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UK Locksmiths Don’t Need Qualifications! Why I Became a Qualified Master Locksmith

NB. This post was originally written in 2016 and has been updated in 2020 as we mark 10 Years of IKS being an MLA Approved Locksmith Company.

IKS Celebrating 10 Years as an MLA Approved Locksmiths Company

My name is Martin and I am an MLA approved locksmith specialised in emergency call outs and commercial and home security in London and Hertfordshire. I became MLA qualified in June 2009. In 2010 I started my company IKS Locksmiths based in Barnet, North London and my company became MLA approved. This year we are celebrating being an MLA Approved Locksmiths company for 10 years.

Martin North London Locksmith
Martin Slane IKS Locksmiths

In a previous diary post I shared with you my attempts to kick start my career as a locksmith. An insight into how to start as a locksmith and also how not to start as a locksmith! Finally I was on the right path with an apprenticeship at Woodside Security in Finchley.

life of a london locksmith

Learning to Become a Good Locksmith

Working at Woodside Security was when things really started to fall into place for me in terms of learning the locksmith trade. My mentor Albert is a very experienced and talented Locksmith. Above all he is a great person and a fountain of knowledge! He was very patient with me and, believe me, there were times when I challenged his patience.

Locksmith Training

I spent some time in the workshop cutting keys, organising stock and tools but we spent 80% of the time out on jobs. This is where I learnt things that I could never have learnt if I was mainly based in a shop.

I would advise anyone who wants to become a locksmith to work with a company which will allow you to attend jobs rather than be based in a shop. This will give you the right balance of bench locksmithing and being on site.

Being a Locksmith Requires Experience and Skills

Every day showed me new challenges and even now I am still constantly presented with challenging situations.

I realised that locksmithing was not just a case of learning the basics!

Skills You Need to Be a Locksmith

I realised to become a locksmith I needed to;

  • Communicate well with customers
  • Learn and retain facts about locks in-depth
  • Practice, practice, practice……..
  • Make mistakes and most importantly learn from mistakes
  • Think on my feet and be creative with problem solving
  • Have the ability to keep working at something even when it seems impossible!

Being a self employed Locksmith brings with it a whole set of additional challenges which I will share with you in future posts.

locksmith working on upvc door lock

Locksmiths Apprentice


At the start I was more of a hindrance than a help to Albert. He was putting in a lot of time and energy into training me. Gradually I gained confidence and knowledge and was able to complete certain jobs without Albert. This is when I really got the opportunity to work as a locksmith.

I clearly remember the first job I completed solo, it was fitting a lock in Finchley. I felt a real sense of achievement afterwards and realised that I had chosen a job that was well suited for me as an individual and rewarding on many levels. It was challenging, I was meeting and helping people and I was constantly learning new things.

Aside from locksmithing, Albert is a fountain of knowledge and I have acquired a pretty good collection of fascinating facts learnt on the road with Albert.

Master Locksmiths Association Monthly Meetings


From day 1 Albert brought me along to the monthly Master Locksmith Association meetings. I learnt a lot there about the latest developments in locksmithing and had the opportunity to meet other MLA Locksmiths.

I really enjoyed the meetings and was grateful for the opportunity. Of course I still attend these valuable meetings now.

Best Locksmith Training Course

If you want to learn to be a locksmith and you are looking for a locksmith school this is the only place to look. The other training organisations aren’t worth consideration in my opinion.

MLA Locksmith

Applying for the MLA Exam


When the time was right (after about 2 years) Albert applied for me to take the British Locksmith Institute Exam. He didn’t have to do this because a company can be MLA approved and have non MLA locksmiths carry out jobs. Albert is the type of person that does things as well as they can be done. He applied for me and assured me that I would pass the exam first time, I was delighted with his confidence in me. Then he said “because I’m not paying for it again”. This was pretty good motivation for me. That and my natural desire to succeed. The birth of my daughter in that year really spurred me on to do well.

Taking the MLA Exam


I travelled to Daventry to the Master Locksmith Association Headquarters to do the exam. There were 2 parts, written and practical, and it was all in one day. In my first diary post I mentioned that, at school, exams were never my friend. Well this was pretty full on but somehow it was different. It was something that I was committed to and interested in. I was determined to succeed.

What is Involved in The MLA Exam

The Written Exam

The first part was written and covered product knowledge and terminology. I had spent months revising from numerous chunky books for this.

The Practical Exam

Next was the practical part which required me to;

  • Open the latest British Standard lock from the blind side
  • Fit a lock to a door
  • Cut a key by hand for a given lock

My head was pounding by the end of the day but I felt that I had done my best and stayed calm under pressure.

MLA Exam Results


Then I just had to wait for the results. 3 weeks later I received a letter to say I was now MLA qualified, I had passed! I was now one of a small percentage (approx 5%) of UK Locksmiths to be a certified Master Locksmith. I was elated!

Unqualified UK Locksmiths

There are approximately 6500 locksmiths in the UK. Believe it or not the majority of locksmiths never acquire a qualification for locksmithing. It’s good to know this if you are looking for an emergency locksmith in North London. You can read here about how to choose a reliable locksmith.

UK Rogue Locksmiths

Some non MLA approved locksmiths are competent and experienced however there are many rogue locksmiths operating in North London and across the UK without qualifications, experience or even a DBS check. All MLA Approved Companies must be DBS checked and regularly vetted.

DBS checked locksmith

It is a shame that so many people unknowingly end up trusting their security to one of many cowboy locksmiths promising cheap prices.

A Sense of Achievement

I felt a massive sense of achievement and proud that I was now officially an MLA Locksmith. This would allow me to eventually become a local MLA approved locksmith in my area as a self employed locksmith.

MLA logo

I realised that my dislike of exams in the past was due to the wrong environment and set of circumstances. We are not all suited to the mainstream path of education. I strongly believe in the importance of supporting individuals to be individuals and to work with their strengths and what they enjoy.

Gaining Locksmith Experience

I went back to work with Albert with a new found confidence. Time passed and I considered the idea of setting up on my own but decided that the opportunity to continue learning from Albert would stand me in good stead.

Setting Up IKS Locksmiths


Not long afterwards fate gave me another shove in a different direction. I was told that I was to be made redundant by the company. Learning this was difficult and a disappointment at the time. I was concerned as I had a wife and young baby to support.

That was the end of a great positive chapter in my life and it was now up to me to create a new one! This is what I share with you in my next diary post about starting out as a self employed locksmith.

IKS Locksmiths Logo

I hope you have enjoyed reading how I became an Master locksmith. If you need a MLA approved locksmith in North London contact me.

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2 Replies to “UK Locksmiths Don’t Need Qualifications! Why I Became a Qualified Master Locksmith”

  1. Great read Martin. I have done some courses with Island Locks and spent a lot of time practising as I’ve set up my own small company. I work around my hours of my full time job as I wish to eventually go full time with the Locksmith work. I’m trying to work out what what core texts I should purchase and study so I can head up and take the exams. Glad to see my start is similar to yours. The cowboys are royally hacking me off though as they’re taking a lot of work from legitimate Locksmiths. I’m desperate to sit the exams as I think that the accreditation will help my business massively.

    1. Thanks for reading Lee. If you get in touch with the MLA they will advise you. Unfortunately there will always be cowboys until the industry becomes regulated. It can be very challenging! I wish you all the best with your studies.

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