Going to school at Harley-Davidson

August 04, 2017

NORTH HAMPTON — Sen. Jeanne Shaheen took a tour of Seacoast Harley-Davidson in North Hampton Friday, the location for a new motorcycle training certificate program offered by Great Bay Community College.

“New Hampshire has the second highest percentage of motorcycle riders. This is an important industry for the state so to hear about this program, it’s really exciting,” said Shaheen, who is a member of the bipartisan Senate Motorcycle Caucus.

Shaheen met with Will Arvelo, president of Great Bay Community College, and Al Contois, owner of Seacoast Harley-Davidson, to talk about their new business-education partnership.

This fall, Great Bay Community College has about 10 students enrolled in its new certificate program in motorcycle maintenance and repair technology. Classes for the 24-week program will be held at the dealership on Route 1, where master technicians from Seacoast Harley-Davidson will teach students the trade in a newly built lab on site.

Contois said the idea behind the partnership was prompted by his company’s needs for more entry-level technicians. Most of the schools that specialize in certifications for motorcycle technicians, he said, are outside of New England and not affordable.

“I have been struggling,” said Contois, who owns two other dealerships, including one in Rochester. “One of our big needs is that we need technicians.”

Contois said he met Arvelo, who has a background as a motorcycle technician and is a motorcycle enthusiast, through a friend. “We started talking about the need for technicians in the area and here we are,” he said.

Arvelo said prior to Great Bay Community College offering this program, if you wanted to get motorcycle technician training you would have to go to Florida or Arizona.

“There are very few of these types of programs in the country,” Arvelo said. “We felt it was an important program to start to serve the needs in New Hampshire and hopefully down the road more regionally.”

Arvelo said the training program typically costs $40,000 per year but GBCC is offering it for $11,000. The program has been approved for financial aid.

“The instructors will be the technicians at the dealership,” he said. “We structured this like they are coming to work for a year.”

Contois said by hosting the entire program at the dealership, students will get hands-on experience working in a high-tech maintenance facility.

Seacoast Harley-Davidson worked closely with GBCC over two years to develop curriculum, student supply lists and insight into the skills valued most by employers. Topics covered in the courses include pre-delivery inspection, tires, wheel bearings, brakes, scheduled service, oil change, moving motorcycles, road tests, model theories, and understanding and managing shop workflow.

According to the college, the average annual compensation for an entry-level technician is $42,000, and top compensation is as high as $60,000 for highly experienced technicians with additional certification.

“I could use three or four entry-level technicians today,” said Contois.

Shaheen said one of the reasons why she wanted to hear more about the program is because of her commitment to workforce development.

“Every place I have been in New Hampshire, one of the biggest concerns I hear from businesses is, ‘We can’t get workers,’” Shaheen said. “With our low unemployment rate and the challenges we were talking about earlier about having to get people into the trades and technical jobs — where there is a huge shortage, not just here but in the country — this is the kind of initiative that is really important.”

Arvelo said this is a perfect example of how higher education can work with businesses to develop programs and curriculum to meet the needs of industry.

“We really strive to have conversations with industry, try to understand their needs and try to develop specific curriculum whether it’s in health care, manufacturing or something like this for recreational vehicles,” he said. “We want to create opportunities that lead to really good jobs, well-paying jobs.”

By:  Patrick Cronin
Source: Portsmouth Herald