Pedal Group will this month move into its fourth mechanic training facility, as part of the organisation’s The Bicycle Academy training offshoot.
The company is adding its new Sydney training facility to its existing Bicycle Academy sites in Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide.
The Academy roll-out comes after the major retailer secured a licence to provide Cytech training – an internationally recognised program based in the UK – in Australia and NZ
Pedal Group, which comprises retailer 99 Bikes and wholesaler Advance Traders, introduced The Bicycle Academy to upskill its own staff and address a shortage of mechanics within the organisation. More than 250 of its staff have already completed the initial stage of the training program and Pedal Group has almost doubled the number of mechanics it employs in the 18 months since the training program was established.
“Pedal Group has a bigger purpose to help the industry make sure there are jobs for young people”
The organisation is now looking at whether it extends the training program to other members of the Australian and NZ bike industries.
“Pedal Group has a bigger purpose to help the industry make sure there are jobs for young people,” 99 Bikes Workshop National Leader Thomas Dodd said.
“We are close to making a decision on that.”
Thomas said Pedal Group first started looking at options to establish training for mechanics about five years ago, as it sought a solution to the lack of a nationally delivered qualification that could be provided as part of an apprenticeship.
“There were also no short, skills-based courses that were national and could be easily accessed,” he added.
While Bicycle Industries Australia had coordinated a Certificate III course for mechanics, in collaboration with industry representatives, the course was not being widely delivered nationally.
About two years ago, Pedal Group had made the decision to become a Cytech licencee.
“Cytech is the industry standard in the UK and is well known globally. The way its content and delivery is packaged makes it straight forward to adapt it to Australia,” Thomas said.
But then the pandemic threw a spanner in the works.
Eventually, the company got an exemption from COVID travel restrictions last year and sent three of its experienced mechanics to the UK to do three and half weeks of training with the Association of Cycle Traders (ACT), which manages Cytech licences globally.
While the training validated their skills and equipped them to deliver Cytech courses, Pedal Group worked with Australian training organisations Industry Graduates and registered training organisation AGA, part of the IntoWork Group Australia, to design and implement The Bicycle Academy training program.
Industry Graduates helped Pedal Group establish a Certificate III package that incorporates Cytech technical courses and will typically take trainees up to 24 months to complete, in conjunction with on-the-job experience.
“After working in a workshop for an 18 to 24-month period, trainees that successfully complete the courses will leave qualified in Cytech and with a Cert III,” he said.
“Since introducing the program, we have been able to hire based on general aptitude and train them into a role, which has been beneficial.”
The Bicycle Academy now has 38 Pedal Group apprentices enrolled in its Certificate III in Bicycle Workshop Operations (AUR30220) course.
Thomas said the academy and its training program has substantially broadened Pedal Group’s potential catchment for quality new employees, by enabling the organisation to recruit applicants based on their general aptitude – rather than existing technical experience.
“Pre pandemic, we began really big investment in workshops and we wanted to grow the number of our mechanics. But applicant numbers were really low, usually around five to 20 people for a role,” he said.
“Since introducing the program, we have been able to hire based on general aptitude and train them into a role, which has been beneficial.
“We now have 400 people in the business as mechanics, compared to around 200 in 2020.”
He said the availability of a government-recognised, national and readily available training program was essential for the industry to attract school leavers trying to decide on a career.
“I think there are a lot of people who are interested in becoming a bike mechanic but don’t know how to approach it,” he remarked.
For many other young people, it simply isn’t on their radar because it’s not a career included in the further education materials provided to school leavers.
Thomas said a more prominent Cert III program would also foster greater support among parents and school staff as they offer advice to school leavers about career opportunities.
He said Pedal Group had already noticed a significant increase in the competency of staff who had embarked on The Bicycle Academy training.
“Our new starters are doing better than they have historically,” he explained.
“They are doing more labour in a more efficient way early in their careers.”
He said a large pool of well-trained mechanics is essential for the industry to grow and take advantage of the growing focus on active transport.
Not only would they be needed in larger numbers – to ensure bikes were properly assembled and prepared, and to provide customer support – their expertise would need to keep pace with the advancing technology of bicycles.
High-level, quality-controlled training was increasingly important as e-bikes continue to claim a greater share of the market.
“e-Bike training is our number one priority as a business and we believe it should be the industry’s top priority,” he remarked.
“The technology is changing each year, with each upgrade.”
In addition to the Cert III program, 251 Pedal Group staff have completed the Cytech Technical One course, a two-day skill session covering frame preparation and pre-delivery inspections.
How each of them then progresses through the academy’s courses will depend on their roles in the organisation.
At the same time, Pedal Group will constantly review and revise the academy’s training program.
“This is just the start for us. We will keep evolving and adapting the training as technology evolves, and consumer demands and preferences change.”
The establishment of The Bicycle Academy and its additional location has been welcomed by Bicycle Industries Australia (BIA).
BIA general manager, Peter Bourke, said more training facilities and programs in the industry increased access and awareness of the skills needs to be a quality mechanic.
“Having more trained mechanics benefits the whole industry, as it increases the level of professionalism,” Peter said.
“We look forward to working with the Bicycle Academy on ensuring all accredited training meets the needs of the industry.”
Join the Conversation:
What changes would you like to see in bicycle industry training in Australia or New Zealand?