Double joy for mother-and-daughter team at Keighley College

When Emily Ellershaw went for an interview at Keighley College she took her mother, Shirley, along for moral support.

Neither could have imagined that, a few years later, they would both be working for the college as teachers.

But that’s exactly what happened after Head of Service Professions, Kevin Burke, asked Shirley what she did for a living during that fateful interview. When Shirley replied that she was considering a career change, while wanting to continue working in health, Kevin told her about the college’s new Health & Wellbeing Foundation Degree.

Despite enrolling on different courses, Emily and Shirley were able to meet for study sessions, support each other through the Covid-19 lockdowns, and cheer each other on.

Never too late to follow your dreams

They succeeded and are now both enjoying careers at Keighley College.

Course Leader Shirley is delighted at how things turned out, and hopes her story inspires others to make a change.

She said: “It’s never too late to pursue the career you have dreamed about – even if the journey takes a little longer.

“Honestly, it is worth all the hard work when you finally have the job you want and love.”

For Emily, her time at the college, from starting as a student to ending up an employee, has been a transformative experience.

Amazing support through an amazing journey

It began when she was 15, and joined the college through a partnership programme with her secondary school, from which she  gained a Level 2 childcare  award.

She went on to complete a Level 3 diploma in Childcare and Education, a foundation degree in Supporting Teaching and Learning, a BA (Hons) in Children and Young People’s Care and Education, and finally a PGCE and teaching work placement.

She said: “It was when Kevin Burke started teaching me that I found out about the new supporting teaching and learning degree and, after numerous conversations, I applied for the course. I can say with absolute certainty that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

“If it wasn’t for the support and passion from Kevin when talking about my future, and all the pathways I had in front of me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

“When I started my PGCE I was extremely nervous and continually questioned myself if I was good enough, or if I could actually do this. But my fears were soon put aside when I started my first day of placement – I was welcomed into this amazing environment and everyone in the staffroom was extremely friendly, and made the time to help and support me.”

Emily is urging other adults who are looking to make a change to also take on a course at Keighley College.

‘Go for it and don’t look back’

She said: “The support I have received has been amazing, any time I have asked a question or panicked over deadlines or my work I have always had a tutor to support me.

“Being able to study and work together with my mum has also been an amazing experience, and I believe it created this stronger bond between us.

“My first words to other adult learners would be ‘go for it and don’t look back’, because it would be the best decision they would ever make. Keighley College is a family where, no matter what you’re thinking and feeling, you would have the support you need.

“It’s never too late to make a change, even if it scares you.”

Click here for more details on courses at Keighley College.

Camp America – music student teaches campers how to perform and record music in New York State

Continuing our look into the experiences of students who were involved in the Camp America project – which offered up to 90 students a once-in-a-lifetime work experience opportunity in the United States this summer – we move from Gilbertsville, PA to Hancock, NY, where Connor Skinner is having an amazing experience at French Wood Sports and Arts Camp

Following on from my visits to Camp Laughing Waters, and Camp Herrlich, my journey took me from Pennsylvania to New York State. This was to catch up with Connor Skinner, as he returned from a trip to Niagara Falls, to chat about the amazing experience he is having at French Wood Sports and Arts Camp. French Wood is a converted boarding school which has an incredible range of activities with a huge array of resources. There are campers from Brazil, Peru and Russia, Argentina and France on site. Students can “major” during their two weeks stay in subjects including rock music, fly fishing, aquatics, circus skills, musical theatre, cooking, skateboarding, art, equestrianism, magic and a range of team sports.

The counsellors and staff are chosen for their skills. There’s a former MBA coach working with the basketball majors and a circus troupe from New Mexico teaching students high wire and trapeze skills. Recently a previous camper there won America’s Junior Voice and is now a major celebrity. 

Connor is a music student so is happy to be running the rock music department, where he shows the students how to perform and record music. The students do up to three gigs a week for the other campers, making up an audience of 220. As he drives us around the 400-acre site to visit pools, horses and sports facilities, Connor says that this is without a doubt the best experience of his life so far and he’ll be back working next year. Participants have the option of extending their stay, by up to 30 days, to further explore the US after they have completed their nine-week placement. Connor will be extending his stay on the camp for an extra cohort and is then off to explore New York.

You can see a snapshot of what life on a Camp America placement is like here.

Camp America – students visit Camp Laughing Waters before exploring the USA

Earlier this year, Keighley College teamed up with Camp America to offer up to 90 students a once-in-a-lifetime work experience opportunity in the United States over the summer. The trip, designed to hone students’ employability skills as they look after and become role models to children at the camp, included travel, accommodation and living costs.

