Keighley’s tradespeople can help us boost the district’s skills level

Principal Kevin O’Hare and Head of Construction and Building Services, Greg Bourke, explain why experienced tradespeople can make the difference

Our town and district has a proud history of being a centre for skilled trades.

It is also well positioned, through initiatives like the Manufacturing, Engineering and Future Technologies Hub we will open later this year, to build on that reputation.

But exciting schemes like this, vital as they are, and all the theoretical knowledge we can communicate in the classroom are only half the story. While there’s no doubt that advances in AI and immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR) have improved our ability to teach practical subjects, students also need to hear from, and see, actual humans who can share their lived experience.

The need for industry-experienced teachers

West Yorkshire is currently suffering due to a scarcity of these kinds of teachers who have a wealth of industry expertise just waiting to be passed on. That, in turn, is hampering the work our college and other education and training providers are doing, not least through apprenticeships, to address the skills gaps holding our economy back.

Those gaps are real and, particularly in certain sectors, severe. The UK Trade Skills Index 2023 flagged up that the UK will need 937,000 new recruits in trades and construction, where vacancies are currently at record highs, over the next 10 years.

That makes the effort we put into creating a pipeline of newly skilled tradespeople to replace those who are retiring all the more important. Demand to study these subjects is actually high but our ability to train is being hindered because there aren’t enough teachers with the required industry experience.

This shortage could well lead to a decline in the number of apprentices entering these trades and, ultimately, translate into a shortage of qualified tradespeople.

A time for action

Our top priority has to be the recruitment of key further education staff, with suitable industry experience, to support and drive training. A collaborative approach involving closer working relationships with the sector is crucial to achieve this.

We are proud to have already developed a strong partnership with the local engineering and manufacturing industry, and enjoy fruitful partnerships with firms like Ex-Pressed Steel Panels, Teconnex, Produmax, Byworth Boilers and Acorn Stairlifts. To solve this teaching crisis, we need to build on that while forging similar bonds with electrical and construction service businesses.

How you can help the next generation

A major part of the challenge is to convince tradespeople that they actually have something to offer in the educational space. Many don’t necessarily see themselves as educators and, while wanting to help, perhaps feel they lack the expertise or confidence to teach – especially if they had negative experiences at school.

If that sounds like you then we have a very simple message: it doesn’t matter to us what your O Levels or GCSEs were, we just need individuals who feel they can give something back, engage with young people and communicate the things they’ve learnt from doing their everyday jobs. It’s about making it understandable to the young people who come to us and, in turn, our students have so much respect for those who have ‘walked the walk’.

The time to act is now and here at college we’ll be doing just that on Tuesday 14 May, when we’ll be inviting electricians and plumbers to pop in, see what we do, and find out about getting involved in the wonderfully rewarding world of teaching. To find out more about our Brew and Trades Chat visit https://bit.ly/4blnNTb .

Gold medal for welder Harry

One of our apprentices is celebrating being crowned the winner of a national skills competition.

Harry Pullan, who works for Byworth Boilers, triumphed at the finals of WorldSkills UK.

The 23 year old was one of just ten welding apprentices from around the country who made it through, after excelling in the regional heats, to the event’s ultimate stage.

Speaking after outperforming his competitors to win the gold medal, he said: “All I can say is that it’s been unreal to be able to compete, let alone win!

“I never thought I’d be quite good enough, but the support I received from college, work, family and friends has helped massively and I cannot say ‘thank you’ enough.

“I’m very grateful for everyone around me, and work has been great – my boss and managers were congratulating me all morning when I got back.”

A deserved win – and a proud day

Harry’s tutor, Adam Sutcliffe, was instrumental in giving him the self-belief to enter the competition.

He said: “Harry is a cracking lad who fully deserves the win, and anything that might come as a result!

“He has worked hard ever since he started his apprenticeship with us just over four years ago and myself and his previous tutors, Ash and Simon, are really chuffed for him.

“For a kid who is fairly quiet – and at one point, during the training for the previous round, told me he ‘wasn’t good enough’ –  to settle into it, work hard and go on to win the title says so much about his attitude. He should be immensely proud of himself.

“It is moments like this that make the job worthwhile – seeing your students develop and achieve. This is a proud moment for Keighley College!”

