QBP Scholarships Aim to Diversify the Bike Industry
By: Kiran Herbert, PeopleForBikes' local programs writer and content manager
Applications are currently open for four separate bicycle mechanic educational opportunities, all geared towards increasing gender and racial diversity in the bike industry.
It’s no secret that the outdoor industry and bicycling, in particular, have a diversity problem. It’s a complex, ongoing issue with no simple solution, but multiple companies are stepping up with tangible efforts to facilitate change. Among them is Quality Bicycle Products (QBP), the bike industry’s largest distributor of bicycle parts and accessories.
A certified B Corp, the Minnesota-based company sees itself as the thread that weaves together the industry at large. As part of its commitment to making bicycling more accessible and inclusive, the company offers a variety of industry scholarships for folks from disinvested communities to sharpen their skills through education and build careers in bicycling. Applications are currently open for four separate bicycle mechanic scholarships — the deadline to apply is April 8, 2022.
Almost a decade ago, QBP launched its first bike mechanic scholarships for women in partnership with the United Bicycle Institute. In 2019, QBP formalized its U of Q education department with the hiring of Aaron Stehly, who was tasked with looking at what the organization was doing well and where it could do better. He saw an opportunity to expand the scholarship programs to include gender diversity of all types, as well as reach BIPOC by creating a new racial diversity cohort. This year marks the first time QBP is offering the latter.
“It is our goal to help our industry partners recruit from a really highly qualified group of individuals and to directly diversify the employment pool,” said Stehly, QBP’s director of education. “We seek to introduce career and networking opportunities to each student — there are lots of great careers in this industry that many might not be aware of.”
In line with that goal, QBP is investing in developing programs and opportunities that focus on building community between industry employers and scholarship recipients post-graduation. “It goes beyond just the training,” said Stehly. “We're looking bigger and wanting to put our actions and values where our words are through measurable engagement with these students after graduation.”
Donations from the Greater Bentonville Chamber of Commerce have also allowed for two new DEI Bike Mechanic Scholarship cohorts, open to any individuals that call Northwest Arkansas (NWA) home. Although any current resident that identifies as a woman, LGBTQ or BIPOC is encouraged to apply, the application specifically calls out Hispanic and Marshallese folks, who make up large ethnic minorities in the region. The NWA cohorts are divided into “Advanced,” for those currently employed in the bike industry with some mechanic experience, and “Beginner,” for those without industry employment and formal bike mechanic experience.
The following four QBP Bike Industry Scholarship Programs are currently accepting applications:
Professional Bike Mechanic Scholarship — Racial Diversity Cohort
Sixteen scholarships will be awarded to BIPOC (Black, indigenous, people of color) individuals who are currently employed at a bicycle retailer, nonprofit shop or who have graduated from a community bicycle internship program and want to advance their careers with in-depth, hands-on bike mechanic training.
This U of Q Institute Professional Bike Service course will take place in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from July 18-29, 2022. Learn more and apply.
Professional Bike Mechanic Scholarship — Gender Diversity Cohort
Sixteen scholarships are available for women, transgender, non-binary, gender non-conforming, two-spirit and agender individuals who are currently employed at a bicycle retailer or nonprofit shop and want to advance their careers with in-depth, hands-on bike mechanic training.
This United Bicycle Institute (UBI) Professional Repair and Shop Operation course will take place in Ashland, Oregon, from August 15-26, 2022. Learn more and apply.
Arkansas DEI Bike Mechanic Scholarship — Beginner
Eight residents of Northwest Arkansas who identify as women, LGBTQ or are BIPOC, Hispanic or Marshallese will be awarded this scholarship, which requires no prior bike industry experience and is designed for those looking for entry-level training.
This U of Q Institute Bicycle Assembly and Maintenance course will take place in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from August 15-19, 2022. Learn more and apply.
Arkansas DEI Bike Mechanic Scholarship — Advanced
Eight residents of Northwest Arkansas who identify as women, LGBTQ or are BIPOC, Hispanic or Marshallese will be awarded this scholarship, which is designed for those who want to advance their career as a bike mechanic by learning how to confidently execute complex repairs and maintenance.
This U of Q Institute Professional Bicycle Service course will take place in Colorado Springs, Colorado, from August 15-26, 2022. Learn more and apply.
Every scholarship includes the full cost of tuition and lodging during the respective course dates. Travel and the logistics of getting to the school are the responsibility of each student, although a small travel stipend will be given to help with food and other living expenses. Bike share employees or aspiring bike share employees also qualify for these scholarships. For those interested in applying, Stehly encourages taking the time to showcase a dedication to one's community and the ways they’re helping to amplify bicycling in disinvested communities. While not required, references are encouraged.
“These scholarships are an effort to reach beyond our four walls and grow the bike industry,” said Stehly. “If you’re interested and think that you qualify, then apply by April 8.”