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Jessica Calpin, Unico Locksmiths: GAI Winner and MLA Approved Company

Female Locksmith Jessica Calpin Cutting Keys

We interview Jessica Calpin of Unico Locksmiths, an MLA approved company based in Chesterfield.  Jessica runs their locksmith business with her husband Andrew.

Find out below how Jessica started out as a locksmith, challenges she has faced as a locksmith, along with advice for women who wish to start a career as a locksmith

Tell us a bit about you and your business.

After starting our own business, Unico Locksmiths, we decided to apply for company membership to the MLA after my husband had passed the BLI examinations.

Locksmithing was a complete career change for me, but I was looking forward to a new challenge. We provide an emergency call-out service, cut all types of keys, supply & fit ironmongery and design and build master key systems as well as all general locksmithing services.

About the MLA Qualification

How did you become interested in locksmithing, and what led you to pursue it as a career?

As we had set up the business together, I was keen to learn more about locksmithing and ironmongery specification to gain more all round knowledge and feel confident when speaking to customers.

What was your biggest challenge starting out? And how did you overcome it?

My biggest challenge when starting out was being new to the industry, there is such a large range of products, standards and skills which you need to know. Through a lot of hard work and willingness to learn, these challenges are easily overcome.

How did winning the GAI Pinnacle award and Gold Medal make you feel? Did the achievement feel particularly poignant as a female?

I enrolled in the GAI diploma to increase my product knowledge. I studied Stage 1 and 2 in the same year and achieved distinction, which I was thrilled about.

During this time my interest and confidence grew, and I decided to take the extra step to Stage 3. Scheduling was completely new to me, but after studying under the GAI, I found it very interesting and learnt a huge amount.

Jessica Calpin with GAI Award

The 3 day course was incredibly helpful and taught me so much.

Winning the Gold Medal and GAI Pinnacle Award for the highest combined score worldwide was a huge achievement for me, and I moment I will look back on for years to come.

The achievement was all the more poignant coming from a small family business and being female. The majority of winners are male and from larger well known companies such as ASSA ABLOY, DORMAKABA etc. I hope by achieving this others from smaller companies and women will see it is possible to compete in this industry.

Can you share some of your most challenging or interesting locksmithing experiences?

The most challenging experience so far has been learning how to build up cylinders. It takes patience and nimble fingers, but it is very rewarding to be able to see these working, as well as designing our own systems.

In your opinion, what unique strengths or skills do you bring to the locksmithing profession?

One of the main strengths/skills in locksmithing is being able to be organised and precise in all areas.

There are so many aspects to locksmithing that it is so important to take a pride in your work and be methodical, making sure everything is done to a high standard for the customer.

Have you faced any specific challenges as a female in the locksmithing trade, and how have you overcome them?

As a female in this trade, you do come across the same challenges as in most trades. A lot of people assume you do not know as much as other colleagues but after speaking with them and offering advice you can turn this opinion around quickly.

What do you think of locksmithing as a career choice for women?

I think locksmithing is a good career choice for any women who enjoy practical work and want the chance to progress in a trade. There are so many areas of locksmithing you can specialise in.

For any women considering a career in locksmithing, I would say it is a very rewarding and interesting career, with plenty of opportunity for leaning new things and meeting new people.

Locksmith Career Guide

What advice do you have for other women who are considering a career in locksmithing?

Hard work and a willingness to learn are essential in this career. You can’t expect to know everything straight away, it takes a long time to learn product knowledge, how to use the different machines and the skills to do the job.  You need an open mind and know that you will always be learning new things from day to day.

Try and go to as many courses as possible, learn from others. Foundation, Stage 1 and 2 from the GAI are great for learning the basics and gradually getting a more in depth knowledge.

You are constantly learning new things all the time especially with so many technology advancements and new standards.

Women in Locksmithing 2 Day Foundation Course

Are there particular areas within locksmithing that you find most fascinating or rewarding?

With so many areas to locksmithing, it is such a rewarding career. I enjoy guiding people through the design of master suites and working through this process with them.

I have received training from ASSA ABLOY in designing our own master suites and better understanding of key charts, which was another great experience, I learnt a lot from this. I find this side of the trade the most interesting.

The role comes with a lot of responsibility and it is rewarding to see these systems put in place and customers happy with the outcome.

How do you stay updated on the latest developments and technologies in the locksmithing industry?

We keep up to date with the latest developments and technologies by reading the MLA magazines and also the AIJ. I am also RegAI, and as part of this I have to complete a CPD programme each year which also helps to keep on top of this.

Can you share a memorable success story where your locksmithing skills made a significant impact?

My most memorable experience so far has been designing and building a master suite for a local business. This was the first master suite I had designed on my own, and we built it up ourselves.

This particular master suite had every different variation of cylinders, padlocks, camlocks etc. They were thrilled with the final product, and it was a great moment to see it all come together and working in a practical environment.

Join Womens Locksmith Facebook Group

Connect with other women in the industry, join our Women in Locksmithing Facebook Group.

Women in Locksmithing Facebook Group

Do you have any specific goals or aspirations within the locksmithing field that you’re currently working towards?

It has always been my goal to keep improving at the trade and maintaining my RegAI. My goal is to maintain our high standards as a business and do everything we can to ensure the best customer care we can for our clients.

How do you approach customer interactions, and do you find that being a female locksmith influences these interactions in any way?

Interacting with customers is a large part of the job. You must be professional at all times. We are dealing with security, so trust between us and the customer is key. I have also found a lot of women who come into the shop or call feel more comfortable dealing with another woman.

What changes would you like to see in your trade?

I would like to see suppliers only making one price increase per year and this being a set increase rather than a range between products.

There is a lot to keep on top of within the trade and having a few increases per year or on different dates from different suppliers can make it very time consuming repricing all stock.

Due to recent events in the last few years, the price of shipping containers has increased, which then gets passed on to companies. When these costs come down it would be good to see price reductions on products passed on as well. It only seems to be the safe companies that are willing to do this.

How has being a member of the Master Locksmith Association helped your business?

Being a company member of the MLA has really helped our business. Customers know we are associated with a respected organisation and are more likely to use and trust us.

The MLA do a wide range of locksmithing courses which allow locksmiths to gain professional knowledge and experience to carry out jobs you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do. We can highly recommend these to anyone, the tutors are always willing to go the extra mile to help.

Recently staff have been on the Fire Door Maintenance course. They also provide us with any help and guidance when required.

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