Part way through a degree in computer science, Robert Jeges realised a career in IT wasn’t for him.
“I realised it wasn’t where my passion was.” A few months of soul-searching later, Jeges decided he wanted to learn a trade. “It’s the hands-on aspect and you’re doing something much more tangible. I felt it was a better service to the community.”
At first Jeges thought about becoming an electrician, but a short stint as an apprentice made him realise it wasn’t right for him. “I was crawling under houses and across ceilings.” He decided to study locksmithing at Melbourne Polytechnic because it was cleaner work and his skills would always be in demand. “Locksmithing is partly about electronics so it’s a good mix with my previous skill. I’m still using my hands to do something mechanical.”
Since completing the Certificate III in Locksmithing, Jeges has never looked back. Earlier this year, he was presented with the prestigious Master Locksmiths Association of Australia (MLAA) apprentice of the year award after scoring the highest marks in a series of rigorous trade tests. His prize is a trip to Europe to visit manufacturing plants, Silca and Abus in Italy and Germany. “It will be a really good experience. I’ll get a better understanding of the operators that supply the industry.”
Jeges, who works at API Security in Moorabbin, had to complete a series of tasks as part of the competition, including fitting a lock, making a key for a car and servicing a combination lock. “It’s always been reinforced where I work that you should perform to the best of your ability. I had a good feeling about my results.”
At 27, Jeges is one of a growing band of mature-age apprentices, increasingly attracted to the trade by the skills shortage. “There’s more and more work available and I think it’s seen as a stable career option,” he says.
Jeges reckons being an older apprentice has worked in his favour. “That bit of maturity helps you focus and pick things up a bit more quickly.” Being a locksmith also means shouldering a lot of responsibility – it’s not all breaking safes or picking locks. “There are a lot of mundane aspects. You have to be prepared to handle everyday tasks as well as the responsibility of being able to gain entry to houses.”
To complete his course, Jeges worked four days a week and attended classes at Melbourne Polytechnic on his day off. “The teachers are dedicated to the profession and they do know a lot. They can be hard on the students but it only encourages you to perform better.”
Certificate III in Locksmithing