Education By Association

Dec. 15, 2004
As long as there is a need for security, there will be a need for locksmiths.

As long as there is a need for mere physical security, there will be a need for locksmiths.

However, because the profession is evolving from pure physical security to include electronics, biometrics and a myriad of other high security devices and needs, we are all going to need more education to ensure our survival.

On a recent Saturday, three instructors and 14 students met to communicate about impressioning keys (Photo 1).

The instructors revealed why it is possible to impression keys, how to impression keys and when to impression keys. The students responded with stories of the difficulties they experienced when trying to impression keys, their problems, their frustrations (Photo 2) and the thrills of their successes. After all was said and done, the students got the opportunity to practice what they had learned under the helpful eyes of the instructors.

The students ranged in ages from their 20s to their 60s. (Photo 3) They had varying degrees of experience, but all wanted to improve their ability to impression keys. They all recognized the benefit of education provided by a local association that is inexpensive in cost yet priceless in value.

The three instructors, Carlton, Larry and Norm, have more than 100 years of combined knowledge and experience. Each has taught individually or as a team many times before on many of the specialties in our profession. Two of the instructors are active members of a local or regional association. The third is an ex-member, now a life member, presently working for an industry distributor. Each in their time, sometimes more than once, were officers or board members of the association.

This association, The Florida West Coast Locksmiths Association (FWCLA) has been in continuous existence since 1969. It draws its members from the many counties surrounding Tampa, Fla. FWCLA holds nine or 10 monthly business and educational meetings every calendar year, plus at least one full Saturday or weekend training class each quarter. At every monthly meeting, 30 to 60 minutes are dedicated to some kind of instructional presentation. Even the short business portion of a meeting has an educational twist. A "good of the order" portion allows members to pose questions or to share discoveries. Recently, James from Auburndale shared an interchangeable core lock problem he overcame when he discovered the Schlage Q (as in quarter) keyway core would accept a Kwikset-like key blank. This allowed him the flexibility of using an interchangeable core where it was needed while keying it to an existing system.

For the other two or three months, there are planned social events or the South Eastern Regional Locksmiths Association Conference ( for all members to attend. SERLAC's 2005 show is scheduled Oct. 5-9 at the Holiday Inn International Resort Drive in Orlando and will include classes, seminars, a trade show and ALOA PRP testing.

In the past months, FWCLA has had manufacturer's representatives at monthly meetings, freely introducing members to new products or reminding them about existing products. They have also had insurance, credit card and financial advice company representatives give presentations about these important business and personal services. Recently, a truck salesman brought a new diesel-powered Dodge Sprinter truck to a meeting for members to clamber over. Its engine is designed to last hundreds of thousands of miles while providing mileage of 22 miles per gallon.

On past weekends, FWCLA members have been taught or FWCLA has hosted or sponsored paid training classes on: Automotive Lock Servicing, Motorcycle Lock Servicing, Electronic Safe Lock Servicing, the intricacies of pinning the Corbin Russin Interchangeable Core locks, safe opening, investigative locksmithing and key impressioning.

Have you noticed the pattern here? All of this education was offered, made available and affordable by an association: a group of like-minded individuals joined together for the benefit of all. The education did not occur by some magical or ethereal relationship or connection. It required a physical entity. Without the association, there would have been no education.

Even so, it did not come easily. It takes a person or persons who are dedicated to finding ready, willing and able "educators" and then arranging for them to teach at either monthly or weekend venues.

FWCLA has two vice presidents. One is solely responsible for all the aforementioned education, past, present and future. Rob is an unsung hero.

If you acknowledge the need for continuing education and belong to an association, I hope you have gotten an idea or two here. If you recognize the need to update or expand your knowledge and you do not belong to an association, now may be a good time to join. For paid classes, FWCLA gives discounts to members of associations. Non-member attendees pay full fare.

It's all about associations. Associations are needed, more than ever, to ensure the longevity of the locksmithing profession. I acknowledge as long as there is a need for mere physical security, there will be a need for locksmiths. However, because the profession is evolving from pure physical security to include electronics, biometrics and a myriad of other high security devices and needs, we are all going to need more education to ensure our survival.

If there is an association in your area, but it has become stagnant, join and revitalize it. If there is no local or regional association in your area, start one.

Talk to a locksmith colleague or two. Have them talk to one or two others. Meet for coffee or a meal. Don't be afraid to reach across county or state lines. Contact other associations for advice or procedures. Locksmith Ledger's annual Security Register directory contains a listing of such associations. The several internet sites can be surfed for connections or links. Gather and use business E-mail addresses to stay connected and up to date with each other. When you start your education program, start slowly with the talent you have at hand – your members.

Associations can help members beyond providing means for education. Membership requirements may stipulate recommendations be obtained from prior employers. Fingerprint cards can, likewise, be required. Members can be authorized to use the association's logo in advertising. The association can publicize its professional stature and the continuing education opportunities it offers its members. The association can take part in community events. The ideas are endless. The potential is unlimited. Just do it.

In the past, locksmiths have had a reputation for being loners. Locksmiths today can no longer afford to stay un-associated. Everywhere we turn, some other trade or service seems to be encroaching on traditional locksmith activities. The time has come to associate or disappear.

Learn and earn.