Apprentices make their mark at IT graduation ceremony

One of Wales’ largest colleges is set to reap big financial benefits after switching on to new energy efficient lighting that will slash its energy bills and protect the environment.

Coleg y Cymoedd, which serves over 25,000 students from a huge area across the South Wales Valleys, is installing energy efficient light fittings across its three largest campuses in order to achieve total savings of more than £31,790 per year and cut CO2 emissions by over 142 tonnes each year.

The investment was made possible by interest-free loans from Salix Finance, which works on behalf of the Welsh Government to boost the energy efficiency of schools, council offices, emergency service stations, universities, colleges and other publicly-owned buildings.

Coleg y Cymoedd is among the latest organisations to work with Salix which to date has supported investments of more than £16.5m in over 850 Welsh projects designed to yield total savings of £53 million across the public sector.

Phase one of the college project involved installing energy efficient T5 lighting and LED fittings throughout its Ystrad Mynach campus. This was completed over five months during 2013 and was funded by an interest-free loan of £81,100 from Salix.

The college have now taken on a further loan for £63,650 to carry on their works at the college’s Nantgarw and Rhondda campuses and are now taking advantage of the summer break to fit the new lighting technology and reduce energy bills even further.

Coleg y Cymoedd will achieve savings from the reduced energy bill that will enable it to repay the interest-free loans in full and will then continue to benefit from lower power bills for many years after the loan has been repaid.

Commenting on the projects, Paul Martin, Deputy Principal of Coleg y Cymoedd said: “It’s unlikely we would have been able to go ahead with the investment without the backing of Salix. This project has been so important for the college both to help reduce our carbon footprint and save money. The savings we will make will be recycled back into all three campuses, to strengthen education, skills and training so our students will feel the benefits of this project.”

Lucinda Green, Salix Finance programme co-ordinator for Wales said: “Working with Coleg y Cymoedd on the first phase has been a real pleasure and we are really looking forward to seeing the final results of the overall project in the near future.”

Caerphilly student swaps the classroom for kiwis

Coleg y Cymoedd celebrates the success of learners achieving a broad variety of vocational qualifications, as they progress to university and employment.

The college offers the widest choice of vocational courses in Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf across its five campuses and is celebrating the huge numbers of learners securing top grades and reaching university or securing employment.

Notable results include Gethin Dibben from Ton Pentre who achieved a D*D*D* portfolio (Triple Distinction*) in BTEC Extended Diploma in IT and has a confirmed place at the University of South Wales to study a degree in Computer Security.

Gethin said “I’m thrilled to have received three Distinction stars in my BTEC IT course. I can’t thank the college enough for all of the support in helping me achieve my goals of attending university.”

19 year old Suraj Patel from Rhymney will advance to Birmingham University to study Business Management and Marketing, after achieving the top portfolio grade D*D*D* in Level 3 BTEC National Extended Diploma in Business.

Suraj said “I’m ecstatic with my results. College has given me the freedom I needed but also a lot of support and opportunities. Being involved in enterprise activities and undertaking work experience placements, on top of the qualifications I have achieved, means I have all the skills I needed to get into my preferred university.”

The success also includes a high number of learners who have used their qualifications to secure full time employment. 19 year old Cerys Cantwell from Ystrad Mynach secured DDM (Double Distinction, Merit) in Level 3 BTEC Business and found full time employment with a renewable energy company within a week of receiving her results.

Cerys said “I’m really pleased with my results, I did much better than I expected. I’m really happy to have found a relevant job so quickly and am looking forward to my future. My tutor was really helpful the whole way through my course; I don’t think it would have done it without her!”

Motor Students to get new training facility

Today (14th August) is a landmark for education in the South Wales Valleys as the first A-level students to study at south Wales’ newest college celebrate their top results.

Overall, the first students to study at Coleg y Cymoedd’s new A-level Centre secured a 99 per cent pass rate at A-level.

The college also secured a rate of over 70 per cent A*-C grades with 21 out of the college’s 25 A-Level subject areas achieving a 100 per cent pass rate in subjects including  maths, English, chemistry, physics and history.

The largest provider of A-levels in Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, the college’s A-level Centre officially launched in 2012 with the opening of the £40 million Nantgarw campus.

Currently over 600 students study at the centre, which offers the choice of 28 A/AS-level subjects, and operates as a partnership between the college, St David’s Catholic College Cardiff and Cardinal Newman Roman Catholic School in Pontypridd.

