Meet our 4th Group of Apprentices

Our 4th group of HPM Apprenticeship program participants just passed the halfway point of their program here at CAT.

Apprentices and Jan in Garden

Apprentices and CAT Director Jan working in the garden

Here is what they have to say:

Wibke Fretz, Eugene Oregon via Germany
CAT is about life – a very conscientious approach to life. In a world that is too focused on consumption and too dependent on fossil fuels, this program is trying to steer the apprentices into a more sustainable and cooperative direction while teaching the trade of cargo framebuilding. Hopefully, we will leave with the skills to start our own enterprise, and the vision to share our knowledge with our community – may it be the Human Powered Network or the place we return to.

The apprenticeship is about making a difference. About making the world a better place, even if it is “only” one cargobike or one community garden at a time. It’s about spreading the knowledge and working together to accomplish things. Most of CAT’s teaching cannot be measured. Yes, you can look at a weld or seam and critique it, but the ideas that we are exposed to here and that we have discussed may develop for years to come and inspire new ideas on their way. That cannot be measured but it may actually be the most powerful part of CAT.

I have been impressed with the quality. Everyone here seems to always try for the best. The smoothest, strongest weld. Milling to the closest .0005 inch. The perfect, flawless seam in sewing. The most sustainable gardening. It is great to learn in an environment where achieving the best is the natural standard that everyone seeks.

Victor Shen, Whittier, Alaska
VictorThe ad says “build your own cargo bike,” so that was my impression of this apprenticeship. This place has not been what I imagined it to be- it’s much more than just melting tubes of metal together. It’s rethinking and reevaluating your whole train of thinking on how and where something is built. It’s realizing that everything is right there in front of you, one just needs to learn how to spoon feed oneself.

My first week here was definitely an eye opener. After going through college, I was used to having a syllabus and getting “the grade.” Here, there is no such thing as an A, B, C…. Nothing/nobody is telling you “F” when your first weld looks like a POS; just yourself. Instead you learn that it’s not the end product that matters, but the process you take to get there. Throw that piece away, cut up some more metal, and keep going. The schedule will say “shop,” which could mean a hundred different things; drop those expectations and deal with the meandering nature of this world.

The apprenticeship will offer more than one could ever handle in five months: sewing, CAD, welding, machining, organic agriculture, and philosophy on our interaction with the manufacturing of goods and food
production. There is no diploma waiting for the apprentices at the end, at least none that I know of, just the skills, knowledge, and perspective you’re willing to gain.

Dan Johnson, Reno, Nevada

The apprenticeship will indeed teach you the machine shop skills you need to build a bicycle, but it goes far beyond that. You will slowly watch raw tubes and blocks of metal be transformed into your own fully working cargo bicycle as you learn each skill along the way. You will gain the satisfaction that you did it yourself, and the confidence that you can go on and build more bikes on your own.

Beyond that, you will learn the practicalities and philosophy behind lean and distributed manufacturing. When you finish, you will be a member of the Human Powered Network, an association that can help you build up your own business in small stages with minimal risk. You will learn all this while living in a supportive community environment that fosters creativity.

Kyle Wiswall, Brooklyn, New York
KyleThrow out your expectations. This isn’t a “framebuilding” course per se; it is much more. Yes, you will be able to build a bike, and you will ride away on a cargo bike that you built from the ground up. But you will also taking away the skills to run a shop, make your own clothing, to grow your own food. More than this, you will be a member of the Human Powered Network, an association of CAT and of former apprentices that provides invaluable and ongoing support for putting your new skills to use after the program.

In this respect, “Framebuilding Apprenticeship” is a misnomer. Though it is difficult to come up with an accurate all-inclusive description, I’ll simply say that I am leaving with more than the acquisition of fabrication skills. I am leaving with the tools to positively impact my community on return – and building cool bicycles while doing it! Totally.

Interested in our apprenticeship program? Our next session begins July 15th, 2011. For details, please see our Apprenticeship Information page.