On first glance it appears to be an extensive warehouse packed full of engineering equipment and mechanics. Venture further into ATG’s brand new state-of-the-art skills facility, dubbed The Future Centre and you’ll find students lined up around work benches, sat at computers, huddled round demonstrations and tinkering with various tools.
The move was confirmed during the summer and a schedule set to have moved by September. The official opening, however, took place mid-November with ATG’s chairman, David Branshaw, declaring the 33,000 sq ft facility open with the snip of a ribbon.
As a not-for-profit charitable organisation, all profits made are re-routed directly back into the business. And with the Government looking to stimulate the declining numbers of those in work, organisations like the ATG are already benefiting from investment, which is only set to grow.
Matt Goodrich the ATGs head of cycle training told BikeBiz: "There’s been massive change in this past year in the Government’s attitude to skills training. Adult learning is something that is being taken very seriously as the economy dips. If you have left school without five GCSEs we can now almost guarantee that financial assistance can be provided. The criteria is set to be relaxed in the new-year, too, which is great news because a single apprenticeship is worth up to six grand."
It’s not just Government support the group receives either. Distributor Madison is a strong investor in the charity, offering cut-price equipment from its top brands including bikes from Cervelo, Ridgeback, Genesis and equipment from Park Tool.
Richard Peploe, product director at Madison told BikeBiz: "We’ve been working alongside ATG for a decade now. For Madison growing the industry with qualified personnel is very important, we have mechanics of our own, so we know how important it is to invest in skills training. Once in a while we have our technical brands visit us in Milton Keynes to train our mechanics how to set up new product. For example, we’ll be inviting ATG’s guys along to meet Shimano’s tutors in December, who will then teach setup of the new Di2."
When asked what the expansion means for cycle skills training in the UK, Goodrich explained: "We invite ten students per course, yet with this vastly expanded facility we can take on more courses. From January, we’ll have a new trainer joining us in the cycle department. I think the move was made possible because both cycling and education are two industries taken very seriously. The old building down the road will be sold shortly, proceeds of which will go right back into student training and equipment.
"The expansion will also mean that we can cope with the demand better. Previously we could only run one course at a time, this will change now. Typically, we have a turnaround of 40 students per month. On average the pass rate is just under 90 per cent. At the end of these courses, people who may or may not have had adequate enough qualifications to enter a profession can walk away with NVQs worth five GCSE grades and become a Cytech recognised mechanic."
In what will come as a relief to cycle stores nationwide, before students can get their mits on the latest Cervelo, basic safety and hygiene is taught as a module of courses. Students (many of whom are fresh out of school) are being taught by staff trained both as teachers and as mechanics. The tutors are trained to spot specific learner types, meaning each class of ten will receive an experience tailored to its needs. Soon enough, the centre will receive its first Offsted inspection and particular attention will focus on the training of the cycle trade’s scores of young mechanics.
Goodrich said of the students: "We find that, for the most part, students genuinely are enthused by the subject. The fact that they’re working on top-end kit has a big impact on the students attitude to education. ATG’s staff are well-trained and used to working with all age ranges. The new facility has a spacious, professional working environment complete with individual work stations, computer rooms and areas to study theory – although courses are largely hands on."
There’s plenty of inter-course cross-over opportunity, too. Within the engineering department of the new facility, students can be shown the CNC machining process, as well as various other engineering techniques, which could inspire them to study bicycle design further.
The Government recently changed legislation to make apprenticeships available to those aged 64 and below. Funding is now potentially available to over 25s working two or more days per week. To enrol your spanner monkey on one of ATG’s courses, available at Aylesbury, Manchester and at mobile facility in south-Wales, call Elaine Powell on 01612 306241.