Keighley College’s principal, Kevin O’Hare, travelled out to see how the camp counsellors were getting on and has been sending back his notes from the road. Here is part one.

I arrived in America on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday I drove to a camp called Laughing Waters, in Gilbertsville, East Pennsylvania, with a representative from Camp America UK. We were visiting two of the students, Aanisha Anisko and Jamie-Leigh MacLaughlin, who are working with young American campers aged 9-17 after completing their studies.

Camp Laughing Waters has around 100 campers per week who undertake a range of activities whilst living in this 500-acre site in rural Pennsylvania. It has horses, a swimming pool, art and craft areas and a huge indoor climbing wall. The setting is breathtaking.

There are around 50 staff working on-site and half of these are young European students getting the experience to lead activities with groups. Each counsellor (as they are called) has a self-chosen camp name; Aanisha is “Dory” and Jamie is “Target”.

Participants have the option of extending their stay, by up to 30 days, to further explore the US after they have completed their nine-week placement. Jamie and Aanisha have made fantastic friendships, which have led to plans for further travel after the summer camp closes for the season. 

Jamie says she feels a new level of responsibility after leading the groups. This has really boosted her confidence, which has in turn given her an incentive to explore the world more. She is learning to speak Hungarian, having already picked up numbers, colours and animals. After camp, she plans to travel around America for a month, visiting Chicago, Ohio, Michigan and Rhode Island, before travelling to Hungary with her new friends later in the year.

You can see a snapshot of what life on a Camp America placement is like here.

‘Thanks Keighley!’ – top research scientist recalls college days

An expert in developmental biology has thanked Keighley College for providing him with the platform to embark on a distinguished scientific career.

Dr Matthew Towers is currently a senior researcher at the University of Sheffield with a specialist interest in limb development.

To reach that esteemed position, he studied at a number of universities around the UK – but can trace the start of his scientific endeavours back to Keighley College.

Excellent support and a focus on STEM

He said: “I attended Keighley College between 1991 and 1995, first studying for GCSEs and then A levels.

“The team there was very supportive and provided excellent mentorship. I enjoyed the adult-oriented learning environment, and mixing with other students of different ages and backgrounds.

“I flourished at Keighley College because I was able to study STEM-based subjects without being distracted by other activities that I had not been interested in at school.”

Matthew went on to obtain a BSc in genetics from the University of Leeds, and a PhD in plant developmental biology from The John Innes Centre, in Norwich.

Deciding that he wanted to specialise in a medically-related field, he then did postdoctoral work at the Universities of Dundee and Bath, studying how limbs develop in the embryo,.

In 2010, Matthew moved to the University of Sheffield, where he is a reader of developmental biology. He has since opened his own research laboratory with initial support from the  Medical Research Council and now, the Wellcome Trust.

He said: “My research still focuses on limb development, for instance on how the correct type of digit forms in the correct position.”

Recalling his college days, he added: “I remember my time at Keighley College fondly, and I am grateful that it helped me start my career.”

Click here to find out more about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) courses at Keighley College.

Shouting about our students’ incredible volunteering efforts on Power of Youth Day

Power Of Youth Day, which takes place during Volunteers’ Week, is an opportunity to shout about the incredible contributions that young people are making in their communities, society and the environment. Throughout the day events and celebrations take place across the UK. Leaders, organisations and young people take to social media to celebrate the #PowerOfYouth, recognising the invaluable and diverse contribution they are making to society.  

To those ends, here are a few organisations that empower young people that you can direct interested students towards. 

Environmental action

Over the first week of the new year, Level 3 Public Services students planted 100 mixed trees in Keighley woodland, completing a 1,000 tree planting. Despite the wintry conditions, 30 Holly, 30 Hazel and 40 sessile Oak trees were planted.

The planting project continued earlier this month when 150 trees were successfully planted at Parkside Secondary School, Cullingworth, in a community partnership activity. This brought the total up to 1,000 trees and counting, an incredible piece of ongoing environmental work which those involved in should rightly be proud of. 

Keighley College welcomes new principal

Our Interim Principal Kevin O’Hare has been appointed as the new Principal of Keighley College.

Kevin took over from the college’s former Principal, Steve Kelly in December last year.

As interim Principal for the last four months, Kevin has made a positive impact in building relationships with both students and staff, which has contributed to, and is enhancing the college’s culture and presence in the community.

He has also played a key role in the college’s recent successes, such as hosting Keighley’s first ever TedX event. There has also been significant progress across the education institution’s A level, special educational needs and disability (SEND) and high needs provisions.

