– Sponsored Content –
It’s rare to get full agreement on any topic within Australian the bicycle trade, but you’d go very close with these two statements:
- ‘Demand for workshop repairs has been booming, particularly since covid started.’
- ‘It has been harder than ever to find qualified bicycle mechanics to employ.’
Many dealers blame the government regarding the mechanics shortage. Whilst it is true that several TAFE bicycle mechanics courses around Australia have come and gone in past years, at least partly through lack of funding, there is a great alternative option, fully set up and running, that has been flying under the radar for years.
5 Star Training is a privately owned, fully accredited registered training organisation offering a world’s best practice range of bicycle mechanic training options.
Better still, most dealers would be unaware of the substantial government training subsidies they can tap into. These are significantly higher than normal right now, as part of the government’s covid recovery package.
We’ll review these subsidies in more detail later, but first some background about 5 Star Training.
Kevin Silvy grew up around bikes. His father was an avid cyclist so Kevin started cycling at a young age. His first part time job during school years was working at Jock Ross Cycles (no longer trading) near his home in Penrith, NSW, where Kevin learned more about bicycle repairs.
Kevin later became a TAFE lecturer and a teacher in the outdoor recreation industry.
He also led off-road cycling tours. During this time, he did additional training on the service and maintenance of bicycles.
In 2015 Kevin headed to Colorado Springs USA to study for a month at the renowned Barnett Bicycle Institute.
“I liked their model of training delivery and the way they had their workshop set up,” Kevin recalled.
“When I set up our training workshop here, I mirrored their set up. All our students seem to like it. Every student has a full set of tools, laid out in the same format.”
“What if I train them and they leave? …what if you don’t train them and they stay!?”
In addition to mechanical tools, 5 Star Training’s workshop has computers at all the work benches. They’re set up with software to do spoke length calculations, work out bottom bracket compatibility and a wide range of other relevant information.
In addition to the Barnett’s Manual, 5 Star Training also uses Park Tools’ training resources. Calvin Jones who is the Director of Education at Park Tool and whose professional mechanics training videos have had over 69 million views, used to be an instructor at Barnett’s.
5 Star Training Experience
When Kevin left TAFE to start his own registered training organisation, he wanted to pick the areas that he was both passionate about and skilled in. So bicycle mechanics was top of the list, along with outdoor recreation and first aid training.
What started as a one man business now employs five full time staff and 10 casuals.
“The students we get are happy to do a systemised, accredited training program that’s nationally recognised,” Kevin said from his fully equipped training facility in Penrith where most of the bicycle mechanics courses are held.
“We also have a portable training facility in Tasmania with portable repair stands, workbenches, tools and set of bikes. We also have a fully set up trailer, based in Penrith that lets us do courses on the road. For example, we’re just about to go down to Cooma, Jindabyne and Eden and run bicycle servicing courses there. These are mainly for ski hire companies who used to be busy in winter and quiet in summer. But with the increase in bike tourism they do a summer flip, get rid of their ski stock, put a bike in, both for sale and hire and also offering repair services.
“We try to match industry needs to our training to help businesses survive past Covid. We’ve had some funding to provide fee-free training under the government’s ‘Skilling for Recovery’ program.”
For entry level students, 5 Star Training offers non-accredited training.
“At the end of the four days you’ve got enough skills to service your own bikes,” Kevin explained.
But for professional bicycle mechanics, the main two courses they do are accredited training at Certificate 2 & 3 levels.
“We offer a Certificate 2 in Bicycle Mechanical Technology,” Kevin continued. “There are 16 units of competence in this qualification. We have a lot of people looking to enter the industry and get servicing skills who do this course, along with trainees already working in bike shops.
“Then we have a Certificate 3 that includes all of the 16 units in Certificate 2, plus higher level units that include repair and overhaul.
For example, in the Certificate 2 students just service the lowers on a pair of suspension forks. But in the Certificate 3 they repair and overhaul the system including removing all the seals.
