Regardless of age or background, many people learn by doing, which is a principle that guides Dave Harkless, who teaches Project Bike Tech at Hugh J. Gallen Career & Technical Center in Littleton. “Students get to build bikes, work on bikes, and ride bikes,” he said.

The two-year Career and Technical Education (CTE) program is not just fun, however, as it helps students understand career pathways within the bicycle industry and prepares them for entry-level positions as bicycle technicians or retail associates. “Students learn valuable job skills and more about jobs in the bike world, too,” said Harkless, who also owns Littleton Bike & Fitness.

“There’s a really high demand for bike mechanics right now, and we can’t even keep up with it,” he added. “We know that when our students do finish the program that there will be a place for them in the workforce.” He said students also learn a variety of other skills that translate into the workplace. “They learn teamwork, accountability, that they have to be on time, and how to use tools — these are basic skills that they can take forward,” he said

Aside from providing students with “great hands-on experience,” Project Bike Tech benefits surrounding communities, as the majority of the bikes go to non-profits, schools and other community-based programs. “We sent a dozen to Riding for Focus, which is a program that provides an energy outlet for ADHD and hyperactive students during the day,” explained Harkless. “We’ve also sent 30 to the Boys and Girls Club, 25 to Copper Cannon Camp, and 15 to White Mountains Regional School.”

Upon program completion, students earn two certificates. One certificate is endorsed by CTE, while the other as an entry-level bike mechanic/assembler is endorsed by members of the bicycle industry. “As the student enters the bike industry, employers know the training is standardized and supported by the cycling industry,” said Harkless, who said he has hired some former students. “We weren’t starting at square one with this,” he said. “They already had good skills.”

A full service CTE facility offering a wide variety of foundation classes for students throughout the North Country, Hugh J. Gallen Career & Center is one of 28 CTE centers throughout New Hampshire.