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 .

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.