Here’s some great news for the entire South African cycling fraternity: Come January 2018, the Torq Zone Academy, based in Centurion, will be accepting students for the new Occupational Certificate: Bicycle Mechanic, NQF Level 4 qualification – a move that finally brings much-needed formal training, not to mention quantifiable standards, to this fast-growing profession.

When the idea of South Africa’s first Bicycle Technical Training Academy was initially conceptualised back in 2013, there was one massive hurdle to overcome – a national qualification for bicycle mechanics with the SA Qualifications Authority (SAQA) was nowhere to be found. In short, the occupation of bicycle mechanic simply didn’t exist. The end result: Pockets of excellence in some areas, and grumbling cyclists unhappy with the service they receive in others. This new qualification aims to change all that by providing structured training and injecting quantifiable standards into what has now become a recognised profession.

The Occupational Certificate: Bicycle Mechanic, NQF Level 4 makes South Africa one of only a few countries in the world to offer a formal training standard in this field. Torq Zone, an industry leader in bicycle repairs and maintenance, in conjunction with other key industry role players, initiated the development of this national qualification 3 years ago.

Structured much like old-style apprenticeship programs; it includes three phases (or modules) that each require classroom training, practical work in the field and an “External Integral Summative Assessment” or Trade Test. Depending on their circumstances, students can either do one phase per year, or complete the lot in one go – taking anything between six months to a year, depending on their ability. But whichever way they do it, once qualified, they’ll then have a certificate that’s considered equal to Matric.

“Cycling has become the fastest growing sport in the country and has over the past few years created growth opportunities for the economy. However, trained and qualified bicycle mechanics are in short supply due to ever increasing demands for the professional repair and maintenance of bicycles, ” says Graeme Stickells, managing director of the Torq Zone Academy. “This much needed qualification benefits the industry in that it not only formalises the profession, but establishes much needed standards, improves safety, and recognises formal training. It also assesses the skill of bicycle mechanics, and provides much needed professional recognition.”

Come January 2018 (the cogs of officialdom turn slow) the Academy will offer the new National Qualification in conjunction with its already established UK based (and internationally recognised) Cytech training scheme – ensuring dual certification for successful learners. In addition to the UK, the Cytech programme is also offered in Australia and Canada, providing successful graduates access to some exciting work opportunities overseas.

The Torq Zone Academy has been offering a range of training solutions since November 2014; from home mechanic courses for cycling enthusiasts, to internationally certified courses for prospective bicycle mechanics. Currently, about 70 learners complete the Academy’s entire training program each year.

Considering that Stickells estimates there’s anything between 2 500 and 3 500 practising bicycle mechanics in the country (the industry’s so informal it’s hard to nail down) – you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise there’s a very big empty bucket here that needs to be filled. Making this new qualification a serious option for young riders interested in pursuing professional cycling careers.

Stickells adds: “With today’s high unemployment rate, this new qualification offers businesses an ideal CSI opportunity to create training and job opportunities for previously disadvantaged individuals.” – (c) 2017 NavWorld

About The Author

Sean Woods

Originally a photographer for the Star newspaper in the bad old days, Sean Woods turned to writing after the first democratic elections in '94. The career shift paid serious dividends, culminating in him becoming associate editor for Popular Mechanics magazine with a number of technology writing awards under his belt. His interests include anything to do with boats, motorcycles and all those fancy tech gadgets that help the modern world go around.

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