There's no strict criteria in order to embark upon one of Aylesbury Training Group's courses, according to Ian Harper, director of learning and skills at ATG. So why hasn't more of the industry sent their spanner monkeys to training camps?
Forum comments in the past have given off an unsure vibe, posters have commented about the costs involved in professionally training a mechanic, some have stated that their staff know the ‘ins and outs’ of a bike already.
The majority of under-25s can enrol on courses free of charge as a result of Government funding. In order to qualify, the mechanic must work a minimum of 16 hours per week in a maintenance environment. If these criteria are met, it is simply a case of proving the mechanic’s age and filling in enrolment forms.
What many people do not realise about the ATG is that the company is a registered charity, having been formed by 90 engineering companies in 1967 to address a local engineering skills gap for young people. The company’s constitution is such that it does not generate profits, but any operating surpluses at the end of each year are re-invested into training. There are no shareholders to pay dividends to - everything earnt is put back into improving facilities.
Since the ATG began training up mechanics in 2001, approximately 2,000 people have gone through the doors, with typically eight to 12 students per tutor, variable depending on the course intensity and topic. For example, wheel-building courses take no more than eight delegates due to increased support demanded by the teacher, so you can be sure that your student will receive a sufficient amount of one-to-one tutoring.
Harper said: "Our workshops in Aylesbury and Manchester are typically booked two to three months in advance, however, on occasions we can book a delegate in due to a cancellation.
"The feedback we get from mechanics of all ages and backgrounds is fantastic. For nearly all delegates under 25 years of age in England, ATG can secure Government funding to fully pay off apprenticeship costs. For delegates where Government funding is not available, we offer courses at very competitive rates."
The ATG's client base is drawn from all over the UK (those in Wales and Scotland pay commercial rates) but in the main, it's independent dealers. We have a number of Halford's mechanics on the course, but that is on a store-by-store arrangement.
Harper continued: "We employ ten nationwide assessors, as well as an instructor for each centre and run up to four courses simultaneously. You can be sure that due to our strict health and safety standards anyone ‘unfit’ to work in a workshop environment would be politely turned away and rebooked."
Partnerships with both DT Swiss and Park Tool mean that tailor-made courses are available for both wheel building and maintenance basics.
The DT Swiss wheel-building course uses the equivalent of ten kilometres of spokes per year - that's 35,000 spokes worth. So much so that DT Swiss now supplies the ATG direct, having visited the training centre and commented that ‘there is no other comparable training facility available in Europe.’ What's more, the spokes used by trainees are cut out, once an expert has assessed the wheel, and then recycled.
There are two main courses available to the trade, with several single topic sub-courses. The main courses are the NVQs, Levels Two and Three, while Individual advanced courses, each lasting two days are available for wheel-building, suspension, hydraulic brakes.
Cytech NVQ Level Two can be enrolled on free of charge with Government funding, while Level Three costs £1,000.
An open day for students will be held at the Aylesbury training centre on Thursday April 24th, so if you know, or are a young mechanic looking for a tour of the facilities, or a one-to-one chat with an ATG staff member, show up between 2pm and 7pm.
IBDs are welcome to the facilities anytime. Other topic specific courses are £250. For more information and a currently price list, see www.atg-training.co.uk or call 01296 468451
Mechanics answer back
“The hydraulic brakes course is comprehensive and highly detailed” - Greg Conti, London Fields Cycles
“I’d heard the course was good, but it exceeded my expectations. Would recommend it to anyone” – David Gostelow, Halfords
“Would highly recommend this course to anyone in the cycle industry, no matter what they think they do or don’t know” – Adam White, 53-12
“No wasted time. Excellent assessment of previous skills and experience” – Graeme Marquez, Gremlins Cycle Centre
“The place I work has already changed due to recommendations from what I learned on the course.” – David Clutterbuck, Woodsons
“Now enables me to offer an extra service in-store” – Robin Ranyard, Halfords