Notable individual A results achieved by Coleg y Cymoedd students include Shannon Britton, 18 from Ferndale who achieved A* grades in English and law and an A in history. She will be going to Oxford University’s Exeter College to study English. Chloe Ratcliffe, 18, from Treharris, who achieved three A grades in English, History and Maths and will be going to Kings College, London to study history. Jodie Hartley, 18, from Caerphilly achieved an A grade in Business Studies and B grades in History and Sociology. She will be going to the University of Gloucester to study early childhood studies.

Shannon Britton said: “I am so relieved to have achieved the grades I needed and am really excited to be heading to Oxford. I had hoped to do well but really didn’t expect the A* grades. I’m so grateful to Coleg y Cymoedd for all their support, especially in helping me to fast track my A-levels to complete them in just one year.”

Chloe Ratcliffe said: “Unfortunately my grandfather passed away on the morning of my history exam so I really thought I had messed it up. My tutors were fantastic and helped in keep me positive, making sure I was focussed on getting through the exams. My grandfather would be so proud of my grades and what I’ve achieved.”

Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Today marks Coleg y Cymoedd’s most significant milestone since the creation of the A-level Centre. Our exceptional performance at A-level is the deserved reward of two years’ hard work by the students and staff who support them.

“Our students’ personal and collective successes are a demonstration of Coleg y Cymoedd’s mission to strengthen the South Wales Valleys through excellent academic provision, delivered through south Wales’ broadest A-level curriculum.     

“On behalf of all the staff at the college, I would like to congratulate all A-level and AS students and wish them continued success as they progress with their college studies, move on to university, or take their first steps on the career ladder.

“At AS level Coleg y Cymoedd, saw a nine per cent increase on last year’s results which is extremely encouraging ahead of our A-level results in 2015.”

Well done Chloe Ratcliffe, a Coleg y Cymoedd student who achieved 3 As at A-Level and will go to Kings College London to study History

Congratulations to student Aimee Lewis who is heading to the University of South Wales to study Business Management with Marketing

Congratulations to learner Rhys Davies who is heading to Swansea University to study Welsh and Spanish

Congratulations to talented student Owen Edwards who is heading to the University of South Wales to study Sound Technology

Congratulations to happy student Jodie Hartley from Caerphilly who achieved grades ABB and is heading to The University of Gloucester

Rebecca third in UK Student of the Year Awards

Aspiring costume designers studying at Coleg y Cymoedd showcased their talents during a recent ‘James Bond’ photo shoot held at the Nantgarw campus.

As part of the Foundation Degree in Costume Construction for Screen & Stage the learners develop skills in pattern-cutting for men and women, cutting and draping on the mannequin, and learning and applying tailoring techniques.

The learners were tasked with finding a willing member of staff to model their design and set to work on their challenge; with some fantastic results.

London Visit for College Winners

Young people and employers from across South Wales have been celebrating the success of IT Apprenticeships at a graduation ceremony to mark their achievements.

Nine Apprentices, who have completed a Level 3 IT Apprenticeship with Coleg y Cymoedd and Acorn’s Training Division, were awarded certificates by Rhondda Cynon Taf Councillor, Jill Bonetto, at the college’s Nantgarw campus.

The Apprenticeships resulted from an opportunity to progress existing students from a ‘Pathway to Apprenticeship Programme’ onto employed positions via Acorn’s Apprenticeship contract, operated through the Welsh Government and part-financed by the European Social Fund.

This programme is a new delivery model that Acorn and Coleg Y Cymoedd delivered in partnership. Coleg Y Cymoedd provided the knowledge based element ‘off-the-job’ at the college, whilst Acorn provided the competence element ‘on-the-job’ with local employers, such as Chad IT, Chapter Arts, Computer Recyclers UK, Oakdale Comprehensive School, MPCT, Partners IT, Rhondda Cynon Taff County Council, and the Representative Body of the Church in Wales.

The initiative has enabled the Apprentices to gain life-skills and practical experience, while enhancing their future long term career prospects, and Acorn and the College will be expanding their partnership with a new cohort of students from September 2014.

20-year-old apprentice Craig Jones, from Tonypandy, said the experience has changed his life: “It’s the best decision I’ve made. Apprenticeships develop your knowledge and skills but they also provide the life skills needed for working within a business.”

Craig, with support from Acorn, secured an Apprenticeship with the Chapter Arts Centre in Cardiff, where he’s been learning to solve technical issues and support the centre with IT needs for creative projects.

Craig said: “Chapter’s an amazing place, and I love going to work. We have thousands of people through our door daily with all sorts of activity going on, so ICT is really pivotal to the business.

“Before, I had no knowledge of how networks ran and I didn’t even like talking on the phone. Now, I’ve developed skills in ICT networking and troubleshooting, and I’m talking to and supporting people all day. I’m more confident in myself and I’m much better at problem-solving.” he said.

