PREMIER Security Co-operative is leading the way when it comes to making smart use of the talents of Singapore's retirees - some in their late 70s.
The organisation was set up in 1984 to provide jobs for retired police and military personnel.
And given the labour crunch affecting this and many other sectors, and the push to employ older workers, Premier is now something of a shining example.
Premier - formed by the merger of the Singapore Police Co-operative Society and the Singapore Government Staff Credit Co-operative Society - provides security officers, 24-hour surveillance and security consultancy services.
Managing director William Seak sums up the enormous value of its personnel. "These retired police and other armed forces officers have spent a lifetime keeping us safe and secure. Now we want to help them back by providing them with another form of security - job security."
The cooperative employs other staff who fulfil the requirements but gives priority to retired police and armed forces officers.
Most of its security officers are in their 40s. The youngest is just 18 and the oldest 78.
"Premier Security provides an opportunity to put their expertise and experience to good use. Security officers do an important job. Our persons and properties are in their hands," Mr Seak says.
However, not everyone is cut out for the job.
Prospective security officers have to possess good physical and mental health, and must also clear a background check by the Police Licensing and Regulatory Department. This means that most of the cooperative's security officers are locals, though there are some from Malaysia.
And in collaboration with training providers NTUC Learning Hub and Kaplan, Premier Security provides basic training courses which prospective security officers must pass in order to be certified.
The cooperative conducts its courses on site as well as at its 5,000 sq ft office in Jalan Besar.
Despite the fairly strict selection criteria, the ranks of security officers in Premier Security have grown over the years.
Starting out with two officers in the 1980s, it now has around 700 security officers and 30 administrative staff.
The cooperative's clients include Resorts World Sentosa, United World College and Lot One mall.
It is Singapore's only cooperative in the security business.
The main challenge confronting the security business is a lack of suitable labour.
"There is an acute shortage of manpower due to the stringent criteria," says Mr Seak.
One way to help tackle the shortage is through the use of equipment such as X-rays and closed-circuit television cameras. Using such equipment also helps improve productivity and lighten the job burden for the security officers, he adds.
Premier Security also provides employees with competitive remuneration and incentives such as the Annual Wage Scheme and quarterly bonuses, he says.
For the past three years, it has also been giving bursaries to staff to help out with their children's education expenses.
The cooperative is a member of the Association of Certified Security Agencies and has been advocating the adoption of the Progressive Wage Model to raise the wages of security officers.
Though higher wages might hurt Premier Security's bottom line, Mr Seak says it is a price the cooperative is willing to pay.
"It is not always a dollar and cents matter for us. We definitely want to help security officers get better pay. We want to do our part to do good."
One way Mr Seak hopes to do that is to improve the image of the security officers.
Security officers command little respect because they are seen as not empowered with much authority - an image that is undeserved, says Mr Seak.
"Security officers look out for irregularities, take necessary precautions and activate the police when the situation demands it. They are our first line of defence."
He also notes that the job of a security officer has become more demanding - they are often asked to give directions, and are also treated as guides.
More soft skills are needed on the job now, Mr Seak says.
But given the lifetime of experience possessed by many of Premier's employees, he is confident they are able to rise to the changing challenges of the industry.