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.

Supported internship student secures role at stairlift manufacturer

Keighley College student, Tom Waddington, has accepted a full-time role at Acorn Stairlifts following his supported internship.

Tom began working part-time at Acorn Stairlifts earlier this year. He joined the local firm as part of a supported internship; a structured study programme run by Keighley College, enabling young people with an Education, Health and Care Plan to achieve sustainable paid employment by equipping them with the skills they need for work. 

For the past nine months, Tom worked on the factory assembly lines, preparing metal work by inserting screws and bolts. His zest for learning and ambitious attitude was recognised amongst the team and the factory manager, Andrew Longthorne, decided to offer him a permanent position as an assembly worker.

Andrew commented: “Tom is a bright spark who has brought admirable enthusiasm and infectious positivity to the team. While on his internship, he showed real commitment and extra willingness to every aspect of his role. 

“He had a trial working the production line and performed fantastically, so we thought he would be perfect for a permanent role with us. In his new role, Tom will be responsible for producing the finished components for the staircase rail system.”

Tom has been on the supported internship programme for three months. As part of the initiative, he regularly works with Keighley College job coach, Shameem Koser, to develop his employability skills.

Shameem added: “We’re incredibly impressed with Tom’s progress at Acorn Stairlifts, who play a key role in providing life-changing opportunities for our students. Our supported internship programme is essential for developing important life and work skills, preparing our students for the workplace.”

Keighley College is a further education provider offering a range of courses, apprenticeships and internships. To find out more about the supported internship programme, visit