Northwestern Arkansas University Program Builds Bike Repair Workforce

BENTONVILLE — A new program at Northwest Arkansas Community College is training a cadre of bicycle technicians to help with repairs in Northwest Arkansas’ thriving cycling community.

The college received $1,246,864 from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation for the phased rollout of the Bicycle Assembly and Repair Technician program, according to a college press release.

The first phase includes the renovation of the college’s physical factory to create the Bike Technician Lab. In the second phase, the building will be further renovated to create the largest training center for cyclists and technicians, which will house other programs accredited by the Bicycle Industry Employers Association, the statement said.

The president of the Bicycle Industry Employers Association approached the college last fall to create the program, said Megan Bolinder, dean of labor and economic development.

The association’s goal is to “connect the needs of bicycle industry employers with regionally accredited colleges to develop smart, cost-effective programs for schools and students,” according to the association’s website. ‘association.

It’s the first community college to have such a program, Bolinder said. Minneapolis Community Technical College will launch a similar program soon, she said.

Twenty-three of the 24 program slots are filled. Classes started on August 23.

Most of the students are from Benton County, but one is from Fort Smith. They include a 72-year-old woman and a home-schooled high school student, Bolinder said.

Amar Bahati came from Los Angeles to enroll in the program.

Bahati is the nephew of Rahsaan Bahati, a 10-time national road champion who also leads the Bahati Foundation, established in 2010 in California with a mission to “support inner-city youth and underserved communities through healthy living , access to educational ed-tech opportunities, and of course cycling outreach programs that are all designed to empower and inspire young people on bikes and on foot,” according to its website.

Amar Bahati said he hasn’t cycled since his bike was stolen about five years ago. His earliest memory of riding a bike was when he was about 10 years old and crashed into a tree.

He hopes the program will lead to a job with his uncle or as a bike technician. Right now, he’s acclimating to Arkansas.

“The weather is quite warm here,” he said.

Rogers’ Bivi Espinosa wanted to learn how to fix more than a flat bike tire and help members of a cycling group she attends — Arkansas Latinas En Bici — with their bike problems.

“This program is so in-depth,” she said. “I learned so much.”

The newly acquired skills could also lead Espinosa into the field of bike technicians. Espinosa said she doesn’t see many female employees at local bike shops let alone speak Spanish.

Springdale’s Dilynn Swearengin chose a new career path through the program. Swearengin planned to major in history, but saw a blurb about the bike technician course on the college’s website.

“I thought that sounded interesting,” Swearengin said. “He’s been practical since day one.”

Swearengin learned how to change a flat tire on the first day of class.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics showed there were 12,400 bicycle repairers nationwide in 2016, a figure that is expected to increase 29% by 2026, which the bureau calls “much faster than the average “. Nationally, the average annual salary for bicycle repairers last year was $33,530, according to the bureau.

“Almost any bike shop in the country will tell you they could hire more mechanics if they existed,” said Tim Robinson, owner of Phat Tire Bike Shop, which has locations in northwest Arkansas. and Oklahoma. “So I’m excited that we have a local certification program to attract more people into this industry that will ensure a paid career. I’m also excited to have ongoing training for our existing employees if they want to upgrade their skills. Great for industry and great for bike touring in Northwest Arkansas.”

The program includes part of the manual from Barnett Bicycle Institute, a trade school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with the rest developed through a partnership with the Bicycle Industry Employers Association and program director Sean Owen, program specialist Ben Glenn and Casey Coughlin at Minneapolis Community Technical College, Bolinder said.

Owen joined college at Trek University in Waterloo, Wisconsin. Glenn was at Ramay Junior High School in Fayetteville before coming to college, according to Facebook posts from the Bike Technics page.

Students must complete nine courses over two semesters to receive certification. Math and English courses are also required.

On Thursday morning, Owen gave classes on bike drivetrain and bearing systems. Twelve big-screen TVs above their heads displayed the bike parts he was talking about.

The shop is set up with long benches where two masked students work together at a station that includes a bike to work on. Each student has a blue box filled with tools worth $1,000 which was provided by the grant. Those who successfully complete the program are allowed to take the toolkits, Bolinder said.

To keep the curriculum standardized, students cannot bring their own bikes to work, Bolinder said. Community members have previously asked if class members can work on their bikes, but it’s not allowed, she said.

Students who complete the program will receive a technical certificate qualifying them for employment as technicians. Those who participate in the program will start at around $32,000 per year, Bolinder said.

Northwest Arkansas has earned a national reputation as a bike-friendly region.

As an example, People for Bikes, a bicycle advocacy organization, last year named three towns in northwest Arkansas — Rogers, Fayetteville and Bella Vista — among its top 15 cities in the nation for bikers. bicycles.

Ewald Visser, (left to right) Jonathan Wallace and Nathan Jackson assemble a bicycle, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021 at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. The Northwest Arkansas Community College Workforce & Economic Development Division hosted an open house on August 20 for its new Bicycle Technician Lab. In April, the college received a $1,246,864 grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. The funding is being used for the phased rollout of the college’s new bicycle assembly and repair technician program. Check out nwaonline.com/210910Daily/ for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

Cooper Heasley assembles a bicycle, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021 at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville.  The Northwest Arkansas Community College Workforce & Economic Development Division hosted an open house on August 20 for its new Bicycle Technician Lab.  In April, the college received a $1,246,864 grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation.  The funding is being used for the phased rollout of the college's new bicycle assembly and repair technician program.  Check out nwaonline.com/210910Daily/ for today's photo gallery.  (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

Cooper Heasley assembles a bicycle, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021 at Northwest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville. The Northwest Arkansas Community College Workforce & Economic Development Division hosted an open house on August 20 for its new Bicycle Technician Lab. In April, the college received a $1,246,864 grant from the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. The funding is being used for the phased rollout of the college’s new bicycle assembly and repair technician program. Check out nwaonline.com/210910Daily/ for today’s photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

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For more information about Northwest Arkansas Community College’s Bicycle Assembly and Repair Technician program, visit https://www.nwacc.edu/workforce/bicycletechnician/.

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