Is your Bike Mechanic qualified? June / July 2019

It can be safely stated that the largest majority of bicycle mechanics in South Africa are not qualified to practice. GRAEME STICKELLS has the questions, and the answers.

Maybe a bit of a harsh statement considering it is no fault of their own, as there has never before been formalised training offerings in South Africa. Most have either been self-trained or received on-the-job training in a workshop. To further debate this, we must first understand the definition of qualified, being officially recognised as being trained to perform a particular job (Oxford English Dictionary, 2019). Self-trained or on-the-job training seldom falls within this definition, as officially would imply that there is standardised training and assessment against recognised or registered learning outcomes.

Coming to a bike shop near you!

So how has the training landscape changed? Well, formalised training and assessment is now a given and
available to the industry.

When we established Torq Zone Academy, not only did we introduce the internationally recognised Cytech
technical programme, but we were also instrumental in registering National Qualifications on the National
Qualifications Framework (NQF).

We have aligned these National Qualifications and the Cytech technical courses into our learning
programmes as follows:

The Torq Zone programme involves both practical and theoretical work.

JUNIOR TECHNICIAN PROGRAMME

This programme comprises of the Occupational Certificate: Bicycle Repairer, NQF Level 3, and Cytech technical one and two courses. Learning areas cover knowledge and skills related to legislation, workshop practices, frame preparation, groupset repair and servicing, and basic wheel building.

SENIOR TECHNICIAN PROGRAMME

Included in this programme is the Occupational Certificate: Bicycle Special Components Repairer, NQF Level 4, and Cytech technical three course. Learning areas covered include hydraulic brakes, suspension,
advanced wheel building and electronic groupsets.

WORKSHOP MANAGER PROGRAMME 

This programme covers the remaining learning outcomes of the Occupational Certificate: Bicycle Mechanic, NQF Level 4. Although not fully implemented yet learning areas cover, as it name implies, aspects related to workshop management.

Each of the National Qualifications essentially consists of four components:

  • The Knowledge and Practical Components completed at Torq Zone Academy
  • A Work Experience Component completed at a workplace which Torq Zone Academy recognises
  • An External Integrated Summative Assessment (EISA) which is completed at a registered assessment centre.

Only once all of these components are successfully completed is the National Qualification awarded. Sound
familiar? It should. Professional trades have been using this approach longer than we have had bicycles.

This approach to training creates skilled mechanics who need less supervision and have more confidence
and better problem solving skills, are motivated and strive to add value to the cycle shop and are less likely
to leave a cycle shop that invests in their professional development. Cycle shops will also be able to select
from a wider pool of qualified mechanics who have developed skills that are relevant to the workplace.

A side note to the cycle shops out there: we are looking to partner with workshops nationwide where we can place learners for their Work Experience Component.

For experienced, practicing bike mechanics the National Qualifications can be achieved through recognition of prior RPL which means that not all class base training needs to be attended.

The introduction of training standards has resulted in much benefit to all in the industry.

For the mechanic qualifying, it means ease at getting employment both nationally and internationally,
national recognition of learning achievement, and parity of esteem with other trades.

For the cycle shop employing or up-qualifying mechanics it means assurance that the mechanic can demonstrate the competence in the workplace reflected in their qualifications, the raising of skills levels while improving work performance, and access to National Skills Funds (NSF) funding and tax benefits which can subsidise training costs.

For the customer it means confidence and peace of mind that the mechanic working on their pride and joy
is qualified.

In closing, the bicycle mechanic as a trade is a viable, exciting career with a good deal of opportunities and
which nowadays requires a far better grounding in respect of foundational knowledge and skills such as
those delivered during formal training. Being qualified can ensure that this is achieved.

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