NWACC rolls out bicycle repair program, learning space with $1 million Walton grant

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 2,200 views 

The Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation has awarded NorthWest Arkansas Community College in Bentonville a $1.03 million grant to support a cycling-focused curriculum and learning space.

The funding will go toward the phased roll-out of an accredited bicycle assembly and repair technician program and a cycling and technician education center for future workforce training. NWACC is working with the nonprofit Bicycle Industry Employers Association (BIEA), which launched in 2019.

The college said the roll-out is planned to begin this fall, pending approval by the Arkansas Division of Higher Education. The NWACC program is BIEA’s second accredited technician program. The first launched this past fall at Minneapolis Technical & Community College. The group hopes to have programs in seven U.S. regions by 2024.

“We are grateful to the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation for their generous investment in NWACC’s multi-stage project to first launch a Bicycle Assembly and Repair Technician program and subsequently create and share an epicenter for cycling, technician training, and whole health on NWACC’s campus,” NWACC President Dr. Evelyn E. Jorgenson said in a statement. “This project will serve the NWA region and increase access to and quality of the cycling industry, profession and lifestyle.

“NWACC bicycle technician graduates will be career-ready professionals with the skills needed to meet challenges, think critically and serve customers, as well as have opportunities to further advance into areas of retail, research, manufacturing and engineering. We are excited and thankful to play an important training role in Bentonville, the mountain bike capital of the world.”

The college said program students would learn about bicycle mechanics, wheel repair and assembly, braking, drivetrain, bearing, suspension systems, service department operations and electric bikes.

The second phase of the roll-out will include renovating the college’s physical plant building into the NWACC Cycling and Technician Education Center (C-TEC). It will house the bicycle technician program and offer a learning and lab space for future BIEA-accredited programs and community members. Plans for the center include:

  • Space for changing and hygiene stations for those cycling to campus.
  • A bicycle repair station for those cyclists using the trailhead.
  • A skills course or single track to test out bicycles.

The center will serve as a link between the community and the region’s growing cycling industry.

“This program has the potential to become a training hub for cycling and technician workforce development not just regionally but nationally in a growing industry,” said Steuart Walton, chairman of the Walton Family Charitable Support Foundation. “As more people turn to cycling as a sport, for recreation or exercise, the development of this curriculum is timely and important to the economic advancement of our region.”