TORONTO, Ontario (BRAIN)—Armed with a $9,000 grant from the Bicycle Trade Association of Canada, a group of Toronto retailers launched a new training program on Tuesday to help solve one of their biggest business challenges: recruiting qualified mechanics.
“In the decade-plus that I have been in the bicycle industry, without a doubt one of my toughest challenges has been to consistently staff my store with qualified mechanics,” said Pete Lilly, owner of Sweet Pete’s Bicycle Shop and president of BTAC. “It goes without question that there is a very strong need for a feeder system that will continually put forth solid candidates to fill the voids in my store and others in the greater Toronto area. And as the market grows, that need grows even greater.”
The first eight-week course begins on Feb. 16 and is already full, as is a second course later this year, said Janet O’Connell, executive director of BTAC. The course is free because of BTAC’s financial support.
The program, called the Bicycle Assembly and Maintenance Project, is expected to produce 40 to 50 entry-level mechanics a year. A market study of representative retailers identified an annual requirement of between 50 and 100 new mechanics in the Toronto area, and as many as 1,000 in the other major cities across Canada, O’Connell said.
Rob White, vice president and principal of Outdoor Gear Canada, spearheaded the project after becoming involved in a nonprofit organization that focused on reducing the high rate of unemployed youth in the city.
He sensed the opportunity to tackles both issues—satisfy retailers’ needs while providing jobs for at-risk youth aged 18 to 25. White formed partnership with industry retailers and manufacturers and the Learning Enrichment Foundation, which will house and administer the program.
The project isn’t only open to at-risk youth, but also others looking for a career change, O’Connell said.
The class includes four weeks of basic training, including two days of specialized instruction at Norco’s Toronto location. The program also includes two weeks of hands-on experience at a sponsoring bike shop and a two-week assignment to rebuild a used bike.
Industry suppliers hope to expand the project Vancouver and Montreal.
(PHOTO by Rob Jones: BTAC executive director Janet O'Connell and former board member Rob White present the BTAC grant check to Peter Frampton of LEF.)