Imagine a profession where every day poses new challenges, where you talk to people from all walks of life, and your workplace is a market town or a vibrant city. A profession where promotion is rapid, career structure is progressive and there are training modules to support you from entry level to senior manager status. Welcome to the world of the civil enforcement officer or “traffic warden”.
But, if there is one profession that is more maligned than any other, it is that of the civil enforcement officer (CEO): the army of uniformed men or women who rove the streets, ensuring motorists obey the rules, the roads are clear of obstruction and the streets are a safe place to be.
The parking sector gets a bad rap, particularly from the media, but it is an industry that is working hard to change its image. It is also a profession in which it is possible to rise through the ranks rapidly, leading to a position as a section leader or head of department.
Penny Winder is director at Alpha Parking, a company that has been delivering City & Guild endorsed qualifications to the parking sector for more than 20 years. “Our courses are designed to be relevant to the needs of the individual – whether they are a student fresh from college or a middle manager looking to move into senior management. As they make their way up the career ladder, so the qualifications will reflect their progress.
“We have spent a lot of time working alongside City and Guilds to develop our courses. It is very easy to get sucked into offering generic qualifications, but if someone is pursuing a career, with clear goals in mind, then training courses must provide relevant and practical information for the course delegates.”
So what does the daily workload of a CEO look like? A daily briefing outlines the schedule. This could be a confirmation of routes to cover, or it could be a response to a changing situation. For example, a school sports day could mean extra patrols to ensure streets around the school are kept safe for all users.
Each CEO carries a camera to record any incidents and a hand-held computer, which not only allows them to enter details of incorrectly parked vehicles, but also flags stolen vehicles or checks the validity of parking permits. CEOs are in constant contact with their headquarters, so any incident can be reported and help called if necessary.
Barney is a CEO with APCOA, a private company that provides parking enforcement to local authorities across the UK. While patrolling the streets of Southend, local shopkeepers greet him warmly. “It is really important that we develop a good relationship with the community,” he says. “They need to know that we are there to keep the traffic moving and the streets safe. I am not there to ‘get’ motorists, I am there to do an important job in the overall smooth running of the town.
“These guys,” he says, indicating the shop-keepers, “they know that if they are parked on the yellow lines in front of their shops unloading boxes, I won’t give them a ticket, I will just keep an eye on how long they are there for. If they take advantage of that and leave their vehicles there too long, then I will warn them, and ultimately I will ticket them.”
It is this approach that Alpha Parking seeks to instil in its students. “It is a common sense approach,” says Penny Winder. “A CEO represents the local authority, so our students learn the law, how to apply it, and how to communicate with the public so they can see the rationale behind parking enforcement.
“Moving up the career ladder, the skill set becomes more strategic, management skills, planning, finance, assessing data – equipping people to lead teams, with skills which are transferable across industry sectors.”
Back in Southend, Barney is on the cusp of promotion to team leader. “I never thought I would make a career in parking, but there are so many aspects I enjoy – I’m out and about and doing something that really helps the local community. Yes, I do get the odd bit of abuse, but you soon learn to overlook that. Motorists who shout and scream are just annoyed that they got caught doing something wrong.”
It may be a maligned profession but as Penny Winder points out: “Without traffic management, our urban areas would be in a state of chaos. We need responsible people who can communicate to the public and are not afraid to apply common sense when it comes to making decisions that will keep the streets safe.”
There are no set requirements for people looking to enter the parking profession, although previous experience of customer service is a benefit. Salaries start at £15,000, rising to £35,000 as a parking manager.
For more information about a career in the parking profession, visit www.aparking.co.uk
Sarah Juggins is a freelance writer and former editor of Parking News
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