Kevin said: “What a brilliant four months I’ve had at Keighley College. I’m so pleased that I can continue on this positive journey with students, staff and the local community.

“I’ve been incredibly impressed with the aspirations of our young people at college. They have both embraced and made me feel welcome. It’s clear that our students have huge potential and I’m looking forward to leading the Keighley team to help deliver the best learning outcomes for them.

“I look forward to driving our culture of providing exceptional, responsive and life-changing education, skills and experiences for individuals, businesses and communities. This means ensuring that students gain the necessary skills and knowledge to progress to the next level, be it higher education, an apprenticeship or employment.”

Kevin has worked in the FE sector for 29 years. During this period, he has undertaken roles at every level of the curriculum. He has taught from entry to degree level, and has led, written and quality assured programmes across vocational, academic and apprenticeship programmes.

He joined Leeds City College, which is part of Luminate Education Group, in 1992 when there were limited options for creative learners in Leeds. With a small number of learners he helped establish a programme which has grown to include 850 learners over a range of subject areas.

He has an outstanding track record as a leader in education with a particular interest in Creative Arts and Digital programmes; his previous role was Head of Visual and Digital Arts at Leeds City College’s Quarry Hill campus.

Kevin sits on a number of professional boards and governing bodies, including as a Director of East Street Arts, and has worked with local organisations such as Games Republic, The Tetley, and Leeds Playhouse.

Games design students get top tips on ‘levelling up’

Budding games designers from Keighley College have been getting top tips from some of the giants of the industry.

BTEC Level 3 National Diploma Games Design and Development students got the chance to talk to leading figures in the sector when they visited the Yorkshire Games Festival in February.

The week-long event, held at Bradford’s National Science and Media Museum, is an annual extravaganza that celebrates games culture, design and production.

The festival also includes Game Talks days, featuring workshops, masterclasses and special guests, which are designed to boost the employability prospects and knowledge of aspiring designers.

Representatives from two of the UK’s biggest developers – Rocksteady, the team behind the Arkham series of Batman games, and Team 17, creators of Worms – were among the speakers.

Games design students from Keighley College enjoying Yorkshire Games Festival

An inspiring day out

Keighley College Games Design lecturer Adil Hussain said: “We had a very good turnout, with 17 of our students going along. They heard talks from the guest speakers that covered all aspects of the game design industry.

“The learners had an amazing time listening to professionals giving them tips on the design and development of computer games, and inspiring them about their future careers.”

Women in Games Ambassador, Bex Betton, also spoke to the students  about work experience opportunities in the industry, and the pros and cons of taking unpaid roles.

Adil added: “Some students had never been to the National Science and Media Museum before, so they also enjoyed the chance to explore as there were a lot of interactive areas, including an arcade with retro games.

“This trip was a positive experience for them which was great both educationally and for their mental wellbeing.”

Camp America places going fast

Keighley College students have been snapping up the chance to enjoy a fully funded work experience adventure in the United States.

We have teamed up with Camp America to secure dozens of camp placements, for students aged 18 or over, in the States this summer.

More than 40 students have now signed up but more places are still available for anyone who applies by 17 April.

The experience is designed to hone students’ employability skills while giving them a chance to enjoy a different country and meet new friends.

All travel, accommodation and living costs will be covered on the trip via £5,000 of student funding from the Turing Scheme.

To find out more click here. A snapshot of what life on a Camp America placement is like, meanwhile, can be found here.

Statement from Interim Principal, Kevin O’Hare, on the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Keighley College unequivocally condemns the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the terrible suffering and loss of life it is causing.

We stand in solidarity with all of the Ukrainians who are enduring this war, including the millions who have been forced to flee their homeland and seek refuge in other countries.

As an education provider, we cherish the values of diversity, inclusion and tolerance that are at the heart of democratic societies which respect the dignity of the individual and freedom of thought and expression. Indeed, tolerance and respecting others are part of the college’s core principles.

It is such values that authoritarianism and its consequences, of which this unprovoked invasion is a shockingly stark example, seeks to destroy. 

We are also painfully aware that this crisis is far from an isolated event. Instead, it is the latest – and from our European perspective, due to its proximity and severity, most shocking – example of a wider and ongoing pattern of conflict that has created refugees around the world. 

Whenever such crises arise it is vital that we respond with compassion and conviction, while continuing to uphold and defend our values.

And so it is now when we realise that many parts of the college, and wider, community are being affected by the events in Ukraine and will need our support. That includes our Russian students, many of whom will be opposed to the war, and all of whom – of course – have a right to feel respected and safe.

In terms of what we are doing specifically, the college: