Grooming Security Managers with Internships

Three SHSU students, Justin Neuneker, Ana Mendez and Matthew Thomas (l to r), recently completed an internship in private security at G4S in Houston
Three SHSU students, Justin Neuneker, Ana Mendez and Matthew Thomas (l to r), recently completed an internship in private security at G4S in Houston.

Three Sam Houston State University graduate students got an insider’s view of the diverse opportunities available in private security during internships at G4S Secure Solutions (USA) in Houston, the world’s largest international security solutions group.

"We are trying to groom future managers," said Abbigail Damron, office manager for G4S in Houston and a 2010 SHSU graduate. "All of them came in with some background, and it wasn’t just academic. They bring their previous work experience and education. They bring fresh eyes into our company."

Justin Neuneker turned his internship with the company into a job as a project manager overseeing several high rise office buildings and a major facility for the company’s Petrochemical section. Matthew Thomas and Ana Mendez helped with contract audits, contract profiles and payroll, learning the ins and outs of the business. Mendez, who is currently working with the company as a security officer on special assignment, also was offered a job once her assignment is complete.

All three students graduated with a Master of Science in Security Studies from SHSU in August.

G4S, formerly known as The Wackenhut Corporation, is one of the largest private employers in the world, with 625,000 employees across the globe. Originally founded by a retired FBI agent, George Wackenhut, the company provides security solutions in such diverse industries as government, oil and gas, ports and airports, financial institutions, retail, private energy and utilities, transportation and logistics, leisure and tourism and major corporations.

G4S employs more than 1,000 people in the Houston area, with contracts focusing on government, real estate and the petrochemical industry. The company supplies services to many major worldwide companies in the area.

While Wackenhut started out as a security company, it expanded greatly after 9/11 as many companies began seeking ways to protect plants and infrastructure. With the help of Damron, the company began offering its first paid internship in the Houston area in 2010 to spark the next generation of security leaders.

"After 9/11 occurred, there were great security concerns,” said Neuneker. "With Houston having so many oil and gas sites, security is considered extremely important in order to prevent disasters. Security is protecting not only the oil and gas industry, but the Houston economy."

Because of his experience working for Macy’s retail security, Neuneker was assigned as a project manager at G4S, overseeing 30 security employees in the petrochemical division. Students can learn about all aspects of security in the business, including human resources, payroll, operations and sales.

"It’s a booming field," Neuneker said. "The security field is going to keep expanding. There is always going to be a demand for security since our nation’s infrastructure is so dependent upon the oil and gas industry."

Neuneker said he learned how to handle many aspects of the job from his studies at Sam Houston State University, including how to manage staff, different management styles and human resources issues as well as terrorism threats and laws governing private security.

Thomas decided to try the private sector after completing an internship with the U.S. Marshals Service as an undergraduate. At G4S, he worked in contract auditing, contract profiling and payroll.

"I took Dr. (Jim) Dozier’s Security Management course, which covered contracts, liability and fraud, so I had seen this all before,” Thomas said. “But I learned a lot about contracts, like how attention to detail and knowledge go a long way. It definitely taught me how to write proper contracts and how not to.”

Thomas was responsible for auditing contracts line by line to ensure that the company was abiding by their end of the deal, including billing cycles, pay rates, equipment and staffing. He also did contract profiling, which boiled down the key elements of lengthy agreements into short, easy-to-locate, Excel spreadsheets.

Finally, he helped with payroll for all the company’s employees in the Houston region.

Ana Mendez also worked on contract auditing and profiling at G4S. She said she was amazed at how what she learned in the classroom applied directly to what she was doing in her internship.

"I had the ability to actually apply it," Mendez said. "I took the class, I learned it and I applied it to what I was doing."

In addition to her internship duties in the office, Mendez took on a security assignment at G4S protecting a national gas pipeline booster site near Oakhurst, TX. She is assisting one-on-one with the client at the site and, once the contract is complete, she has a job waiting for her at the G4S offices.

"I was offered a position," said Mendez. "There was a lot more they want me to get into that we were unable to do over the summer. However, I definitely got one month of office experience and one month of field experience."

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