The Job and What's Involved

Locksmiths sell, install, maintain and repair locks and other security devices. They also make copies of keys, replace lost keys and open locks when needed. They have to apply skills in metalwork, woodwork, mechanics and electronics.

Their work can include:

  • Using carpentry skills to fit locks to furniture doors, house doors and windows.
  • Using mechanical and electronic skills to make locks and keys of different kinds, such as yale, mortice, cylinder, digital or lever, or those with disc tumbler and pin tumbler mechanisms.
  • Machine cutting or hand cutting copies of a key, using either the original or an impression of the original as a template.
  • Where the original is missing, cutting a new key so that it fits an existing lock.
  • Recovering lost codes on digital locks.
  • Fitting safes with combination locks or timing devices.
  • Fitting sophisticated security devices such as closed circuit television (CCTV).
  • Providing a 24-hour call out service to people locked out of their cars, homes or businesses.
  • Providing an emergency service after a burglary, for example securing doors, changing locks or resetting and repairing security systems.
  • Supplying, fitting and maintaining controlled door entry systems operated by telephone, push button or swipe card.
  • Checking over premises and advising on security measures or fire safety.
  • Negotiating with insurance companies about discounts for clients who use their products.
  • Locking up and carrying out an inventory on property that is being repossessed.
  • Selling a range of security products.

Locksmiths work with individual or corporate clients, with the police and with insurance companies. They might work for a company or they might be self-employed. They may work alone or as part of a small team.

Most locksmiths work approximately 40 hours a week. They may have to work during the evenings or at weekends. If they are working for a firm that offers a 24-hour service, they may have to be on call on a rota basis. Self-employed locksmiths who offer an emergency service, may need to be available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

They could be based in a shop, or travel to visit customers on site. They might work indoors or outdoors when fitting a lock. They might also work at the roadside, fitting a lock to a motor vehicle or opening a vehicle door, when the owner has become locked out.

When using tools, locksmiths must wear appropriate clothing and eye protection.

A driving licence is often required. Some companies may provide a van.

The starting salary for a trainee is around £13,000 a year. Trainee locksmiths are sometimes expected to buy their own tools. Locksmiths receive bonuses for out-of-hours calls.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Individuals may work for a local locksmith, that may also provide services such as fitting doors, security shutters and grills, and electronic and CCTV door entry systems. They may work for firms that offer key cutting services, which may be available in some hardware stores, shoe repair shops, supermarkets and market stalls. Some of the larger companies may operate franchises, mainly providing 24-hour emergency services. Many locksmiths are self-employed.

Jobcentre Plus offices often carry vacancies for trainee or experienced locksmiths as the security industry is very much a growth area, thanks in part to insurance company requirements and incentives on insurance policies for security system installations.

The Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) run a 'Find a Locksmith Scheme' which can provide local contacts and their Training Centre offers comprehensive training courses in becoming a locksmith. The MLA also offer a locksmith apprenticeship scheme for newcomers and beginners to the industry.

Education and Training

There are no set entry qualifications, but it is usual for entrants to have GCSE's/S grades in maths, English and preferably in a practical subject such as design and technology. It may be possible for a locksmith to start as a trainee with a local company.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training is often on the job under the supervision of a more experienced colleague, usually also with attendance on specialist courses. Master Locksmiths Association (MLA) runs a range of courses, from introductory sessions for young people leaving school, to advanced classes for experienced locksmiths. The basic training programme of the MLA represents the only formal locksmith accreditation recognised throughout the industry. Fees are payable for each course. Contact the MLA for more information.

All applicants for MLA membership, regardless of age, must provide character references and proof from the Criminal Records Bureau or from Disclosure Scotland of a clean police record. This will involve a criminal record check.

Individuals can apply for student membership of the MLA without any prior experience.

NVQ's/SVQ's in Providing Security, Emergency and Alarm Systems are available at Levels 2 and 3. City & Guilds and BTEC also run vocational courses on security and emergency alarm systems.

The development of new security products means that locksmiths are expected to undergo Continuing Professional Development.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Locksmiths need:

  • Honesty and discretion as they may be dealing with confidential security codes.
  • Manual skills for intricate work.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • A sympathetic manner with crime victims.
  • Patience and an eye for detail.
  • Ability with numbers.

Your Long Term Prospects

Experienced locksmiths may set up their own business, or perhaps move into installing burglar alarms or into a wider role advising on general security matters.

Get Further Information

Master Locksmiths Association (MLA)
(for the British Locksmiths Institute (BLI))
5d Great Central Way, Woodford Halse,
Daventry, Northamptonshire NN11 3PZ
Tel: 01327 262255
Website: www.locksmiths.co.uk

Skills for Security, Anbrian House (First Floor),
1 The Tything, Worcester WR1 1HD
Tel: 01905 744000
Website: www.skillsforsecurity.org.uk

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