Security clearance has always been a prickly issue for recruiters in the technology sector. The incessant demand for pre-cleared contractors to fill positions in government departments has prevented recruiters from accessing a wide pool of possible candidates. Conversely, this has created additional constraints for micro-businesses wishing to successfully compete for government contracts. In previous years, progress has been relatively slow with only nuanced changes in the position on on-going areas of concern for recruiters and contractors. However, with government’s commitment to supporting SME growth particularly in procurement, can we expect a culture change?
It was great to see Lord Young directly referencing the potential economic impact in his recent report on growing micro businesses. He identified that “small suppliers (particularly in the area of IT) are put at a disadvantage when contracting authorities stipulate existing security clearance as a prerequisite for recruiting a contractor”.
Urgency to fill a vacancy is often deemed the main reason for requesting pre-cleared contractors. The REC understands that there will always be cases where urgency is an essential requirement; however such exceptions must be managed effectively.
What is evident is the need for government departments to take greater control of their future workforce requirements and to ensure sufficient time is given to recruiters to find the right person for the role. Equally, the Cabinet Office has recognised that there is also a need to address the ‘tendency to seek a higher level of clearance than needed’ and the ‘overestimation of the time and cost of vetting procedures’. This often serves to exacerbate the problem.
The REC Technology group agrees that contractors who do not already have security clearance should not be unfairly excluded from the recruitment process. As a result we continue to work closely with PCG and the Cabinet Office as part of the Security Clearance Forum to promote effective management of procedures and reduce the over-reliance on pre-cleared statuses. The aim is to create a step-change in employment and productivity outcomes for employers and contractors, making the process simple, transparent and cost effective.
Les Berridge, REC executive committee member stated “now that the process for granting security clearance has been greatly accelerated, there really is no excuse for agencies and hirers restricting their choice to people with pre-existing clearance. The benefits are many-fold, firstly it will save cost to the hirer (often the taxpayer), who typically pays up to 25% over the going rate for a particular skillset because of supply and demand, secondly it will increase the quality and number of suitable candidates for each role and thirdly it will make more opportunities accessible to job-seekers”.
The Security Clearance Forum will shortly be announcing a code of practice for the recruitment of contractors requiring security clearance, to be adopted by government, commercial hirers and agencies. Such an initiative will ensure that real progress can now be made on the issue of security clearance which has long been an area of concern for recruiters in the technology sector. This will eventually allow all parties involved to make better informed recruitment and selection decisions.