk me through an average day in your job?
Hm, an average day – there isn’t one, really. But… we come in at about 6.30 in the morning, then there’s a briefing at 7 from our supervisor – so any ongoing events, anything that happened overnight, what has happened on stand-down days – so we know what’s going on. We know what commitments we have like ‘Can you go and assist this person at that time’ and general commitments for the day – it might be unlocking and locking the parks, which means a nice walk around the parks to freshen you up, or locking buildings, or you might be in the control room which is alarm monitoring, radios, phone calls, CCTV monitoring: that’s what I’m doing this morning. We’ll be working this weekend, but that’s part and parcel of the job. So you know what you’re doing and you’re briefed up. During the day on patrol high visibility is important, to give people that reassurance, making sure a response comes through when an intruder alarm goes off. It’s very much a mix. The night shift is completely different, there’s everything going on in the city, so there’s the people to deal with, the welfare of students, making sure they get home safe. There’s a lot of bike crime in Oxford – that’s a major one – and a lot of the crime happens on our property, so we’re involved in that, we get requests from police for CCTV footage.

·         So it sounds like a huge amount of variety?
Yeah, you get break-ins sometimes: I’ve experienced it all. I haven’t even been here two years and I’ve had so much experience, which is good from a careers point of view. I know what to do, and how to do it because I’ve done it before. It’s quite reassuring – it’s a bit daunting at first but you’re always with an experienced person.

·         Do you always work in a team or is there a lot of solo work?
Yeah, there’s your supervisor and deputy supervisor. In the control room there’s you, a colleague, and your supervisor, and on the beats, there’s three beats, all crewed up in twos. However, if there’s sickness or staff shortages you sometimes work alone, but you’re never sent where an intruder might be on your own. We have a radio network, where you press a button every so often so in the control room they can see you and make sure you’re alright. So there’s quite a variety – and when you’re on a job, it’s just you two so you decide if you split off to do separate tasks. Teamwork is key to making sure there’s good communication on the job and in the control room, especially since you might have to call someone out: police, a fire engine, an ambulance.

·         Do you get on well with your team?
Definitely. Unfortunately I’m moving teams in a few weeks but that’s part of the job – it happens. I definitely get on with my team, they brought me here from an apprentice, so there’s that confidence factor: I have confidence in them and they have confidence in me. We rely on each other.

·         Do you have a favourite place in Oxford?
I like how historic Oxford is, there really is so much history. There’s the museums, the Ashmolean you can look around, the Radcliffe Camera and the Bodleian – there’s really a lot of meaning behind that. The colleges as well: so many people have been to them – political people and other names you’ve heard of. So the history interests me, the University in general, not really a specific place.

·         So do you do a lot of work with the colleges or mainly departments?
Yeah, the colleges call us quite a bit, because they have porters but not security – we provide the security to them. So again, there’s that interworking between colleges and us, departments and us: it’s the key to making sure it all rolls smoothly.

·        What advice would you have for someone interested in an apprenticeship or a similar role to you?
… Not to be contained, to go in open-minded, and give yourself that opportunity. I didn’t know what I was getting into at first, and I’m really happy now I’m here. So look at the opportunity – you can move around as well, if you go in and do your year, you can always move around if you don’t like it, we have so many apprentices in Estates: it’s not like moving to a different job, you’re moving within the university. So it allows that diversity. The main thing is to go in open-minded.

·       What would you say to other departments that aren’t sure if they should have apprentices or not?
I think I’d say, and I’m going by what people have said at our department, that it’s great for bringing in fresh ideas from a younger generation. Although you don’t have to be younger to do an apprenticeship, generally people are, so there’s that new knowledge – they appreciate me in the control room for being able to type fast, with the IT side of things. And again, there are fresh ideas when you’re bringing in not just people who have been in the field for 40 years. It’s also a great platform for getting people into jobs, it’s not expensive and you get someone who really wants to work. Not many people come into apprenticeships thinking they’re planning to leave, they want to pursue something and stay on. A lot of departments will be surprised: if you’re not sure just go ahead with it. When I first came, my department thought, you know the stereotype: here’s an 18-year-old guy, will he be turning up early on a Saturday morning? It’s easy to stereotype. It’s great to really prove yourself. Ask other departments about their experiences of working with apprentices.

·         What would you say the highlight of your time so far has been?
a    It's yet to come! Every day has been great. It's a great team, and a great department. I put myself out there and showed this is what I can do: it would be a loss if you lost me. So there's not a particular highlight, it's always good, always enjoyable. I rarely go home and think 'I wish I wasn't in work today.' I want to come to work, I'm not in a job where I don't enjoy it and am just doing it for the money. I have a job that pays well and I'm happy in it. It's just proof of the longevity of apprenticeships. I've said to my department instead of just looking for seven full-time staff, get a few more apprentices in, look for five full-time and two apprentices.

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