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.

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.

‘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.

Students scoop six manufacturing industry accolades

Students from Keighley College have achieved six manufacturing industry accolades as part of the Milner Awards.

Sponsored by Keighley Training Consortium, the annual awards recognise the achievements of first year apprentices on the Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME) programme at the college.

Three apprentices have been selected to receive the main awards: Outstanding Apprentice, Academic Achievement and Skills Achievement, and have been given a cash prize in recognition of their accomplishments. Three additional students have received special recognition awards. 

William Jowitt, director of Keighley Training Consortium and member of the supervisory board of the AME, said: “Apprentices are one of the key engines of economic growth; each year we see ambitious learners strive for excellence through the AME programme. 

“The collaborative approach we’ve seen among apprentices and local employers has been remarkable, clearly demonstrating the value of apprenticeships. These winners, who studied the programme in 2019, have shown exceptional skill development and admirable dedication.”

This year’s Milner Awards took place at Keighley College. Attending the ceremony were the apprenticeship employers, including Produmax and CarnaudMetalbox Engineering and winners Toby Woodhead, Ben Bott, Max Weatherhead, Gabby Lloyd and Suraj Mistry.

Ronnie Magee, Deputy Head of Technology at Keighley College, commented: “We’re extremely proud of our apprentices’ achievements. They’ve gained valuable experience while demonstrating impressive commitment to learning and development. These awards are an amazing opportunity to show how important working together with local employers is for the community.”

The yearly awards were formed in 2015 as the AME programme launched at college. The AME board is part of a district-wide initiative in partnership with the local council and the Careers and Technical Education partnership. The programme is designed to inspire young people to work within the industry, enabling them to obtain the skills needed for employment.

Ben Bott, who won the Outstanding Apprentice Award, added: “I feel incredibly proud to receive such a prestigious award. My mechanical engineering apprenticeship at Produmax has been a pivotal point in my learning and development, equipping me with the technical skills needed to flourish in my career. I have spent the prize money on a new computer in order to complete my college work.”

Toby Woodhead, Keighley College student who works as an apprentice at CarnaudMetalbox, added: “It’s an honour to receive the Practical Workshop Skills Award. I was recognised for the hands-on work I did in the college workshop, such as milling and assembly jobs, as well as the machine building I do as part of my apprenticeship.”

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.

Yorkshire Precision Engineering creates opportunities for apprentices during Covid-19 pandemic

Yorkshire Precision Engineering Ltd (YPEL) is a UK leading subcontract CNC machining company, specialising in the supply and manufacture of high quality turned parts for a wide range of industries.

Last year, the family-run engineering firm based in Keighley, transformed its production capabilities to produce parts for the national ventilator challenge.

Founded in 2001 by Michael and Lynda Laybourne, the company was approached by Rolls Royce to work for the government’s ventilator manufacturing coalition in March

The company has been in partnership with Keighley College since 2018 and have taken on several apprentices. 

Last year, two level 3 advanced engineering apprentices from the college assisted in the production of the ventilator components. Both apprentices supported the production of parts by setting tooling and monitoring performance and consistency.

Within a week of getting the go-ahead in early April, it had produced 8,000 brass components.

We spoke to Lynda Laybourne about the benefits of taking on apprentices and how the company has adapted during the coronavirus pandemic.

How has taking on an apprentice helped your company and what would you say are the benefits? 

Taking on apprentices has given us the opportunity to train and nurture them in the way we work and how we produce quality products.The apprentices we have taken on are straight out of school and get to learn everything from the ground up.

How many apprentices do you currently have?

We currently have two on board and another two completing their first full year at Keighley College.We would definitely recommend an apprentice.

What would you say to another business (in your sector) looking to secure an apprentice?  

Make sure you get the right personality to complement your business, so that they fit in,feel welcome and happy in the workplace. Apprentices allow growth in the company, especially after they have completed a full year of training at college. They arrive ready and eager to show what they have learnt.

What are some of your latest working practices that you have adopted and that are working well for the company as a result of the pandemic?​   

In April and May 2020 we took part in the Ventilator Challenge. Working with Roll Royce, we realised early on that 2020 would be like no other year – we certainly experienced some challenges. 