Harry, who is in the final year of his apprenticeship, took part in the national finals of WorldSkills UK 2023 between November 14-17.

More than 400 of the country’s best apprentices and students competed – demonstrating their expertise across a whole range of industry skills – at educational venues across Greater Manchester.

Skills competition final for apprentice Harry

‘A huge achievement!’.

That is how one of our apprentice welders, Harry Pullan, has described reaching the finals of a national skills competition.

The 23 year old is one of just ten welding apprentices from across the country who will battle it out in the ultimate stage of WorldSkills UK this winter.

Harry, who is working for Keighley firm Byworth Boilers, earned his place after impressing the judges in the regional heats in July.

A morale-boosting confirmation

He said: “It feels unreal to have reached the final, but I am glad to see my efforts pay off! I love my job and to be part of the final ten in this competition just lets me know I’m in the right place.

“The qualifiers were a good experience because I met some lads from another company and was able to find out a bit about their work, and learn about a few different machines.

“Working as an apprentice has provided me with the best of both worlds because I get all the practical, on-the-job learning and then at college I learn all the technical knowledge and get my qualifications.”

Harry’s welding journey began when he was 19. He started his apprenticeship working for a firm that makes scaffolding towers and stillages, before moving to Byworth Boilers last summer.

Outstanding support

He said: “My knowledge and skills have increased so much since joining Byworth, and Keighley College is the reason I ended up there – and in the WorldSkills competition. I can’t say enough good things about the college; I owe a huge thanks to my tutor, Adam Sutcliffe, and my assessor, Ash Fieldsend, for their support.”

Apprentice welder Harry Pullan receiving his certificate, which earned him a place in the national finals, at the regional qualifiers of WorldSkills UK
Apprentice welder Harry Pullan receiving his certificate, which earned him a place in the national finals, at the regional qualifiers of WorldSkills UK

Tutor Adam encouraged Harry to push on in the competition when he had doubts. He said: “Harry is a top student, and has been since he started as a level 2 apprentice.

“He’s keen in the classroom and wants to learn and, practically speaking, he just loves to weld – and he’s very good at it.

“He is a cracking lad and is a pleasure to have in the group. We are all chuffed for him, and I think he will do well come finals day.”

Looking ahead to a bright future

Harry will be one of more than 400 students and apprentices – competing in 51 skills ranging from digital construction to health and social care – taking part in the WorldSkills UK finals in November.

He added: “All I can do in the final is focus, work and get my tasks done. If I get a podium finish then I’ll be over the moon, but even if I place last I’ll be happy because to be in the top ten is already a huge achievement for me.

“As for the future, I’ll have to wait and see because I am very happy at Byworth but, at the same time, I would love to weld all over the world.”

The WorldSkills UK finals will be held at colleges, independent training providers and universities across Greater Manchester from November 14 – 17.

‘A fantastic way to start a career’ – Alex hails her apprenticeship

Engineer Alex Johnson is starting the new year in a role she loves and with a management degree apprenticeship in her sights.

Alex is a quality engineer at Baildon-based Produmax where she has been working – through an apprenticeship with the college – for several years.

She has just gained a distinction in her Level 4 apprenticeship in Manufacturing Engineering with the firm, which specialises in high precision engineering for the aerospace sector.

Urged on by our teachers and Produmax’s team to keep pushing herself, Alex is now looking forward to starting a Level 6 Chartered Management degree apprenticeship through the University of Leeds.

She said: “I started on a Level 3 Manufacturing apprenticeship, having found the quality engineer role, and developed my interest in the inspection side of engineering, through Produmax’s work experience programme.

A terrific experience, with no limits to what can be achieved

“I’d encourage anyone to do an apprenticeship – it’s a fantastic way to start a career in any industry, whilst having the ability to continue studying. There are also no limitations to what you can achieve, it’s down to how much work you’re willing to put in.  

“My apprenticeship has been a terrific experience. I’ve been encouraged along the way by the team at Produmax and at Keighley College to work hard and aim high.

“I’m looking forward to continuing my workplace development whilst undertaking the degree apprenticeship.”

Produmax offers several apprenticeship engineering positions, usually starting at the end of August, each year.

Find out more about our apprenticeships at the college here

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.”

