In Causeway’s main hall, filled with cheerful banjo music and supportive guests, twelve young people held wrenches festooned with purple ribbons. Graduates of Right Bike’s Ottawa Bicycle Academy, the wrench holders were celebrating the end of four months of training and work experience.
One young man, Nick, tried to explain what the course has meant to him. Throughout past struggles to find work, Nick has had a lifelong passion for cycling that made this course a good fit. The experience, he said, boosted his confidence and put his career on track: “Before, I tended to put all my eggs in one basket; now I feel like I have a real Easter egg in the right basket.”
This is the second year that Right Bike has offered the Bicycle Mechanics and Assembly Foundation Course in partnership with the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure. “It’s a challenging program,” explained Samuel Benoit, Operational Manager for Right Bike. “The trainees immersed themselves in the fifteen-week course, in order to learn what would normally take years to experience in the industry.”
To hone the students’ skills and demonstrate their abilities to prospective employers, the course concluded with three-week placements at local bike shops Bushtukah, Kunstadt Sports, MEC, Euro Sport, Fresh Air Experience, Full Cycle and Cycle Salvation. Most students were hired on as permanent employees.
Getting these youth job-ready and getting them in the door is the aim of the course, but it wouldn’t work without the motivation of the students. As Mr. Benoit said, “Most of the trainees have significant barriers to contend with, but each of them has made it this far because of their passion and determination.”
Support for Right Bike’s Ottawa Bike Academy has come in many forms. Guest speakers from Pedal Easy Electric Bikes, Kunstadt Sports, Bushtukah, Tall Tree Cycles and 2 Wheels Ahead Courier provided insight into the sports retail industry. The course placed equal emphasis on workplace soft skills, enriched by workshops from EBO Financial Education, the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity, the Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women, Wellington West BIA, Ottawa Public Health and Right Bike’s parent agency Causeway Work Centre.
“Even Bread By Us and our neighborhood Bridgehead donated loaves and coffee to keep the students fueled,” explains Watson, an instructor for the Ottawa Bicycle Academy. “It wouldn’t have been the same without the contributions we received from the community.”