Stay in School, Kids

Steve Lita American Iron Magazine Editor

Steve Lita, American Iron Magazine Editor

RIDE TO WORK by Steve Lita, Editor

…this program will help make sure the motorcycling infrastructure is sound

I recently had the pleasure of working alongside ace Victory and Indian parts builder and tuner Lloyd Greer of Lloyd’z Motorworkz in Pine Bush, New York. So that should be your first clue about an upcoming Tech/Install story. During the slow times of the build, when there weren’t many photo ops, there was plenty of time for casual conversation. I could tell you about Lloyd’s preference for drinking copious amounts of coffee (I knew we’d get along right away), a short history of his company, and some of his favorite hobbies. But instead I’d like to share news of something that’s a bigger deal, and it’s starting in Lloyd’s backyard.

Polaris has formed partnerships with technical colleges for many years to help grow the pool of well trained mechanics necessary at dealerships. However, starting soon, Polaris will be putting more emphasis on reaching high school students. The new Powersports Partnership Program with Pine Bush High School will provide high school students with the same technical training material used to train dealer service technicians to work on a variety of powersports products. Polaris will also provide motorcycles for the students to work on in the classroom for hands-on experience. At this time, Pine Bush High School is using the training material and working with Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) to create an actual accredited curriculum for its high school students and evening continuing education program. Roughly 25 students were interested in the summer term, with more expected this fall when enrollment begins. Part of the learning experience will include internships at shops like Lloyd’s. Now just imagine being a high school kid and getting to work on a blown V-twin bagger!

When Lloyd told me that this initiative is aimed at the high school level, my interest spiked. This program could serve to accomplish several other underlying goals. I immediately saw this as a way to get more people interested in motorcycling. Instead of just getting young people onto two wheels and having a shortage of qualified mechanics, this program will help make sure the motorcycling infrastructure is sound.

The payoff for Polaris is threefold: Generally, this engages younger people in motorcycles, which will be great for the industry as a whole. Also, it develops a career path for young people who love powersports and want to make a living doing something they enjoy, no matter what brand they have a passion for. And, finally, on a more brand-specific note, this creates an early learning program that will provide highly qualified Polaris technicians for dealerships.

High school represents the formative years of students’ lives as they begin to consider career paths. As you can imagine, high school counselors are not pushing student towards motorcycling (I know mine didn’t). In reality, motorcycle mechanics are in high demand, and it’s a really enjoyable way to make a living. Right now, there are 19 colleges in the Powersports Partnership Program and four high schools, a total of 23 schools and 225 students. I sure do wish there had been a program like this when I was in school.

Speaking of strengthening things at the dealer level, just this morning I received an e-mail outlining some of Harley-Davidson’s long-term goals. Be sure to check out Quoted & Noted in this issue. Building the dealer network played into the equation, with Harley addressing the retailer. It wants to evolve the Harley-Davidson website to enhance the dealership retail experience for existing and new customers, as well as develop new retail formats, such as smaller, urban storefronts to expose the brand to urban populations and drive sales of Harley-Davidson products.

So, while some may only see the only see the negatives of today’s motorcycling, I prefer to look at the brighter side. Give the people what they want; just check out some of the new models shown in this issue. Meet the people where they congregate. Finally, give the people qualified techs to fix things when they inevitably go wrong. Because you know they will.