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Calgary organization teaches young adults important job skills by fixing bikes

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The GAP employability program is for young adults 18 to 24 years old and develops their confidence and life skills through bike education classes and trips.

It's hosted by Two Wheel View.

Laura Istead, the program’s executive director, says GAP focuses participants by having them work 90 hours in its bike shop along with 60 hours of practicum training with a local business.

The hope is it creates opportunities for young people to learn about leadership, health and wellness, self-esteem, achievement and environmental stewardship.

"They're actually paid to participate in this program," Istead said.

"It's a paid training program and so for a lot of them, it's their first paid position and we wanted to make sure they had some financial literacy skills to go along with that."

Istead says the current class of eight were referred by other Calgary agencies, such as the Alex and Discovering Choices at the Calgary Board of Education.

GAP is funded through the City of Calgary and donations from the Catherine Donnelly Foundation and the Hunter Family Foundation.

"The goal is not necessarily that they're employed in a bike shop," Istead said.

"We do have a number of graduates that are employed in bike shops across the city, but just that they feel more comfortable and prepared to go out into that next step in the world and if we can use our network to help support that next step, we will."

The students are equipped with a variety of skills from budgeting to communicating with others in the eight-week program.

"We just want to be able to provide them with hope and encouragement and excitement and possibility," Istead said.

"And show them that there might be other things that they've maybe not considered about themselves that they might be able to do as a result of this program."

Paul Cook, one of the facilitators of GAP, says when a new batch of students arrive, they're quite shy and for many, this is their first job opportunity.

But that changes as they progress through each session.

"Just seeing them sort of come out of their shell and sort of embrace and kind of become integrated into the group," he said.

"And breaking down those social barriers as well and those ah-ha moments, that's just incredible to see, especially when it comes to things like employment."

Winston Severite, 19, says he's learned a lot about bikes in the program, but also his abilities.

He says one day, he'd like to be a car mechanic.

"Mechanics has always generally been in my family," he said.

"So just kind of an interest for me and I guess bikes has just always been an interest of mine, too, and I thought it would be more complicated but it's actually very simple."

Rae Watland, also 19, says she's always liked working with her hands and one day wants to open her own wood-working shop.

"I started this program like very shy and timid and not really knowing how it would go," she said.

"The program's just really helped build up my confidence."

Since its inception, GAP has graduated almost 60 students.

The latest class is set to end April 7.

You can learn more about Two Wheel View and GAP at www.twowheelview.org

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