Prior to training with 1st call, I was serving in the Royal Engineers. The reason I got the opportunity to train as a locksmith was for operational requirements in Afghanistan. My regiment was due to deploy to Kabul and set up HQ ISAF. They requested 4 people to be trained as locksmiths prior to deployment. I volunteered for the training and took a couple of lads from my section.
We searched for suppliers of Locksmith training in the UK and found the response to our request was best matched by 1st Call Lockouts. The training ticked all the boxes for content and we got tools at the end of it! Being engineers getting tools is what sealed the deal!
The training facility back in 2006 was a little more rustic than it is today, but the course content and practical work was second to none. Richard and Jason worked as a double act teaching us the art of locksmithing, with a little magic thrown in for good measure.
Whilst on deployment in Afghanistan our skills were tested to the max, as we weren’t always allowed to just blow the doors off. The tech support from Richard and Jason during the tour and ever since has always been fantastic.
I went back to 1st Call for advanced training in 2008 as part of my resettlement from the army with a view to set up my own company as a mobile locksmith. The training was amazing, and I was very fortunate to get a lot of 1-2-1 training with the wizard Jason Hillier. Richard was able to give me a lot of help with the business aspects of the trade, with advertising, supplier details and contacts for agency work.
I left the army in 2009 and set up my company. The first year was a very steep learning curve and the agency work was a good way to cut my teeth. During the first year I was frequently calling 1st Call for technical assistance and guidance. I saw an opportunity in my area for Auto Locksmithing, so I contacted 1st Call and booked on some more training. This course was brilliant loads more gadgets and gizmos. The classroom facilities were considerably more desirable much better than the old stables! They actually had porcelain toilets and everything!
My business has gone from strength to strength and its all thanks to the training and ongoing support given by 1st Call Lockouts and their fantastic team.
Darren Ford, EFL Fire and Rescue
As I was approaching my last couple of years of a 24 year career in the army, I started to think about what my future would hold and what direction I was going to take. I knew from early on that the preference would be to work for myself but wasn’t sure as to which area. Then, from Cyprus I went home on a two week period where I had a few things to do around my house. One of them was to get a Rim Cylinder lock changed as it was falling apart.
Before I called someone in, I decided to take it off the door strip it down and fix it myself, which I managed to do successfully. That gave me the idea to look at locksmithing. I did some background research in the usual way, and even though I was never going to be the only locksmith in my area, I knew that with a military ethos and drive, I could offer something a little different combined with a ‘can do’ attitude.
At this point I began to look at several training providers from Hereford to the North East. As it happened, I was looking in the resettlement magazine of the Army and I saw an advertisement of 1st Call lockouts. At the time I was posted into Selly Oak Hospital as a Military Liaison Officer. I had accommodation here so there was no additional cost to be had, and actually, they offered more than everyone else had on offer. What I found important was the fact you received a full package using tools you were going to take away with you. No other training provider offered that. They only offered the course but no tools to get you going, but 1st Call Lockouts go further with their courses. Along with that, you become a member of a Nationally Affiliated Locksmith Group (National Network of Approved Locksmiths - NNAL) which gives you a photo identity card to show at jobs and gives you credibility to what you are doing. Again, no-one else did that apart from the MLA. Their administrator was very helpful and friendly when I telephoned for further information which again I find important.
The training is second to none. I can say that as I use all techniques learnt on the course successfully as a trading locksmith. The staff are very friendly and helpful right from the boss through the administrators, instructors and their trade counter, which is also very handy to have all in one centre. You can shop online for stock and tools and pop in for further advice if you need it and nothing is too much trouble for the 1st Call Lockout team.
I think that combining the training centre with a Trade Counter is a master stroke as it gives a reason to keep in touch and form a bond. As time goes by, you will certainly need to advance your tools and buy more stock. It always seems easier by going to people you know and people who trained you. I did my course 5 years ago and to this day, keep in touch with the team at 1st Call Lockouts, regularly stock through their Trade Counter and always pop into the centre for a catch up in general and ask advice when I travel from South Wales to North Wales or Lichfield. Keeping the bond is priceless for many reasons and is important to invest in yourself in the right way when starting out and growing a business and part of that is having the right people on your side.
I am confident in 1st Call Lockouts and over the last few years their advice through their comprehensive experience has been accurate and actually, wouldn’t use anyone else to ask ‘the question’ as I know I am going to get good advice from them.
