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.
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.