Future of the Private Investigation Industry

The landscape of private investigation in British Columbia is changing as the industry aims to solve existing challenges and work towards a more professional, inclusive and skilled workforce.

The private investigator community strives to set the industry standard for private investigation in the Province and across Canada.

Snapshot of today’s private investigators

In 2013, a total of 159 new security business licences were issued to private investigators in British Columbia. This number is down slightly from the 2012 total of 181.

The number of newly licensed private investigators in 2013 is 882. This is down from 1,277 licenses that were issued in 2012.

Though the number of licensed private investigators has changed somewhat, the composition hasn’t. Private investigators that are currently working are mostly ex-police officers, many of whom are semi-retired. There are not a lot of young people or women in the profession.

The industry challenge

Recruiting the tech-savvy youth of today’s generation has not been overly successful. Most youth are totally unaware PI’s exist outside of Hollywood.

As a general rule, younger people who have grown up with technology are more inclined to keep up-to-date on the latest technology and media that can make them more effective as private investigators. Youth can offer a fresh look at old problems.

There are historical barriers to entry in the profession. In the past, the route to become was a private investigator was unclear. Getting licensed was straight forward, but finding a company to mentor an “under-supervision” private investigator was challenging. This has posed an obstacle for many, as companies have been reluctant to start training from scratch.

An investigator with experience, and far too regularly a lack of skills, was often hired by PI firms instead of training a quality applicant because the firm was desperate to plug scheduling holes.

The “old-boys club” mentality amongst the private investigation community has also been a factor for many years. Generally speaking, female private investigators have advantages over their male counterparts such as their ability to establish trust, and fly under the radar during surveillance. Despite these advantages, only 15 per cent of private investigators are women.

The industry solution

The advent of the Private Investigators’ Association of British Columbia (PIABC) has helped to promote ethical practices and professional development in the industry.

The PIABC training course is now a requirement for private investigators to become licensed. The course is designed to raise the overall industry standard of professionalism and lead to a more heterogeneous group of private investigators, including more young people, ethnicities and women. Firms will no longer have to “start from scratch,” when hiring a new investigator.

Hires will have the basic knowledge of the industry to greatly accelerate their practical training. This will hopefully allow for firms to find high quality applicants and over time allow for greater diversity in the industry.

Private investigators in the near and distant future

With a more hopeful path for both future investigators and private investigation firms, in the near future, the profession can expect an influx of innovative professionals with a wider skill set to draw on.

In the long run, technology and innovation will drive the evolution of the private investigation industry as a whole. Here’s a look at what the job of a private investigator may look like 100 years from now.

Photo Source: Flickr

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