Harley-Davidson technician program in northern Alberta is one of a kind for Canada

Motorcycle season is coming to a close but things are revving up at Northwestern Polytechnic’s Harley-Davidson Technician Certificate program. 

Students follow passion for historic hog with a signature sound in northern Alberta

In a garage bay, a student looks at a motorcycle exhaust pope that an instructor points at.
Peter Sellers, right, completed the Harley-Davidson Technician Certificate in 1992 and later returned as an instructor. (Luke Ettinger/CBC)

Motorcycle season is coming to a close but things are revving up for a one-of-a-kind technician program in northern Alberta.

The Harley-Davidson Technician Certificate course is run out of Northwestern Polytechnic in Fairview, Alta., around 420 kilometres northwest of Edmonton. Instructor Peter Sellers says the certificate means a graduate can work in a Harley-Davidson dealership anywhere in the world or even start their own shop. 

"What we do here is almost like a boot camp. It's 15 weeks. It's very fast paced, but we cover every part of the motorcycle," Sellers said.  

Sellers graduated from the program in 1992 and went onto work at a Harley dealership in Vancouver. Seventeen years ago he returned to pass on his passion to a new generation of enthusiasts. 

"It's nice to be able to give back and continue the legacy of what Trev Deeley started many years ago." 

Deeley, who died two decades ago, started the Harley program in 1988. Since then, students have come to the small town of around 2,500 people to pursue their passion for the iconic motorcycle.

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A man wearing a t-shirt and toque works on a wheel locked into a vice.
Brody Adams installs spokes on a motorcycle wheel. (Luke Ettinger/CBC)

Student Nick Burla said he feels nostalgic whether he's riding or wrenching a Harley. 

"The company itself started in 1903 and it's survived both world wars," he said. "There's so much to learn about it all."

Fellow student Brody Adams said the motorcycles have a signature sound he loves. He grew up around Harley-Davidsons and enrolled in the course after his uncle died.

This is going to be a career for me,- Brody Adams, student

"He passed his bike down to me so I figured I might as well learn how to work on it now," Adams said. 

Before he began the program, Adams had already started work with a motorcycle shop in Abbotsford, B.C. 

"This is going to be a career for me," Adams said. 

Learning and recovering

Burla also hopes to make a living working on bikes. Completing the course will be a meaningful accomplishment for Burla, who got into a crash this summer. 

"About 20 minutes into the ride, I was attempting to pass somebody and I got knocked into the ditch and was injured," Burla said. 

A man loads a tire onto a rig to remove it from the wheel.
Nick Burla practises his skills in the tire shop. Burla has been recovering from a crash this summer. (Luke Ettinger/CBC)

While he's still recovering, Burla has the camaraderie of his classmates and course instructor. 

"I'm feeling great. The first week of school was a little bit of a struggle, but now I'm able to pick up tires," he said.

But Burla hasn't been able to put rubber to the road just yet.

"In the springtime, when the weather gets nice again, you can bet I'll be out on a bike again."  


Luke Ettinger is a journalist with CBC News in Halifax. Reach him at luke.ettinger@cbc.ca.