Students Graduate From Bicycle Skills Academy at Henry Street Settlement

Photo courtesy: Henry Street Settlement.

Photo courtesy: Henry Street Settlement.

Last week, the first three dozen students from the Bicycle Mechanic Skills Academy received their graduation certificates at the Henry Street Settlement.  The new program is a collaboration between the Lower East Side settlement house and Recycle a Bicycle.

The students were required to complete a 10 week program that included in-classroom training plus internships at local bike shops.  Nine graduates already have jobs.  One participant, longtime East Village resident Steve Chabra told us he learned about the program after reading a story about it last December on The Lo-Down.  After being laid off from a bank job, Chabra was in search of a new career.  As a cycling enthusiast, the bike skills academy sounded appealing, and it lived up to his expectations.  “I got some really good training,” he said. “I got some good experience. There was a lot of good camaraderie. And I got a job.” Two weeks ago, Chabra began working as a salesman at Bicycle Habitat on Lafayette Street.

Henry Street's David Garza speaks with graduates and trainers.

Henry Street’s David Garza speaks with graduates and trainers.

David Garza, Henry Street Settlement’s executive director, said the program was created as a direct response to an obvious demand in the marketplace. “Our relationship with recycle a bicycle and industry research indicated really strongly that ridership was increasing and would continue to increase,” he explained. 

It was a diverse group making up the first class. Karen Overton, Recycle a Bicycle’s executive director, made it a big priority to recruit women; they made up 25% of last week’s graduates.

The program was coordinated through Henry Street’s Workforce Development Center with support from the Lower East Side Employment Network, a consortium of neighborhood job placement and training organizations.  the partners will be evaluating the results of the pilot project with an eye toward opening enrollment for a second year next winter.  Garza said Henry Street is looking at creating a similar training program for hotel industry positions.

The Bike Skills Academy received funding from the Robin Hood Foundation, the Heckscher Foundation for Children and the Consortium for Worker Education.