Canadian Security Magazine

Don’t fear portable licensing

By Brian Robertson   

News Public Sector

Under current security legislation, a security guard or private investigator can only hold a licence if he is employed by a licensed security business.  In most places he or she is prohibited from working for more than one employer at the same time without the permission of both employers.  Right now, however, only contract security personnel and their employers are regulated.  There is nothing to prohibit a person from holding down two or more jobs in security at the same time, as long as no more than one of those jobs is with a licensed security business.

That is all going to change for many in the industry as Ontario,
Quebec, B.C., Alberta and Manitoba are all in the process of bringing
in new security legislation; going to licence proprietary personnel,
and to “portable” licensing.

Portable licensing means any person who wants to get a guard or PI
licence can apply for one. He doesn’t require the “sponsorship” of an
employer, but must meet all of the other licensing requirements that
happen to be in place in that province at that time, in terms of age,
training, and background. If he meets the requirements, he will be
licensed and can then apply for work — either with a licensed security
businesses and/or with a non-security company employer — with licence
“in hand.”  When he leaves his employer, he won’t surrender the licence
but remains licensed.

This arrangement is beneficial for the individual licensees themselves.
It is also beneficial to contract security companies who occasion-ally
need to take on new employees on short notice during a large strike. It
currently takes weeks to get a new-hire licensed.  Once mandatory
training is in place, it will take many weeks more.  Right now, a
company that needs new hires, and fast, has only two options: (1) poach
employees from your competitors or (2) sub-contract the work to your

Neither is a sustainable practice. The idea of portable licensing is
viewed with hostility by a lot of people in the security industry and
there are typically three main ob-jections: Disloyal employees will
wander in and out of my employ; Folks will get licensed without the
benefit of having been pre-screened and this will become an
administrative burden for provincial regulators who will now have to
keep track of tens of thousands of individual licensees.


Portable licensing may or may not be a good idea. I predict, however, that portable licensing will do more good than harm.

In response to the concerns raised I offer the following observations:

Disloyal employees wander around from employer to employer now. Good
employers earn the loyalty of their employees by treating them with
respect and they have employees sign non-compete agreements.  
Security regulations exist to protect the public from the worst
employers in the industry, not from the best employers. Direct
licensing of individual practitioners is done in most other trades and
professions, and those industries haven’t been thrown into chaos.

Companies who are committed to hiring good people, giving them good
training and support in doing their jobs will find that in-creased
regulation formalizes what they are already doing. Companies who have
no such commitment to their employees will be forced to improve their
practices or get out of the business. And this will be a good thing.

Brian Robertson is the principal instructor for Smartguard, a nationally-focused private security training and consulting practice based in Ontario.

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