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Thursday, July 4, 2013

Why Bicycle Mechanics are not licensed and so underpaid...

For a combination of complicated legal and political reasons bicycle mechanics don't have licenses, certificates are basically just bogus, and bicycle mechanics are ridiculously underpaid.

It comes down to this...

You can make more money PER HOUR if you operate your own backyard or garage bike repair shop. Or better yet, open a bicycle repair shop and you are the OWNER. The reason is because if you work for someone else's bicycle repair shop then you will be making minimum wage - or barely above minimum wage.

As a career therefore I actually discourage people from becoming a bicycle mechanic unless they are ABSOLUTELY SERIOUS about it. Otherwise it will just be a lark or a hobby for them.

There are a variety of schools where a person can go become a bicycle mechanic (the one I recommend is the Quadra Island Bicycle Mechanic School), but when it comes to getting a job all the bike shops want is experience. They don't care if you have a certificate, an apprenticeship or whatever. They just want people with lots of experience that they don't need to train.

And even if you do have lots of experience, many shops won't look at you because they might think you are "too young" to be that experienced as it says on your resume.

Or they might just not like you for whatever reason. They might even have a store policy against hiring new mechanics because the mechanics they've hired in the past so often turn out to be duds.

I also want to note that once people get into the business, and get experience, many bicycle mechanics will often jump ship from store to store in an effort to get better pay, better hours, more likeable co-workers, nicer boss, etc. They might even leave the bicycle mechanic field entirely to become a bicycle courier or get - egad - an office job or something in construction / manufacturing.

Lets take Ontario as an example. Ontario has a Bicycle Mechanic Apprenticeship Program ... and it is basically a legal and political failure that looks good on paper but hasn't resulted in any actual "apprenticeships" of bicycle mechanics.

Between March 2013 and April 2013 the Ontario Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities made a Training Agreement with 113 Bicycle Mechanic Apprentices in Ontario and provided a 30 page Schedule of Training. However, now the apprenticeship is under pressure. The program is going to be de-listed because of those 113 proposed apprenticeships how many have led to people actually becoming an apprentice?


A lot of work went into the creation of this program. A lot of bureaucracy. But so much bureaucracy happened and no actual ball (wheel?) was rolled into place to get the apprentices into place.

Basically they made a program, signed it, and then just let it sit there on paper. That is all it is. A worthless document.

Why? Because they failed to amend a second document and then funnel money and effort into the program. The initiative was made on one piece of paper, but the second was never amended and carried out.

Here's the details...

The trade of Bicycle Mechanic was designated as a new apprenticeship program under the Apprenticeship and Certification Act, 1998 (ACA) back in 2012. However, the trade is yet to be prescribed / named under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009. Basically the 2009 document needs to be amended before the 2012 document can be put into practice.

When the 2009 Act came into effect on April 8th, 2013, the previous apprenticeship legislation and regulations governing apprenticeship programs, including the ACA, were revoked because the 2009 document was never amended to include the ACA document changes.

Before the Ministry can name the trade of "bicycle mechanic" in a regulation under the Act, a 45-day consultation period with industry and training stakeholders will be required to confirm support for Bicycle Mechanic to be named as a trade under the Act - however if members of the bicycle mechanic trade don't speak up and voice their concern within 45 days, nothing will happen, the 2012 document will be throw into the proverbial garbage.

Bureaucratic jibber jabber.

And even if support is confirmed the following events will also need to occur:

The trade will need to be named in Ontario Regulation 175/11 (Prescribed Trades and Related Matters), which means that regulation also needs to be amended;

The College will need to develop the scopes of practice in regulation (O. Reg. 278/11 – Scope of Practice - Trades in the Service Sector), which means that regulation also needs to be amended;

And lastly...

The College of Trades Board of Governors will need to establish a panel review to determine compulsory or voluntary designation. Which if they don't bother or don't feel like it, it will never happen.

As of April 8, 2013 and until all these events occur, no new apprenticeship training agreements can be registered for the trade of Bicycle Mechanic.

Active training agreements (of which there are zero) with existing apprentices will continue to be honoured. Which is funny because there isn't any. They (a sum of zero) will continue to be registered apprentices with the Ministry until such time as the trade is designated or not. Please note these apprentices (all zero of them) cannot be members of the Ontario College of Trades until the trade is named under the Act.

Which is probably never going to happen.

The start of the 45 day consultation period hasn't started yet. So the program hasn't been cancelled yet per se... but it does appear to be on hold indefinitely and is potentially going to be scrapped, mostly because the bureaucracy has grinded to a stop.

In theory people could contact the Ministry of Training and encourage them to continue with the program, but without a decent amount of public support the program will likely be scrapped because of the government's present cost cutting mood.

A decision on whether the program will live or die should come about in September. Unless it falls to the side thanks to bureaucratic incompetence.

Apprentices (all zero of them) who wish to cancel their registered training agreement may request a full refund of the $40 registration fee by contacting their local apprenticeship office. A complete list of apprenticeship offices is available on the ministry web site at


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Looking for a bicycle mechanic school in Canada? The Quadra Island Bike School in British Columbia is a Canadian bicycle mechanic school that trains professional bicycle mechanics against the backdrop of the beautiful Quadra Island.

About the Author

Charles Moffat is equal parts bicycle mechanic, cyclist, painter, sculptor, fantasy writer, poet, website designer and pun maker. For more details see



Do you own a bike shop and are looking to hire a bicycle mechanic in North America? Just email me with the job posting details and I will post it for you. (Also, please let me know when the job has been filled so I can update the posting.)


If your bicycle is basically junk and you don't know what to do with it then SELL IT TO ME. I will use it for parts. I will give you a fair price ($20 to $30) for your old clunker just so I can rip it apart for parts.

If you need repairs check out my Bicycle Mechanic Services in Banbury-Don Mills.