The experience I had with the training was fantastic. The instructors made you feel comfortable and relaxed throughout the course and nothing was too much trouble and are very patient. Jason is a top class locksmith and instructor who passes on his knowledge and experience in a fantastic way.
I would 100% recommend 1st Call Lockouts as a training provider. They offer more than just training. The tools you use on the course are yours to take away with you (others do not give you that). It’s just enough to get you going and with the Trade Counter, you can go in there and bolster your tool box before you leave the course with the correct advice given to you. They sell you the right tools… not just sell tools to you. No matter what part of the country you are in, you can still buy online and get a swift delivery. Being part of an affiliated body is invaluable and gives you credibility. Keep the link you make with them as you will need them at some stage for guidance and they are only too happy to help, at every level.
Once my training was completed, I started trading straight away. The only person stopping you from succeeding is yourself. Starting out on your own isn’t easy but with the right drive and the right guidance you will get there. Again, 1st Call Lockouts give you advice on that side of life too.
In the future, my aspiration is to open up a small base to work from rather than just a van. It will probably be a trade counter with working locksmiths running it. I have a vision to grow my business and be successful in a small way. It’s a lot of hard work but the rewards for seeing something you have built yourself is second to none.
Today, I work from home and have links with many letting and estate agents in my local area and I am used regularly. I have just completed a 9 week phase 1 at Cardiff University upgrading their locks to a door entry system and Phase 2 and 3 over the next two summers is looking good too. It’s all about reputation and delivering what you say you will in the correct manner… every time.
All I can say is “Thank you for your time and effort in training me as a locksmith and giving me the service and guidance I needed, and in fact, still need from time to time today. A well drilled centre that delivers to the highest standard.”
Philip Harvey, http://www.anubislocks.uk
I was working as a waitress in a cocktail bar...I digress!
How did I become a locksmith? I was serving in the British Army and was due to complete my full service in three years time. I didn’t have a clue what I was going to be doing but wanted to know as I always plan early. A friend came up with the idea of being a locksmith so I had my eureka moment right there and acted on it immediately.
I went to the education centre and looked up places that were on the Enhanced Learning Credits Scheme so I could claim for part of the costs of the course. Because I started a year before the resettlement programme kicks in, I had to fund the travel and accommodation out of my own pocket; however since this was an investment in my future, it was an easy thing to do. I saw a few different locksmith ‘schools’ on the ELC files but picked 1st Call Lockouts as they seemed to have everything I wanted plus they were relatively near to Plymouth!
I arrived on the course a few weeks later and was met by Jason who was a friendly and knowledgable character. The training was difficult for me as we started to pick cylinders and I couldn’t manage to get it. I was having wobbles and started to think this wasn’t for me, especially as everyone else was picking away with success. We progressed to mortice locks and this is when I realised I can do this. I was able to pick many, whilst talking to people as I did it and suddenly I was not just back in the game, but well ahead. With this mental boost, I revisited the cylinders to crack on with them…and still couldn’t pick for toffee. I am glad to say that I am picking with high success now though
During the course, I was privileged to meet Chris Belcher who came in to visit. I didn’t know who he was at the time but Jason introduced me to him as he was also in Plymouth. Chris invited me to visit him in Plymouth when I returned, which I did. He treated me more like a son and apprentice and looked after me right from the start. Within weeks, he and Suzzie asked if I would like to take over their clientele when they retired, which was to coincide with me leaving the army. I couldn’t believe my ears as I was only just a newbie. This was a huge boost for me as it was going to give me the start I needed to convert to civilian life after a 25 year career in the Forces.
Four and a half years later, I’ve gone from strength to strength. I’ve won a competition at the MLA show 2013 to get into a door non-destructively with the Ultimate tool, won Yales ‘Trusted Face’ of the year and come runner up in the Plymouth Business Awards. I’ve completed a Safe Engineers course with Martin Newton which has added a massive feather to my bow and a UPVC Repair Specialist course with Dennis Manning of Keymaster Locksmiths.
Between locksmithing, Safe Engineering and UPVC repairs, I’m always flat out every single day with a full diary, always booked out a week in advance. This is all without any adverts anywhere, although working hard on my SEO to be organically top of Google helps. Most of the other jobs come through repeated custom and referrals. The business is now bulletproof with a strong future, and all thanks to the training I started out with at 1st Call Lockouts, boosted by Chris Belcher’s mentoring.
Paul Bushell, http://www.sirfixalock.com