My story though, starts with a failed attempt at Sixth Form studying Maths, Biology, Physics and Spanish up north, I’d like to say I’m smart or maybe just optimistic (It was in Wakefield, Osset, if your curiosity hits you). I lasted about a month and found myself travelling back home to London. It was October and I felt hopeless as I had no goals or aims in life. I’m sure many of you have felt or feel like this. Its not a happy place to be in. Luckily though, my step dad happens to work with a lot of people who quite often find themselves in that ‘not so happy place to be in’. He had suggested that I get on the government apprenticeship website and apply for places. At this point hopelessness isn’t too far from desperation so I updated my CV and filled every post I could see.
“Micycle Islington – Cycle Technician – Level 2 NVQ Diploma Apprenticeship – £400 pcm”
Looks appealing right? Maybe not, but for me it shouted a few things, firstly there was the fact that I could finally learn how to fix a bicycle puncture, secondly I needed a skill that I could devote my time to and lastly. Lastly your time or my time shouldn’t be wasted on considering the “why not’s”, I needed this so I tried my hardest to make my CV look good for their perspective and used all of the skills I could muster to create a half decent looking covering letter.
To my surprise, I had received a phone call a few days later for an interview with them.
I was 45 minutes early sat in Highbury Corner’s McDonalds sipping a latte, reading ‘The Guardian’ in a suit that gave surrounding folk the impression that I was attending a belated aunt’s funeral which was lent to me by my step dad who happens to be at least one size bigger than me. After all that, I was still a teenage Sanchez so I didn’t drink coffee and I didn’t read. I still think to this day that all of this would have been a good film plot as I honestly tried my hardest in both dramatical style and dedication.
The interview was more about firm handshakes then looking at my CV in detail. They had several questions, mainly with the infamous, “why do you want this role”. My response was based on “I want to learn how to fix bicycles, I want to problem solve”. As simple and direct my response may have been, all the employer wants to know is if you have a passion that can be applied to that particular job. Be it liking to cycle to be a mechanic or being an intermediate PC gamer to be an IT support technician.
Trial day was postponed to another day due to attire – obviously.
What could you learn from this? Well, that there are dry cleaners that would actually lend you a suit for an interview for free, how nice is that? Or you could borrow your dad’s. Proving the point that there is no excuse to be going to interviews in a track suit and trainers, your attire is what the employer see’s first and they are the ones who decide when they see you last.
So after an exciting phone call with them wanting to employ me, I was soon to venture on to my very first job and apprenticeship. Knowing little about bicycles in general and with no experience when it came to working in retail this was certainly (in my opinion) the greatest opportunity for a 16 year old living in London.
Fast forwarding through flashbacks of working at Micycle, I remember sliding my way out of many tricky customers, breaking a few things and probably, at some point costing the shop some money. I think the best bit about working in a new place is the way you meet new people. I was introduced to Charlie France (Owner of The Red Bike Shop, now Kin) who took me under his wing teaching me almost everything that he knew. I worked alongside several other amazing mechanics, one of whom still gets to me today as he would play Tibetan Monk throat singing in the workshop, can’t say you don’t like it until you’ve heard it.
However, my greatest memories have mostly all derived from there; I was a mere skill-less teenager, who after one year of making mistakes became a ‘Professional’ and ‘Qualified’ Cycle technician. Brian, a dear old friend of mine, (ex-manager, now part owner of another one of their stores) once told me, “You are better to make mistakes and learn from them, then to be someone who is too afraid to make mistakes and therefore too afraid to learn”.
They kept me on full-time for another year. I began to slip stream their system with a co-worker (Brun a.k.a Swayzak, DJ, Scotsman), we had bikes come in the morning booked in for a Silver Service (Brakes + Gears + Frame + TLC = Almost a new bike without taking the parts off) and then have them collected that same afternoon, I was doing about five to six bikes a day. For a small a shop we once made £30,000 in a month, the owner and my sponsor “Big Matt” (Matthew Hilton, tall bloke with the firmest of handshakes but softest of hearts) invited us for dinner to celebrate. This is what a family run business looked like, smiles all round because we were all enjoying the payoff from our hard work.
As fun as it was, all great things must come to an end as my employment at Micycle was finishing. I was given some fatherly advice from Big Matt who told me that I should go back to college to continue studying as I was out growing the shop and had to move on.
So how could someone like you learn from this? An apprenticeship doesn’t have to be office based or adhere to standards set by the current standings of social media or bench marks combined with expectations from your family. Apprenticeships can be as basic as fixing a bicycle or laying cement. The main thing is that you are doing something productive with your time and looking at developing yourself with experience and skills.
You can read what I’m doing now by having a look at my website, it’s mainly all cycling based but will also feature my recently finished apprenticeship which involved me entering the IT department of a global fund administration firm.