“Coleg y Cymoedd is a brilliant place to meet like-minded people, and Acorn supported me from day one. The whole experience has definitely made a difference to my career and I really hope to stay at Chapter.”

Craig is now hoping to move onto an IT Foundation Degree and secure a full time job at the Centre, if public funding is available.

Craig’s Manager at Chapter Arts, Graham Hill, says Apprenticeships are good for employers: “As a non-profit organisation with limited payroll, our IT had previously been delivered on a shoestring. Craig’s Apprenticeship has enabled us to create a new IT Department that can support the growing needs of the business, whilst remaining cost-effective.

“Since his first day Craig has been a committed member of the team, and has approached his work with energy, enthusiasm and a desire to learn.”

Speaking at the ceremony at Coleg y Cymoedd, Councillor Jill Bonetto said: “Apprenticeships are seen as an important route for allowing people to gain on-the-job experience and qualifications, and are fantastic for employers in terms of finding talent and as a way of developing and retaining existing staff. These successful graduates are being set on their way through quality training to good jobs and careers, armed with the skills employers need for success.”

Sarah John, Acorn’s Commercial Director of Learning and Development said: “Apprenticeships are a cost-effective solution for up-skilling and maintaining workforce skills in any industry and, in light of increasing skills shortages, are important for ensuring that companies are developed in a way that suits their business needs.”

Anyone who is interested in finding out more about Acorn’s Apprenticeship schemes should visit

Merged colleges Welsh Language Scheme Praised

A Caerphilly woman has swapped the classroom for kiwis after landing her dream job in New Zealand.

19-year-old Gracie Messner, from Llanbradach, is living and working on the remote Waiheke Island off the coast of Auckland after taking a job as a graphic designer at a web development company.

Gracie studied A levels in fine art, graphic design and ICT at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach campus before travelling round New Zealand after finishing her exams in 2013. Originally planning a short visit to the country, Gracie has now set-up a permanent home on Waiheke Island and is hoping to apply for permanent residency as soon as she is eligible.

While she was travelling, Gracie’s talent for graphic design was spotted by her new employer after she designed a logo for a new bar and restaurant that was opening on the island. The agency were so impressed with her talents that they offered her a full-time position.

Speaking about her new life, Gracie said: “Life in New Zealand is a world away from home but I absolutely love it. Waiheke Island is a tiny, tight-knit community where everyone knows each other so it has some similarities to Llanbradach! I had originally planned to go to university after travelling but I am so happy here I don’t want to leave and have instead signed up for a part-time online degree course in graphic design.

“I have always been a creative person but until I went to Coleg y Cymoedd I didn’t know how I could make a career out of my passion. The college tutors were so passionate and really encouraged me to develop my confidence, while at the same time giving me the freedom to develop my own style. When it came to getting my first job I definitely felt able to present myself and my work to them.”

Vanessa Batten, Gracie’s graphic design tutor at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Gracie is a fantastic example of what students from our course can achieve. It is almost unheard of for agencies to take on employees straight from A Level courses but in this case Gracie blew them away with her work and talent for design.

“I’m delighted Gracie has decided to continue her studies part-time as she will continue to develop her skills and learning. We have had great success with students on the A Level graphic design course at Coleg y Cymoedd over recent years with the majority being accepted onto degree courses without the requirement of the foundation course which is usually expected by universities.”

Learners referee opening of new Elite Sports Centre

Coleg y Cymoedd student Rebecca Thomas has achieved third place in the UK wide Student of the year Award for her work with mental health.

20 year old student Rebecca from Trecynon, Aberdare who recently won Endsleigh Student of the Year Award for Wales, has gone on to win third place in the UK final, a tribute to her hard work in the area of mental health.

Rebecca is the main carer for her Mother who experiences mental health problems, which could have been a barrier to learning, but Rebecca chose to take a positive step and progress into further education at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Aberdare campus.

Rebecca has used her experiences in identifying learners who have mental health issues or have also experienced mental health problems with family members. She set up a support group to chat through issues with fellow learners, and has also organised social outings and events.

Not content with establishing a support group in the college, Rebecca became an active volunteer at New Horizons mental health group, and encouraged learners to also join and therefore gain more help and support.

The award recognises the benefit to the learners involved of Rebecca’s work which has helped fellow learners maintain their studies and complete their education, progressing to employment or higher education. Rebecca hopes this will have an impact on the wider community in general.

Welfare Officer Laura Wilson said: “Rebecca has given greatly of her time in college and of her free time at evenings and weekends. She is available to discuss issues with fellow students through social media and often telephones them for a chat.

Rebecca has been an inspiration to all learners facing the challenges of mental health. Her continued work ensures that no learner is discriminated against, only supported and mentored, throughout their time at the campus.”

