Principal enjoys factory floor shift at stairlift company

Our Principal has been putting a shift in on the factory floor at Acorn Stairlifts.

Kevin O’Hare visited the Steeton business to find out how a group of students from the college, who are on two-days-a-week supported internships with the firm, were getting on.

Kevin had been invited by the students themselves. He said: “I was asking them about their work at Acorn. They said it was great and that I should come along and ‘do some real work’ too!”

The college’s partnership with Acorn has been running for three years now, and four previous interns have gone on to secure jobs with the company. The current group of four students – Jason Baxter, James Littlewood, Jordan Lindley and Kenny Greenwood – work at Steeton on Thursdays and Fridays, supervised by Acorn staff and their own mentor, Fran Day.

A mutually beneficial partnership

Fran said: “All the supported interns have Education Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), which means they need a little more support initially, until they find their feet.

“I’m here to supervise them at first, then gradually pull back so they can work independently. They learn about productivity and work ethic, but really they just want to work.”

Ryan Baron, Production Manager at Acorn’s Steeton factory, said: “The supported interns are brilliant, they’re hard working and have fitted in really well. The work they do – assembling components for our stairlift rails – is work that our guys would actually be doing on the line.

“We move it off the line until they get the hang of it, but they still have to meet demand for the components and they don’t let us down. The work they’re doing helps them to gain skills and experience and helps us too, so the partnership with the college benefits us both.”

A brilliant opportunity to gain valuable life skills

Kevin, speaking during his visit, added: “It’s a brilliant opportunity for the students to understand what life’s like in a working environment, seeing the different processes and how the workplace is structured, from the reception, the canteen, right through to the factory floor.

“It’s a valuable experience, and we often forget how important that is. The work is important, but the context of the work is too. It’s what I call residual learning – it’s about social interaction, navigation, orientation, timekeeping.

“It’s not on any curriculum or part of any course programme, but these are valuable life skills we all need to acquire.”

Acorn Stairlifts, which has factories in Yorkshire and Scotland, is a world leader in the manufacture, installation and innovation of stairlifts.

Though its headquarters are in Steeton the company, which produces 70,000 staircases a year, has sales and service staff across the UK.

Keighley residents take a big step towards employment

Keighley residents have celebrated completing a project to get back into education or work.

We have been working with local community centres and other partners to ‘provide pathways’ into employment, as part of the Community Led Local Development (CLLD) programme.

Of the 214 adults who have taken part so far, 110 have progressed into education – on courses ranging from English and maths, to teaching assistant and English for Speakers of Other Languages. Another 14, meanwhile, have gained work. 

To celebrate those achievements, the college presented certificates to nearly 40 women who have taken part at the Bangladeshi Community Association on Wednesday 23 November.

‘I feel much more confident in my abilities’

Shazia Hussain, who is studying towards gaining a teaching assistant qualification, said: “I have previously tried three different college classes and not gone back after the first lesson.

“This time, however, I have not only felt motivated to complete the course and progress, but I am also helping other students with their assignments. I feel much more confident in my abilities thanks to the project.”

Melissa Ciplinski also credits the programme with bolstering  her self-belief. She said: “I have always struggled with anxiety and the teaching assistant course has helped me to gain confidence.

“I now attend the classes without feeling vulnerable and nervous, and am looking forward to progressing onto the next course.”

Working together to make a positive difference

Mashuk Miah, who manages the Bangladeshi Community Association, said: “The CLLD project has enabled women to come out of isolation and helped them mix with others whilst learning maths, English, sewing or exercise. I know that our partnership with Keighley College will continue, and that together we are making a positive difference to the lives of those in our community.”

Our Deputy Head for Adult and Community, Jo Rusden, added: “We were delighted to celebrate the achievements of these learners with the association, which has been one of our key partners.

“This programme has already helped hundreds of Keighley residents take a step towards getting back into education or work, and we look forward to welcoming more moving forward.

“These are tough times for everyone just now, but especially those in households with low or no income. This programme is all about giving people the help, and skills they need, to take a step on the path towards employment and a rewarding future.”