‘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.

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.