Profile Training Academies: Activate Cycles Academy

The current demand for Cytech courses across the country is at unprecedented levels, with any new courses that are published completely selling out within hours of announcing them.

Since reopening after lockdown, Activate Cycles Academy have seen a much higher proportion of candidates from outside of the trade booking onto its courses. Typically, the training academy experiences around 50 percent of people outside of the trade booking onto course, however, this year it is in the region of 80-90 percent.

This significant growth in demand has without a doubt made it more difficult for existing trade members to book places. In particular, this will affect many training academies in the coming winter months as it approaches the groups busiest trade period.

“We have seen a massive increase in the number of enrolments onto our new Apprenticeship in Bicycle Mechanics that we launched on 1st August. Our apprenticeship includes Cytech training. It’s been a really positive response from the trade to engage with our programme this quickly since its summer launch” says Matt Grant, Sales and Marketing Manager at Activate Cycles Academy.

Heading into 2021, the training academy predicts that courses of high popularity in recent months will continue into the new year. Activate Cycles most popular courses are its Cytech technical one, two and e-Bike courses.

Cytech is the internationally recognised training and accreditation scheme for bicycle mechanics, created and owned by the Association of Cycle Traders (ACT). It has become known as the industry standard of excellence for bike mechanic training, demonstrating competency and commitment to continued development and improvement.

Cytech Technical One is aimed at people who are new to the cycle trade that need to achieve a basic level of expertise to allow them to work safely either in a workshop environment, on a retail shop floor or other customer service related role.

Cytech Technical Two is considered the industry trade standard for any professional cycle mechanic. It includes 2 weeks of intensive training and assessment, delivering the skills and knowledge required to be a professional bike mechanic.

With the complexity of skills now required as a Cycle Mechanic, it has led many to raise the question of whether the industry is overdue a wage assessment for mechanics and whether or not workshop prices are increasing as a result.

“The variety of skills required do mean that the capability needed for the role in most shops has increased sharply, which sadly is not yet reflected in the wages on offer. This is not something that can be laid solely at the doors of employers, but instead comes more from the fact that profit margins are still generally small – something not particularly helped for the industry by the wide availability of cheap parts direct to customers on the internet “ says Suzanne read, Operations Manager.

It is a known opinion that the labour rates charged throughout the industry are still woefully small compared with the rates for other trades, such as car mechanics, even though in many cases the skill set and knowledge required is comparable. Activate Cycles attribute this to the idea that many customers do not yet understand the complexity of modern bikes, nor the specialist tools and equipment needed to work on them. Until the perception of the public is changed they will baulk at the need to pay more.

“There is a need to increase wages across the board, but this will only happen if prices for labour increase in all Cycle workshops, to act on an individual level to raise prices will always leave any business open to someone else undercutting them and taking away their customer base, so it is a much more complex situation than merely individually increasing prices in order to pay more. In the last analysis we are all only worth what our customers are willing to pay, and as long as employers are doing their best to pay as good a wage as they can – and to reward staff loyalty and hard work with incremental pay increases as profits increase – then staff will feel that they are being well treated. I wish we could wave a magic wand – or spanner – and increase wages for everyone, but unfortunately I can’t see things changing massively in the short term,” Read continues.

Financially speaking, there has never been a better time for bike shops to look at getting their staff enrolled onto an Apprenticeship in Bicycle Mechanics. This summer saw the Government announce that all businesses hiring new apprentices between August 2020 and January 2021 will receive new financial incentives such as;

  • for a 16-18 year old: £3,000
  • for a 19-24 year old: £2,000
  • for a 25+ year old: £1,500

The apprenticeships, such as the one offered by Activate Cycles can be started at any time (roll-on-roll-off) and offers the perfect mix of learning whilst working and includes the industry’s standard professional Cytech level 2 and level 3 qualifications.

September 2020 saw the academy open a brand new workshop in Guildford and has previously told CI.N in a trade exclusive announcement, that it plans to open another workshop in February 2021. The group also hopes to have another two centres open by next summer.