Ode To Licensing

Dec. 13, 2017

Exactly twenty years ago an editorial in Locksmith Ledger discussed the issue of licensing. It seemed to be a big issue at the time. Proponents felt that licensing would keep out handymen and part-timers. Licensing would also be a way of assuring the public that a licensed locksmith had achieved a certain locksmith skill level and was capable of providing the security services required.

Opponents viewed licensing as government intrusion. Locksmiths would have to take time away from business in order to pass necessary tests and then pay for the privilege of having a license. According to opponents, it was a money grab by government while providing little, if any, advantages for locksmiths.

After twenty years the locksmith industry has had very little movement in the licensing debate. According to the Associated Locksmiths of America (ALOA) there are fifteen states and three individual counties which have enacted licensing of locksmiths. Seventy percent of our fifty states have no locksmith licensing. This record is nothing to be proud of.

During the same twenty-year period we have seen the expansion of big box hardware stores plus the movement away from mechanical locks and towards electronic security products. Both of these events negatively affect people working in the locksmith business. Today there are several alternative choices where the public can obtain security-based services and products.

Locksmith licensing is not the answer to every problem. Licensing should not be seen as protection against competition for existing locksmith businesses. Licensing should be seen as a constructive way to require neophytes to pass a locksmith basics test instead of learning on the job at the expense of customers.

Many employees behind key machine counters at big box stores appear to have little knowledge of what they are doing. Think of the value to our industry if every one of those big box key cutters had to be a licensed locksmith. Until we can speak with one voice, this will never happen.