Think "locksmith" and many people conjure up images of the key cutter at the local shopping centre. This couldn't be further from the truth! Not only do locksmiths duplicate keys using key cutting machines, but more importantly, they are involved in obtaining the best possible security measures for their clients.
Locksmiths are professional tradespeople who evaluate security requirements for a wide range of clients and make, maintain and install the security devices. Locksmiths assess their client's security needs by initially doing security surveys, whether it's for residential, commercial, government premises or automotive security. This would include issues such as working out master key systems, creating restricted areas at office premises, checking the security of all entrances and exit points or assessing car security. Once the client's needs are understood, locksmiths design and install security lock systems, for example, transponder keys (for high security cars) and master key systems, including digital or electronic locking devices for business or domestic premises.
The basic qualification to become a locksmith is the Certificate III in Locksmithing (MEM30819).
Follow this link to find out more about this course. It also lists the Registered Training Organisations that deliver this qualification, and it contains links to their various websites.
As at 2020 TAFE NSW, Melbourne Polytechnic, TAFE Queensland, and TAFE WA offer this course.
What does the job entail?
Locksmiths' tasks vary depending on the area in which they work. As a Locksmith you must generally be able to:
- Sell and install high security lock systems and key control systems, window bars, deadlocks and keyless entry locks
- Repair, replace or adjust damaged or defective components of entrance/exit doors, including door closers, hinges, electronic release mechanisms and sometimes the door itself
- Change lock key combinations by inserting new pins into locks
- Design complex master key systems for industry, governments and institutions
- Determine security requirements through on-site inspection and risk assessment by customer consultation
- Design or recommend appropriate systems such as safes, strongrooms, master key systems, alarms or door and window locks
- Install, replace and maintain locking systems, alarms and access control systems
- Repair jammed, worn or damaged locks by manipulating, dismantling, repairing or replacing defective parts
- Sell locks, safes and associated hardware
- Keep records of specifications of installed locking systems
- Design and construct master key systems manually or by computer
- Design and install electronic alarm systems
Locksmiths are employed by locksmith businesses, and in most cases, end up owning their own business. As overheads are low and margins high, there is potential to profit from these business opportunities.
Salaries for locksmiths and locksmith apprentices falls under the Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2010 (Follow this link for more details). There is provision for weekend and after hours work, especially doing installations in banks and shops. And people can get locked out of their house at the strangest of times!
How much variety is there on the job?
Locksmiths are skilled in many different areas. They must have good hand and eye coordination and be able and willing to move heavy items, such as safes. Carpentry, welding, drilling and precision metal work are all techniques used in this occupation.
Another important area is the use of computer programs to generate codes for specialist keys. At TAFE, apprentices are taught how to use computer software to set specifications for keys, and how to service and install digital and electronic locking systems.
Locksmiths can either work in a shop, or be mobile working from vehicles to install and repair security hardware in the field, to open door locks or service safes and vault doors.
Safe and vault technicians have additional training in safe and vault servicing and trouble shooting. They open, rebuild, paint, move and install safes.
Locksmiths who service bank equipment work with mechanical and electronic time locks, time delay devices, night deposit units and combination, electronic and key locks for vaults and safes.
Some Locksmiths become expert by specialising in a specific area.
Licensing and clearance
In the wrong hands, the locksmith's specialised skills could be used for illegal gains. It is precisely for this reason why all locksmiths must obtain a Police Clearance before being accepted as an apprentice. Once qualified, all locksmiths may needed to be licensed and be fingerprinted, depending on the requirements of State and Territory legislation.
Locksmiths work under strict legislation, such as the Security and Related Activities Act and the Residential Tenancy Act. A locksmith must be aware of his or her legal rights to change a lock in a complicated situation, such as evictions.
Strict confidentiality is necessary, as the locksmith keeps all details of a client's security systems and key specifications. It is also vital that a locksmith be diplomatic and understanding when dealing with their clients.
How to become a locksmith
This is a small occupation and even though there are shortages of skilled locksmiths in some areas, the opportunity to gain entry through an apprenticeship is still limited. Job growth is predicted to be slight and job turnover, which provides the majority of job opportunities, remains low. To become a qualified locksmith, you must complete a locksmith apprenticeship. The off the job training associated with the apprenticeship is available through TAFE. Apprentices and trainees are contracted to an employer for the time it takes to gain skills in a trade or vocational area - usually between 1 and 4 years.
As an apprentice or trainee you are paid to do a job and learn new skills at the same time. You will have a variety of jobs and career paths, without having to go to university, and you will receive a qualification which is recognised wherever you go in Australia. The nominal term of an apprenticeship is four years.
TAFE offers nationally-recognised training to apprentices and trainees in a way and at a time that suits their workplace. A trade certificate can be obtained by successfully completing on-the-job training at the employer's work place and off-the-job training with an accredited training provider. For details of units of competency/modules that need to be completed during the apprenticeship to obtain a trade certificate contact a training provider. The major training providers are listed below.
An apprentice Locksmith is involved in a range of tasks, including evaluating security requirements, installing, adjusting, repairing and maintaining locks and related security equipment, making keys and changing lock combinations, and you'll generally work on residential, automotive, commercial and institutional locksets and door hardware.
What do you need?
You will need the following attributes to be a successful locksmith:
- Have good mechanical and mathematical abilities
- Be patient and use tact when dealing with the public
- Have good vision and hearing
- have good hand and eye coordination
- Be in good health and have reasonable stamina
- Be agile enough to climb ladders
- Have a desire to keep up to date with new developments in security equipment
- Be honest and of trustworthy character
- Have good verbal and written communication skills
- Be safety conscious
- Have good personal presentation
- Have reliable transport or access to reliable public transport
What are the working conditions like?
Locksmiths usually work a 38 hour, five-day week, but may be "on call" nights and weekends to respond to emergencies, but self-employed locksmiths often work longer hours. You will work with minimal supervision and may spend some time travelling from job to job. Some working environments, especially mobile units, may be small and crowded, requiring you to work in awkward or confined spaces. And those working in mobile units may also be required to work in adverse weather conditions. Light lifting (up to 10 kilograms) is routinely required.