We took a long term approach to the Covid-19 crisis and when a long standing customer, Wetherby Engineers contacted us with a view to acquiring all their assets and YPEL to produce their components, we stepped up to the challenge. With the assistance of the government CBILS loan scheme, in December 2020 we leased a second site in Acre Park, Keighley, employed all the remaining staff at Wetherby Engineers and purchased three New HAAS machines, along with other ancillary equipment.

Our two apprentices, currently full time at Keighley, will be joining us later this year on day release. They will be split between our two sites in Keighley. With the premises expansion we are ready for the economy to grow once again.– The future certainly looks bright for YPEL.

Engineering apprentice flourishes at Produmax

Apprentice, Alex Johnson joined Produmax shortly after her A levels.

The quality engineering apprentice, who said she was not sure about what she wanted to do after high school, applied for their work experience programme to get insight into aerospace engineering.

After a successful week she carried on with the Shipley-based firm, taking on a work placement day every other week in the quality department.

Alex said that being able to do that boosted her confidence, while giving her the opportunity to learn some basic skills in a working environment.

Alex, who is hoping to train as a non-destructive engineer in the future, said that she finds the idea of structural damage and how to detect faults fascinating.

We caught up with her to talk about her experiences and where she’d like to progress to next.

What made you choose to do an apprenticeship?

I chose to complete an apprenticeship as a quality engineer at Produmax as the working environment suited me. The idea of learning and working is something I have always felt passionate about.The support that’s available is second to none and the opportunities at Produmax are endless.

What does your role entail?

Produmax has made my apprenticeship programme unique, giving me the opportunity to understand and gain knowledge on computerised maintenance management system (CMMs) and achieve vocational qualifications that are quality specific. I also wouldn’t be enjoying my apprenticeship programme if it wasn’t for the support Keighley College gives me. The courses that they have available give learner’s vital work based skills, especially in CNC machining and engineering theory.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

As a quality engineering apprentice, I really enjoy the daily challenges, as I learn something new every day. Being in a role where there is lots of customer interaction, having to learn the details of specifications and having knowledge of how to produce quality documents has really developed my technical skills.

What are your ambitions for the future?

In the future I would like to train as a non-destructive engineer, I find the idea of structural damage and how to detect faults fascinating.

What would you say to those looking to pursue an apprenticeship?

To those who are interested in apprenticeships, I would recommend applying for work experience programmes as these help you to narrow down your areas of interest and give you a chance to develop a long term relationship with a company. There are so many opportunities that apprenticeship programmes can offer you that may not be available at university and there is room to progress and build a career.

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

Couple excel with Access course

Keighley-based couple, Laura and Chris Smith, have always had an ambition to work in the healthcare sector. 

The recent pandemic gave them time to reflect on their career aspirations, realising they wanted to pursue their passion and study an Access to Health Science Professions course at Keighley College.

Choosing a college

When deciding on a college, Laura and Chris knew Keighley College was the perfect match for them.

Laura said: “As we live locally, we’re aware of the college’s great reputation so we knew this would be a good fit for us. After researching various courses, we thought the Access course sounded really interesting and engaging. As we both hope to go to university, this course provides us with all the tools, knowledge and skills needed to progress to higher education.”

Course highlights

The Access course allows students to study a range of health and science topics while gaining practical experience.

Chris commented: “The course is incredibly varied with many fascinating subjects, such as infection and immunity, control and coordination, complementary therapies, chemistry of drugs and psychology. These topics allow me to have a detailed, well-rounded knowledge of healthcare, giving me the perfect headstart for a nursing career.”

Laura added: “So far, the course has been amazing. As we are only studying three days a week, the course allows for flexibility around family commitments. Although it’s sometimes difficult to juggle work, family life and studying, the tutors have been exceptionally helpful by equipping us with all the tools we need to manage our work.”

Future plans

When they complete the Access course, Laura and Chris hope to study healthcare degrees.

Laura said: “I have always wanted to pursue a role in midwifery, which I hope to do when the course finishes in July. It’s been fantastic studying with each other on the course, as we’re able to support, inspire and motivate each other.”

Find out more about Access to Health Science Professions, as well as other Access to Higher Education courses, including Policing and Social Working.