Time was when young people leaving school in this country had two main options: enter further education or get a trade, the latter usually entailing serving time as an apprentice.
These days as post-industrial Britain moves towards an economy based on financial services and fast food retailing, (slight oversimplification, maybe) apprenticeships are not as easy to come by as they once were.
But as cycling continues to increase in popularity, so the requirement for people to pick up spanners and get some grease under their fingernails grows in proportion.
Yet start-up or existing cycle businesses run on a shoestring can struggle to cover the costs of funding a full apprenticeship, while young people seeking to get a foothold in the trade may not have the cash required to pay for a recognised course themselves. That’s why, in London at least, a new initiative could prove a godsend.
The Cycle Systems Academy which trains people as cycle mechanics to City and Guilds levels – including the senior and head mechanical team of the Barclays Cycle Hire scheme – has announced a partnership with the National Apprenticeship Service to offer a National Vocational Qualification in cycle maintenance.
While not a full apprenticeship, an NVQ is a Government-funded 'competence-based' qualification, which can be studied for while an individual is at work, college, or already undertaking an apprenticeship.
The significance of this development lies in the fact that for the first time Government funding will be available to train bike mechanics, meaning employers may not have to bear the full costs of training up their employees while individuals without the funds to pay for a City and Guilds course can still get a recognised qualification.
Sean Lally, Director and Founder of Cycle Systems said: “People have been asking us for some time whether they can get access to Government funding to train their employees in our qualification. The answer is that now they can.”
At least they can if they are based in or around London. It’s hard to see at first glance how a start-up business or young person in Newcastle might benefit from the initiative. The answer probably lies in the creation of more businesses being set up specifically to train bike mechanics around the rest of the country, and that will surely come.