The art of artificial intelligence

Students have been finding out how artificial intelligence (AI) can unlock their creativity.

Tim Rogers, the founder of Future Transformation, came into college on 31 October to give a talk on Astro Art.

Tim worked with the college earlier this year, when we  hosted Keighley’s first ever TEDx talk. This time he was here to show Alternative Provision learners how they could use AI software to generate their own artwork.

Course leader for Alternative Provision, Philip Hartley, said: “The different cohorts of learners really enjoyed the session.

“Some ended up not actually creating any art as they were so engrossed in their discussion on AI, and the implications of it for modern life!”

A really positive adventure

He added: “But another group of pre-16 students enjoyed the adventure of creating images and altering them using different layers of AI.

“They created many different ideas that we look forward to sharing in the near future.

“Overall, this was a really positive experience for all who took part and we’re hoping to welcome Future Transformation back for another session.”

Future Transformation, which runs the TEDx talks, is a social enterprise that provides awareness, opportunities and programmes for people who want to get into technology.

Keighley College Lecturer meets King Charles III

Keighley College Games Design Lecturer, Adil Hussain, was honoured to meet King Charles III on Tuesday during the king’s two-day trip to Yorkshire. 

The monarch visited Bradford City Hall where he met with Adil and several other young leaders, and spoke to them for a few minutes.   

Adil was there representing QED, a foundation that aims to transform the lives of people from disadvantaged communities. He was recently shortlisted for their Yorkshire Asian Young Achievers Awards, an award that goes to those who have overcome adversity or broken down barriers in order to progress.

Speaking about his experience of the day, Adil said:  

“I’ve never met a royal before, I was very nervous.

“When His Majesty arrived, he went to each table and greeted us. I shook his hand and he asked me what I do.

“I was there representing QED Foundation Yorkshire Asian Young Achievers and I told him I’m a games lecturer at Keighley College.

“When I told him that I’m a games design lecturer helping students make video games, he asked if I made video games myself and joked that he hoped I was making appropriate ones.”

When asked about the king himself, Adil commented that:

“My overall impressions of him were very positive. He was very human and down to earth. He listened to every person. I was proud and honoured to meet him.

“I feel so appreciative towards QED for giving me the opportunity to meet His Majesty, King Charles III. 

“I want to thank Adeeba Malik CBE DL, the Deputy Chief Executive at QED, for giving me this once in a lifetime opportunity, as well as Simon, Sarah and Eleni from the Digital & IT team and the rest of the team at Keighley College. 

“It was also a great opportunity for myself in terms of networking, I met some powerful and influential people.

“I’m over the moon, I feel like a little celebrity.” 

King Charles also visited Morrison’s headquarters in Bradford to learn more about their sustainable farming work. Following the City Hall reception, the king went onto Leeds where he visited Leeds Central Library and Leeds Art Gallery.

The winner of the Yorkshire Asian Young Achiever Awards will be announced on Friday 11 November at their celebratory dinner at the Cedar Court Hotel in Bradford. You can watch the event, which will be broadcast live online, here.

Helping voluntary organisations rise to the cost-of-living challenge

We were delighted to welcome lots of local community organisations to a recent Cost of Living Crisis Summit.

The event featured guest speakers from Project 6, an award-winning drug and alcohol dependency charity, and primary healthcare and community services provider Modality Partnership.

Some 17 groups attended to discuss the impact of the crisis and what they could do to help people cope, and there were also stalls from Citizens Advice, Keighley Food Bank, Keighley Pathways and others.

Pulling  together to help our communities

Principal of Keighley College, Kev O’Hare, said: “It was a pleasure for the college to host  this important summit, and welcome many of our partner organisations from the voluntary sector.

“The cost-of-living crisis is affecting so many people, including our students and their families. We are more than happy to support any initiatives, like this, that will help support our communities through these difficult times.”

The summit was attended by: KAWACC, DWP, Salvation Army Keighley, Roshni Ghar, Keighley Town Council, Oxenhope Village Council, Bradford Metropolitan District Council, WACA, Keighley Healthy Living, Good Shepherd Centre, James Project, Modality, Bradford District Credit Union, Community Action, Asda, Project 6, and NHS Airedale and Bradford.