‘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.”

Students are lifeline for those receiving care in the community

Five students from Keighley College have been providing tailored support to members of the community during the pandemic, as part of their health and social care work placement.

Taking on the role of complex care support workers, the students have been working part-time at community-centered organisation, Personalized Care Services, to support individuals with complex health and social care needs.

With the aim to help individuals live independently in their own homes, the students have been working throughout the pandemic to assist members of the community with medication, dietary needs, dementia care, companionship and respite for families with care responsibilities. 

Mazar Hussain, Managing Director of Personalized Care Services, said: “Each student has performed exceptionally well in their role, especially during these challenging times. The pandemic has had a significant impact on our services; we’ve all worked incredibly hard to keep people safe in their homes and ensure they have their personal care needs met. 

“Three students who completed the Health and Social Care Level 3 Diploma have continued to work part-time with us; it’s incredible to see how well their skills and knowledge have developed and the level of care they are providing is impeccable.”

Founded in 2019, Personalized Care Services was set up to support people in the community with their care needs in a flexible manner, allowing individuals to choose the support which best suits their needs. Offering 24-hour support to those who have experienced difficulties settling into a community-based environment in the past, the service enables people to live active lives. 

Rohima Ali, course leader at Keighley College, commented: “As a community-focused college, we’re dedicated to supporting local people as much as possible. It’s inspiring to see how quickly our students have developed admirable qualities and abilities through invaluable character-building real-life experience.”

The 38-strong team provides a wide range of support including domestic support, mental wellbeing, supported employment, learning disabilities, independent living and adult learning.

Keighley College student, Ghalia Fiaz, who works at Personalized Care Services, added: “This hands-on opportunity has been so valuable to my learning and development. It has not only highlighted the importance of this sector during the pandemic, but also allowed me to help empower individuals by providing them with the confidence to become part of their community.”

Personalized Care Services will be working closely with Keighley College to develop its curriculum, with a focus on employer and community needs. 

Adult learner inspired to launch beauty business

Adult student, Sarah Cookson, has suffered with extensive debilitating pain for many years. 

Passionate about helping others with similar disabilities, she embarked on her learning journey at Keighley College to become a qualified beauty therapist, resulting in the opening of her business ‘Healing Hands Holistics’. 

The right choice

Sarah’s medical situation meant she had been out of work for a while, however she had always been interested in beauty and was ready for a new challenge.

“My daughter was studying a media hair and makeup course at Keighley College and it was encouraging to see the college go above and beyond to support her with her education and wellbeing. 

“I was asked by her tutor, Clare Ravenscroft, if I was interested in taking a course. Although I’d been out of education for years and lacked confidence, I thought this could be a fantastic opportunity to rediscover myself and pursue my passion.

“During my time at college, I have studied Complementary Therapies Level 3, Beauty Therapy Level 2 and I’m looking to complete the Counselling Level 3 qualification next year.

“I’m currently studying Beauty Therapy Level 3 and I absolutely love it. My tutors are incredibly knowledgeable and we’ve covered topics such as mechanical massage, gel nails, body analysis, product and service promotions and anatomy.”

The beauty of learning

Although apprehensive about returning to college as a mature student, Sarah felt instantly at ease with the group.

“I have always been made to feel part of my class; everyone is so friendly and supportive – my age has never been a barrier to learning. 

“In addition to my beauty studies, I have also gained my maths GCSE with the college. This subject was always something I struggled with previously, but the teaching methods and support meant I passed with flying colours.

“The college is amazing, we have large classrooms with small class sizes, meaning we get valuable one-to-one time with tutors. There is a real sense of community on campus, each student is made to feel like a person rather than a number.”

Back in business 

Since beginning college, Sarah has gained the skills and confidence to start her own beauty and complementary therapy studio.

“My experience at college has inspired me to open my own studio, Healing Hands Holistics, where I practise all the treatments I’ve learnt during my courses. 

“I suffer with fibromyalgia, spinal arthritis, spinal degeneration and scoliosis – all of which give me extensive debilitating pain. Although I still have many medical, physical and mental health challenges, coming into college has provided an anchor of support and helps me stay focused.

“Because of my own experiences, it’s really important for me to offer treatments for people who have disabilities similar to my own. My learning has allowed me to gain practical knowledge to be able to safely and effectively treat this category of clients, as I know how hard it can be to find therapists who have knowledge on certain medical and physical issues.

 “Coming back to education has reignited my spark, giving me the opportunity to rediscover myself, my abilities and passions.”

Discover more about our beauty courses here.

