For Shimano, the Shimano Technology Education and Certification course, or S-TEC as the program is more widely known, the name means a lot. In a recent survey, conducted on the Association of Professional Bicycle Mechanics Facebook group, Shimano’s online training ranked 1st among all certification programs currently available to shops and professional mechanics.
What is S-TEC? Simply put, S-TEC is Shimano’s training and continuing education program for the professional cycling industry. Shimano views S-TEC as a community, ranging from industry newcomers to tried and true veterans.
Dave Arnauckas (Shimano’s North American Retail Education Manager) says S-TEC
was started in a simple, basic format in 2009 as what was then a training program for
their Di2 technology, though the real driving force was to have this type of elearning in position for the upcoming Dyna-Sys and future technologies.
Currently, the S-TEC program has 15,000 active members (including myself) from over 4,200 different storefronts, and that is just North America (S-TEC is also available in more than 7 other regions).
Wondering about completion rate and how many modules have been taken? Try just over one million modules delivered. In June of 2015 the one millionth module was completed and Arnauckas says there is a module completed every single minute, meaning over 1440 completions per day! To date Shimano has issued 20,000 Certificates of Completion. In 2014 they also launched multi-day live workshops at their Irvine, CA headquarters.
Within both S-TEC and some shops, you have little competitions to complete the training modules and earn your plaques trying to beat your coworkers or other S-TEC community members. The format for the modules is simple. Watch a brief video and take a short 3 to 11 question multiple-choice exam. Pass with 80% or more and you’ve completed that module.
Just to keep it interesting, every now and then a free gift shows up like a pair of socks or a flash sale on Shimano fishing equipment (not cheap… and the pricing during these sales is great!).
Shimano isn’t the only company using this sort of online training to educate the masses in a convenient way. Trek, Saris, Thule, Pearl Izumi, Yakima and others have all begun to see the value in having free, accessible and rewarding education available to store staff all around the world. There are also milestones within the S-TEC program. Silver, Gold, Platinum (and a rumor of Diamond)… they really just mean you’ve taken the time to complete more modules. Shimano awards completion plaques (so far they’ve produced 7 of these metal certificates as well as on demand printable diplomas) and mechanics in shops proudly display them over their workbenches to show they understand for example Di2 works, how to adjust, install and diagnose the myriad problems that can come with new technology.
Certification and training are an important part of our industry’s future. Bicycle technology is becoming more advanced on a daily basis. Long gone are the days of friction shifting where making adjustments to a shifting system was as easy as working on a ‘68 Beetle. Now we are dealing with computers to program shifting systems and diagnose system failures and so bicycle mechanics must be professionals possessing a variety of skills, old and new, in order to meet the demands of todays advanced cycling marketplace
I encourage you as a professional mechanic to seek out these training opportunities. I encourage you, as savvy consumers, to seek out only the best mechanics who hold these types of certifications.
Will certification mean they are the best or the expert? Perhaps not. But what certification does mean is that the mechanic that you are dealing with is continually making the effort to become better already possess the knowledge base that a modern consumer would expect from any other service environment. Education and devotion to the craft is an excellent measure of the degree of professionalism possessed by any technical and should always be a primary factor when making your choice of service provider.
Written by James Stanfill
James Stanfill is President of the Professional Bicycle Mechanics, and a working professional mechanic in Austin, TX.
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