How I Became a Fully Qualified Master Locksmith

diary north london locksmith part 3

In my last diary post I shared with you my attempts to kick start my career. 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.

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.

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 that wants to become a locksmith to work with a company that 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. Every day showed me new challenges and even now I am still constantly presented with challenging situations. I realised that locksmithing was not a case of learning the basics!

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.
At the start I was more of a hindrance than a help to Albert. He was putting in a lot of time and energy to 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 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.
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. If you want to learn to be a locksmith are looking for a locksmith school this is the only place to look, the other training organisations aren’t worth consideration in my opinion. I really enjoyed the meetings and was grateful for the opportunity. Of course I still attend these valuable meetings now.
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.
I travelled to Daventry to the Master Locksmith Association Headquarters to do the exam. There were 4 parts 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.
The first part was written and covered product knowledge and terminology. I had spent months revising from numerous chunky books for this.
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.
Then I just had to wait for the results. I received a letter 3 weeks later to say I was now MLA qualified, I had passed! I was elated! I was now one of a small percentage of Locksmiths to be a certified Master Locksmith.

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 . Some may be competent locksmiths but there is no guarantee unless you choose MLA http://www.locksmiths.co.uk/. You could end up trusting your security to one of many cowboy locksmiths.

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.

I realised that my fear 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. Being pushed to fit in with the majority can have a negative and destructive effect.

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.
Then fate gave me another shove. I was made redundant by the company. At the time it was very difficult. I had a wife and young baby to support and it was a scary time in my life. 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 will share with you in my next diary post.
I hope you have enjoyed reading how I got my MLA qualification. I’d be happy to answer any questions or hear any comments you may have. In the meantime.
Stay Safe

Martin (The North London Locksmith)


2 Replies to “How I Became a Fully 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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