International Women’s Day

International Women’s Day is an annual celebration of the social, cultural, economic and political achievements of women.

On 8 March each year, people come together across the globe to rally for women’s equality through widespread activities. 

Why is this day important?

Although the world has made significant progress, no country has yet achieved gender equality. 

According to the United Nations, legal restrictions have kept 2.7 billion women from accessing the same choice of jobs as men. As of 2019, less than 25% of parliamentarians were women. Additionally, one in three women experience gender-based violence. 

This day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the progress made, raise awareness of women’s equality and celebrate acts of courageous women who’ve made an imprint on our history and communities.

Clearly, there is much more to be done in the fight for gender equality, so try and do what you can to make a positive difference for women. 


This year’s official theme, #ChooseToChallenge, encourages people to speak out against gender bias and inequality. From challenge comes change, so by embodying this theme, we can help create an inclusive world.

UN Women has also announced the theme ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a Covid-19 World’. The recent pandemic has demonstrated how effectively women leaders and women’s organisations have been in leading the Covid-19 response through their skills, knowledge and networks. This theme focuses on the recent acceptance that women bring different experiences, perspectives and skills to the table.

How are we celebrating International Women’s Day?

The Keighley College Engineering department is hosting a creative session on Thursday 11 March at 10am, giving anyone the opportunity to create a mobile phone holder design. 

Our expert staff will be talking through the simple mathematical coordinates needed to create the design. Once all the designs are submitted, the team will pick a winner whose design will be 3D printed on the day. Join by clicking this Google Meet link.

Women in leadership

We spoke with some of our women leaders at college to find out their thoughts on International Women’s Day.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

Clare Fitzgerald, Head of Stakeholder Engagement and Growth at Keighley College: “International Women’s Day offers a great opportunity to celebrate the amazing achievements by women and it puts equality at the centre of everything. Women need to be empowered to achieve what they want to achieve.”

Eleni Tsobanoglou, Programme Manager of Service Professions at Keighley College: “Less of needing to prove yourself just because of your gender.”

What does the 2021 theme #ChooseToChallenge mean for you in your work life?

Eleni: “A more gender-balanced workplace. Being part of an organisation that better represents the attitudes and priorities that reflects my own life experiences.”

Will Keighley College be doing anything to celebrate?

Clare: “There will be activities across college which we as a team will take part in.”

Why did you choose the career that you are in?

Eleni: “I love to work with young people and help them achieve their goals.”

Why did you decide to work within the education sector?

Clare: “I am a fairly recent convert to the education sector and I love it! There is a unique energy when students are in college and it is fantastic to see students progress and develop during their time with us.”

What does Keighley College/your department do to overcome gender stereotypes?

Clare: “Our team has lots of interaction with apprentices; their development and adaptability is great to see and they are such a valuable resource in local businesses. As an organisation, diversity and inclusivity is key – it enables everyone to develop and have the same opportunities.”

Eleni: “Adhere to college policy and foster an atmosphere of intolerance to the use of gender stereotypes.”

In your opinion, why is it important that more women take up leadership roles?

Clare: “I think it is important to have representation of all genders in all roles, that way everyone has role models and realises they have the opportunity to progress into any role they want to.”

Eleni: “To further redress the balance and lead to equal representation in the sector.”

What more do you think can be done to encourage more women into leadership roles?

Clare: “The key is for the same opportunities to be available to everyone. Having leadership that is fully representative of society needs to be the norm.”

Eleni: “Ensure equal pay and encourage the promotion of role models and a positive image of women in leadership roles.”

On International Women’s Day, what is the most important message you want to send out to young women thinking about their careers?

Clare: “I would encourage any woman to go for what they want. Work hard, be positive and determined and find a career you really love.”

Eleni: “Go for it! Education will open the door to a bright future where gender is no barrier.”

Student perspective

Jasmine Hibbert, Level 4 Engineering student, reflected on her own experience in a typically male-dominated industry.

“International Women’s Day is an ideal opportunity to encourage women into new challenges and less traditional careers, such as engineering. 

“I chose to pursue a career in engineering as I was passionate about designing projects through practical work. I began working as an engineering apprentice at Produmax, where I gained fantastic experience while understanding the work environment. 

“It’s important for more women to pursue careers in engineering as there’s a fantastic variety of roles, from manual work to management, design, planning and quality. As this industry is male-dominated, we need to address this balance and encourage more women to see the value of these roles.”

Take a look at the International Women’s Day resources here.

Luminate Education Group launches new training centre for businesses

Luminate Education Group, a leading provider of education in Yorkshire, has launched a new training centre in the heart of Yorkshire to boost the skills needs of the region’s economy. 

