Get a job

Phil Cypret and Ed Gallup

Photo by Larry Dalton

Need a job to pay your way through college but want to avoid spending the four years flipping burgers and slinging lattes? Area motorcycle dealerships are hurting for qualified mechanics, and Sacramento City College can train you in nine months. Cheap, too.

Not nearly macho enough to be a bike mechanic, you say? Drop that old-school notion; 21st-century techs come in all shapes, sizes and genders. We asked SCC dean of advanced transportation technology, Phil Cypret, and instructor Ed Gallup about the college’s new, first-of-its-kind Motorcycle Maintenance Technology program. For more information call Gallup at 558-2479 or swing by the campus and pick up a catalog at the student bookstore.

How did you guys get the idea for these classes?

[Phil Cypret] We happened to be talking to some dealers. We found out there was a real shortage of motorcycle mechanics. The problem is that the only school is an out-of-state commercial school, in Arizona, that charges up to $22,000 to get into their program, and most people can’t afford it. We started putting the word out to find out if any students would be interested in taking a course. We found out there was phenomenal interest.

Really, no schools around offer this kind of training?

[Ed Gallup] Another nearby college has a motorcycle program, but it’s basically an oil change seminar every Sunday. That’s a good thing; it’s fun and it’s good to have in the community. But we want to go beyond that. We want to get people certified, so they will be first hired by the dealers.

There’s tremendous interest from the motorcycle industry. Rocklin Harley and Folsom Harley, if I can plug them, and PCP Yamaha have all opened up their mailing lists to us and have given us a lot of support. Some of the manufacturers have volunteered to donate equipment. They want us to be able to teach the latest and greatest technology. The sophistication of the bikes coming out of the factories now is amazing. They are extremely fuel-efficient and clean. Honda is coming out with bikes now that meet ultra-low emission air standards. And the industry needs technicians who have a good understanding of the modern fuel-injection system. We will be the only motorcycle program in the state of California that is turning out qualified motorcycle technicians.

And cheaply?

[Phil] We’re training them, giving them that high quality technical training at an incredibly low price. Tuition here is $11 a unit. This program is 33 units so about $400. Contrast that to going out of state to a commercial school for about $22,000.

[Ed] Right. Motorcycle technicians start at about $14 an hour. Our students will walk away from school not owing anything, whereas the people coming out of proprietary schools will owe as much a $3 an hour off their pay for four years.

There’s more to it than just teaching motorcycle maintenance, isn’t there?

[Phil] A lot of people want their kids to immediately go to a four-year school. But if they come to a community college it is much easier to get into a school like UC Davis from here than it is out of high school.

Also, if they take a course like this for nine months, they could have a really good job while they’re getting their four-year degree, or master’s, instead of having to ask, “Do you want fries with that?” If you’re going to work your way through school, working 20 hours a week, you could make three times the money.

And it gets people into college who wouldn’t otherwise go?

[Ed] I have my ways of encouraging my students to get their associate degrees and thinking about transferring. I have high-school students who come in here that blossom when I take them over and walk them through registration. I love to see that. That’s really why I teach.

So, you’re expanding the program?

[Ed] Yes. We haven’t done any real advertising at all yet. We decided to start it as an evening program, because most of the people we were talking to worked. But we also want to go to a day program as well.

What are the students like?

[Ed] We have several father/son teams. We go out of our way to make sure those families can be there. We have a mother/son team right now. She really seems to be enjoying it.

[Phil] One of the things we’ve done well is to attract women and other diverse groups. Many times women are uneasy about going into a field, where they potentially could make much better money than what they are doing presently, but where they are intimidated because it appears to be all males. We managed to bring women and once they get here they tend to do better than the guys.

[Ed] We make sure that women have a safe place, one that is comfortable so they are not overwhelmed by a bunch of guys.

How do you do that?

We have a number of women in the class, and a number of young people.

I have the authority to dis-invite anybody who feels it’s OK to use language that isn’t appropriate. We don’t have the kinds of posters and magazines that might offend somebody. Profanity isn’t allowed. I haven’t had any problems. I think once you set the tone, there aren’t going to be any problems.