Certificate 3 includes wheel building, servicing ebikes and electronic shifting. These are all higher level units that build on what the student has previously learned in the Certificate 2.
“Our preference is for students to do each certificate in a block of full time training at our facility. There are eight full days of workshop class training for the Certificate 2.
“Outside of this block there’s also theory subjects to be completed. These are based upon the Park Tool manual.
“Not everyone who completes Certificate 2 is ready to do Certificate 3. Students generally complete the Certificate 3 in a second eight day training block.
“Our maximum intake is eight per class. One of the bays is set up as a demonstration, instructor area. Then there are four workshop benches with two people to a bench. There are two bike stands and wheel truing stands per bench. Everyone gets their own tools, bikes and parts to work on.
“First the instructor will demonstrate the skill. Then the students will go and practice that skill, with assistance from the instructor where needed. Then we bring everyone back and move on to the next skill.”
In addition to the full Certificate courses, 5 Star Training also offers specialist workshops – for example just wheel building or just suspension servicing. Depending upon demand, sometimes these are one or two day stand-alone course or sometimes, if there’s a space, the option of taking part in just the relevant days within a Certificate 3 course.
Dealers Can Access Extensive Government Support
As Kevin explained, most support comes when a dealer takes on a new mechanic under a traineeship.
“The Government gives employers a number of incentives to take on a trainee,” he said. “They get free training. This means there’s no fees to the employer for the training that we provide.
“In addition, there’s $4,000 in federal government incentives to the employer to assist with on the job training and supervision.
“If the trainee has to travel to attend our training in Penrith, they’re entitled to a travel and accommodation allowance that covers most of their expenses.
“The employer also does not have to pay workers compensation insurance premiums for the trainee during their traineeship.
“In some states, such as NSW, if the employer is over the payroll tax threshold and usually pays payroll tax, the trainee is exempt from payroll tax.”
“Currently to assist business post-covid, the government will contribute up to $22,000 of the trainee’s wage for the first year of their traineeship.
“There’s a second round of this scheme open for applications now, which will remain open until the funding provided for it runs out.
“Any new employee may be entitled to become a trainee, even if they’ve got prior bicycle mechanic skills, but not a formal qualification.
“The employer does not have to be employing them at any particular wage level. For example if they have more past work experience, they might be on a higher wage. But they can still qualify for the government support, provided they’re a new employee and don’t have a recent, related formal qualification.”
In all cases for more details the employer should contact their local Apprenticeship Centre (www.apprenticesupport.com.au) to find out exactly what they’re entitled to.
For anyone training outside the traineeship system, the Certificate 2 costs $1,495.
The Certificate 3 costs $2,700 including the Certificate 2, or $1,205 if the student has already completed and paid for the Certificate 2. There is no GST payable on any of the course fees because education is exempt from GST.
A Fantastic Return Upon Investment for Dealers
Some Australian bicycle dealers have been known to say, ‘If I train them up they’ll leave and then I’ve just trained them up for my competitor.’
But Kevin asks these dealers to consider this, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?
“Some of the employers are initially reluctant, but when the trainee bike mechanic goes back, they’ve got a high level of servicing skills. They’re able to service all bicycle components regardless of the brand. They’re able to build bicycles from the frame up. Their productivity is immensely improved, so the employers are happy then.
“They’ve now got a productive time member who’s not slowing down the other mechanics in the workshop by having to ask, ‘how do you do this?’
“It’s up to the employer to take ownership. To get their staff thoroughly trained and assessed against a standard that’s nationally recognised and based upon best international practice.
“We’re a quality certified organisation. We’re reviewing our practices all the time.
“The feedback we get from students is great. The employers say, ‘That made such a big difference. We can see how their progress has been accelerated and now they’re a valued member of our team.’ That’s after just eight days’ training!”
Not surprisingly, with such a strong established track record of bicycle mechanic training success, added to the large government incentives currently on offer, 5 Star Training is heavily booked through to July. For further enquires visit www.5startraining.com.au or call (02) 4722 2471.