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The Key to a Top Award

25 Mar 2013

Bradley Wheeler always enjoyed working with his hands, but on pondering a trade career, he realised he didn't want to stay in the same place all day working on the same things.

Indeed, he wanted something different, with lots of variety, and opted for two-weeks work experience in locksmithing during Year 10.

Then, just a week after completing Year 12 exams and a well-earned holiday, he joined East Gippsland Keys & Locks in Lakes Entrance as a locksmithing apprentice.

Now, Bradley, 22, also of Lakes Entrance, and in his final and fourth year of the apprenticeship, has won the John Andrews Apprentice of the Year Award presented by the Master Locksmithing Association of Australasia (MLAA).

Bradley, who completed his three-years of formal training in locksmithing at Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE (NMIT) in 2006, was competing against 14 other apprentices from around Australia and New Zealand.

To win the award, he sat a theory and six-hour practical test at NMIT involving cutting keys to specifications, servicing safes, automotive locks and lock installations. There was also a test on lock-picking - taught as part of the trade.

While he believed he had performed well in the test, he said you could never be sure how well you've actually done. And to win the award, was simply - 'a real shock'.

He said he was 'rapt to win and I am over the moon. I feel proud and it's a good recognition of my hard work and given me a sense of achievement.'

As part of his award, Bradley will travel to northern Italy to visit the SILCA factory that manufactures key machines and is a sponsor of the award.

'It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to look at a big factory where I'll gain a lot of new experiences and knowledge of how key machines are made. We use a lot of the company's equipment in Australia but I'll be able to see them all made first-hand,' Bradley said.

He added he had certainly made the right decision to pursue locksmithing and loved his work.

'I'm not stuck in one place all day as you can be anywhere. With locksmithing, you have to be precise with everything you do as well as solving problems. I had a wide variety of experience training at NMIT as in the country at Lakes Entrance, we don't get the same range of work as in the bigger cities. But I acquired all the skills I needed at NMIT.'

Bradley added that his work experience as a secondary school student was invaluable in helping him make his career decision.

'I'd advise young people to have a go as you don't always know what you want to do until you go out and do it and enjoy it.'


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NMIT (Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE) - Situated on seven campuses and six training centres throughout Melbourne's north, NMIT delivers vocational training, higher education and lifelong learning capabilities for a global workforce. NMIT forges partnerships with community, industry and government to produce practical, solution orientated graduates capable of making meaningful contributions to their chosen field of endeavour.