It's been a busy seven years for GO Outdoors, bought by JD Sports in 2017, in and out of administration in 2021, and now committed to training up the next generation of mechanics, with help from Activate Cycle Academy
Ever tried to take your MTB into the bike shop for a service, only to be told the waiting list is longer than your wheelbase? Yup, us too, and that’s because there’s a huge shortage of mechanics across the UK.
Now though, GO Outdoors – famous for its excellent entry-level bikes like the Calibre Bossnut and Calibre Line T3-27 – is doing something about it, launching an apprenticeship scheme to train up the next generation of mechanics, in conjunction with Activate Cycle Academy.
The work-based training programme is available for employees of GO Outdoors in England, and will provide colleagues with the chance to gain Cytech qualifications.
GO Outdoors Activate apprenticeship need to know
- Open to employees of GO Outdoors in England
- Employees to be given Cytech qualification at the end of their Level 2 Apprenticeship in Bicycle Mechanics
- First cohort began their apprenticeships in October 2023
- Overall goal to have one “master mechanic” in every GO Outdoors store
GO Outdoors Bicycle Mechanics Apprenticeship
For many mechanics, gaining a Cytech qualification is the first step to getting a job in a workshop. GO Outdoors’ new apprenticeship programme allows employees to carry on their jobs as retail staff or the like whilst working towards a Cytech qualification. The first cohort of the Bicycle Mechanics Apprenticeship began their training in October 2023, with new cohorts expected in early 2024.
The overall aim of the apprenticeship is not just to enhance the “customer’s in-store experience”, but also to help to ease the shortfall of bike mechanics and technicians in their stores.
The company aims to have one “master technician” mechanic in every store in England in two to three years. Once a staff member completes the apprenticeship, they will become “a fully trained professional, master technician, or bike mechanic.”
Why is there a shortage of mechanics?
As more and more people take up cycling, (which can only a good thing), the number of skilled employees required to keep retailers and workshops going has also increased. Unfortunately this widening shortfall may be occurring for several reasons.
Mechanics are often paid minimum wage, and this might not be enough to persuade skilled workers to join or stay in the cycle industry. There is also a lot more breadth and depth of experience and knowledge required with all the different standards, tools required for different groupsets, and of course – electric bikes, which often require plentiful knowledge of their own.
So what can be done to address this? Well, schemes like these are certainly going to be beneficial not only for customers but for staff, too. Developing skills and widening their toolset (literally and figuratively) should stand them in better stead if they decide to further their career beyond the shop floor.
It’s worth bearing in mind that not all workshops and bike shops require Cytech qualifications for their staff. But, even with fewer barriers to entry into a career as a mechanic, perhaps the issue lays more in retention of staff, than acquiring new ones. Higher wages, or more flexible working conditions are cited as issues in many industries, but if the bike industry wants to progress and attract a more diverse workforce then perhaps companies need to look more closely at these types of issues.
Go train me
Upon completion of the apprenticeship, staff will also have the opportunity to work towards Cytech 2 and 3 qualifications as part of their learning outcomes. It is not clear if this is financially supported by the store, however.
National Sales and Operations Manager for Cycling at GO Outdoors, Jonny Lodge, commented: “The decision to introduce a cycling apprenticeship into GO Outdoors has come from a place of passion and experience, with acknowledgement that this offers a chance to build on an already successful recipe for UK cycling retail.
“Importantly, it supports our aims to continuously invest in and develop our colleagues, whilst addressing the national bike mechanic shortage by bringing more skilled technicians to the industry. We are thrilled to be working with Activate and recognise them as a market-leading provider that is supporting the industry with a fantastic learning framework.”