Can you charge more in the workshop if you display a certificate? That was the trending topic on the BikeBiz forum just prior to the Christmas break and, as is often the case, the trade is divided down the middle.

RETAIL COMMENT: Training in the workshop

What’s worth more – years of hard-fought experience dealing hands-on with worn out bicycles, or the certificate earned over a matter of weeks that presumably gives any customer the confidence in your ability to deal with any problem they may bring?

In my mind, the simple answer would be possessing both experience and paper evidence of a certain level of skill. Problem is, with the meagre average salary of a workshop mechanic, typically workshops are staffed by 16 to 25-year-olds, the majority of whom can’t claim to have ‘experience’.

Government funding is available to see most mechanics through the Cytech courses, so there’s really no reason not to get the certificate. From a mechanic’s point of view, however, despite the certificate, the top-end industry wage still appears to be around the £20,000 mark, so it’s hardly surprising the industry has few truly worn-in hands on deck.

No matter what trade you work within, having a certificate on the wall instils at least some confidence in customers – something that any bike shop should strive to achieve. Since when was investment in the business (not to mention investment in your people) a bad thing?

Of course, I can see many of the trade’s seasoned hands’ perspectives –“what difference does a bit of paper make; I’ve been doing this for years,” many say.

Sadly, in this day and age, without some form of accreditation, proof of your ability is more essential than ever if your store is to stand its ground on charging ‘real money’ for workshop labour. How are you going to justify £70 for a bike build if the customer can’t see what makes you more qualified to do the job than – wait for it – “my Grandad who is an engineer”?

As we all know, the workshop is becoming more essential than ever, particularly to the independent that needs to focus on margin to pay the wages.

Stores that have been brave enough to raise workshop pricing will no doubt be the first to lead the way on gradually making a mechanic’s salary more attractive.

As an trade which claims to have a shortage of mechanics, making workshop roles as attractive as possible will be paramount to the trade’s progression over the coming years. It’s been some time since I last saw a dormant workshop on a store visit – so why not make yours the best in town?

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