The Yorkshire Centre for Training and Development (YCTD) will offer bespoke training packages, specific to business needs and employee requirements.

The centre will encompass the education group’s teaching expertise from Leeds City, Keighley and Harrogate colleges, delivering a range of compliance, professional development and redundancy support courses. 

Lee Pryor, Director for YCTD, said: “With the ever-changing economic climate, we recognise businesses’ need to adapt their employees’ skills, to ensure a successful post-Brexit and post-Covid-19 transition. 

“Our service will start with a complimentary skills planning session to understand the business, so that we can effectively identify its training needs, and match these to a budget. We will be offering in-person as well as virtual sessions that fit around the organisation’s schedule. We will then develop a bespoke training solution that meets those needs.

“We’ll be working with a range of sectors, from law, education and social care, to engineering, digital, hospitality and hair and beauty. We want to support as many organisations as possible to grow and thrive, as they navigate the current economic challenges.”

YCTD will be based in dedicated spaces across Leeds, Harrogate and Keighley. 

To find out more or to book a complimentary skills planning session, please call 07814 818826.

Secretary of State for Education pays tribute to Keighley College

Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, has paid tribute to the work that Keighley College is doing to bridge the skills gap through its work with local businesses. 

As part of the Q&A session with MP for Keighley and llkley, Robbie Moore, which centred on the recent announcement of the Skills For Jobs whitepaper, Williamson also highlighted the deep rooted industrial heritage of Keighley that has underpinned key successes in the town. 

Steve Kelly, Principal at Keighley College, said: “It’s fantastic to see Keighley College getting national recognition in parliament. Not only was the town’s steeped history highlighted, but also the work our college is doing to plug the skills gap in our district. We are committed to being at the heart of our community and working with the private, public and third sector to serve our town. 

“To be referenced by the Education Secretary as a college that is doing all the right things when it comes to building positive relationships with local businesses fills us with great pride. It’s an approach that is embedded in everything we do as we work closely with the communities that we serve, ensuring that the courses we offer are answering local demand. This national recognition further emphasises how crucial it is for the college to continue engaging constructively with the business community.

“Naturally we welcome the Skills For Jobs whitepaper as it echoes the positive work we are already doing and this will hopefully mean that other businesses will be encouraged to work collaboratively with us. We are so pleased to see that our community-led approach of forming tight knit relationships with local businesses is being recognised. We strongly believe that this will help us continue providing students with the right skills for now and in the future.

“As we look ahead to recovering from the pandemic, it will be even more important for businesses to work with us to ensure we’re supporting their needs. The college is already becoming a central driver for economic recovery in the district as a result of partnering with local support services and we want to see this continue.”

If you’re a local business and you would like to partner with Keighley College, then please contact clare.fitzgerald@keighleycollege.ac.uk.

New year, new CV

What better time than January to give your CV some TLC? As we head into the new year, it’s important that we bring with us a refreshed perspective on the world of work.  

A difficult year for many, the past 12 months has seen people lose their jobs due to the pandemic. Whether you’ve become unemployed, been made redundant or just looking for a career change, an excellent CV can make you stand out amongst other candidates. 

Tips for creating the perfect CV

  1. Relevance is key: When applying for a role, make sure the experience showcased on your CV is relevant to the job. Always crosscheck your CV with the job description and tailor it to make it clear why you’ll be able to deliver in that role. 
  2. Attention to detail: Avoid any spelling or grammar mistakes, as recruiters are likely to judge you for this. Ask someone to proofread your CV and give you constructive feedback.
  3. Keep it simple: Be clear and concise. A CV needs to be easy to read and is usually best kept to two pages. Don’t be afraid to take out past experience if it is not relevant to the role.
  4. Include a personal statement: Shout out about how your experience relates to the job in an opening statement. Here, you can really showcase your skills and demonstrate why you’re the best person for the job.
  5. Add personality: Your hobbies and interests are a great way for employers to get to know more about you. Avoid generic ones such as ‘socialising’ and try to include interesting hobbies that demonstrate dedication or teamwork. 

A survey showed that employers take less than a minute to decide if an application is worth consideration, so it’s vital that your CV ticks all the employability boxes. 

For additional support with application tips, interview guidance and job advice, get in touch with our friendly team at the Skills Support Hub.

The Skills Support Hub is a community initiative to help adults and young people back into work.

Residents in the Keighley district can access the support hub by emailing skills@keighleycollege.ac.uk, calling 01535 685006 or dropping in to college.