Rebecca said: I’m so proud to be recognised for the work I do with my fellow students experiencing mental health problems. Mental health is often seen as the ‘Cinderella’ of the medical world and too often is dismissed by society. I am passionate about ensuring that students are mentally healthy to enable them to continue their studies.”

College facility will train future generation of Railway workers

Major investment in motor vehicle training is planned for the Ystrad Mynach site of Coleg y Cymoedd.

A total of £2.1m will be ploughed into a new motor vehicle maintenance training facility, which will replace the college’s existing Rhymney campus – its current home – from September 2015.

This new centre is being developed to meet growing demands for delivering industry-leading motor vehicle repair and maintenance workshops, and diagnostic and testing facilities.

Campus facilities in Rhymney, which are leased are said to be ageing and do not meet the necessary requirements for the Coleg y Cymoedd’s investment in its motor vehicle training department.

However all learners there will have completed their studies by September 2015. Coleg y Cymoedd has also guaranteed that necessary provisions will be made for any existing students who decide to progress to further levels of motor vehicle training from then on.

Anthony Clarke, 16, from Caerphilly, is currently studying towards his Level 1 Diploma in Motor Vehicle Light Maintenance and Repair at the Rhymney campus. He said: “At the moment I travel on the train for 45 minutes to study at the Rhymney campus.

It will be great to have the new facility at the Ystrad Mynach campus as I plan to continue on to my Level 2 Motorsport and then possibly a Level 3 Motor Vehicle in the future. The majority of my course mates also live in Caerphilly and Ystrad Mynach, so we’ll all benefit.

The few that live in the Rhymney area already travel the same distance it will take to get to Ystrad Mynach, so that’s no problem” added Anthony.

Lucy O’Connell, 18, from Rhymney chose to study at Coleg y Cymoedd as she hopes to progress into a motorsport-related career. She said: The commuting doesn’t matter to me as it will be easy to catch the train, plus I’m hoping to pass my driving test soon.

It will be worth it to have new facilities and be on a bigger campus with more of a culture and be able to mix with more people on other coursers.”

From college to Cambodia

College lecturers were invited to the House of Commons in recognition of their hard work and commitment to students.

Members of the 28-strong engineering team from Coleg y Cymoedd, which has five campuses across South Wales, travelled to London for a special teaching awards ceremony.

The group was last month named Further Education Team of the Year in the 2014 Pearson Teaching Awards. There are currently 152 full-time and 194 part-time learners enrolled on engineering programmes, ranging from entry level qualifications to foundation degrees.

Gavin Davies, assistant curriculum director for technology, hailed an “inspirational collective team effort”. He added “It follows an incredibly successful year for your department, which is itself built on our college’s 30 years of working in partnership with businesses to deliver a curriculum that caters to the specific needs of our learners and their employers.”

The Pearson Teaching Awards are an annual celebration of exceptional teaching, founded in 1999 by Lord Puttnam. The Coleg y Cymoedd team were presented with their ‘silver’ award by Caerphilly MP Wayne David.

Local M.P. inspires Business Learners

Following the merger in 2013 Coleg y Cymoedd’s first joint Welsh Language Scheme has been approved and praised.

The organisation’s Welsh Language Scheme was revised by the Deputy Principal for Quality Improvement, the college’s two Bilingual Champions and a Welsh Language Staff group.

During the consultation process members of the public and partnership organisations commended the Scheme for being ‘forward thinking and ambitious’. The Scheme was approved by the Welsh Language Commissioner on June 24th following a public consultation.

The Scheme sets out Coleg y Cymoedd’s commitment to the Welsh language and details how it will develop and promote the use of Welsh in all of its activities. The Welsh Language Scheme aims to develop a Welsh Ethos at the college, develop bilingual communication skills and the Welsh-medium provision offered.

Coleg y Cymoedd has around a thousand Welsh speaking students and many more Welsh learners. The areas of Rhondda Cynon Taf and Caerphilly have approximately 50,000 Welsh speaking residents, and the Scheme aims to provide an equally high quality service in both English and Welsh.

The College is committed to promoting the use of Welsh, which was made an official language in Wales in 2011, not only as an academic subject but as a living community and social language, in line with the Welsh Government’s vision of a truly bilingual Wales.

Deputy Principal David Finch said “Continuing to develop bilingualism in all areas is a key objective for the college now and in the future. We are extremely pleased with the progress made so far“.


Wellington Street
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF44 8EN


Heol y Coleg
Parc Nantgarw
CF15 7QY


Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF40 2TQ

Ystrad Mynach

Twyn Road
Ystrad Mynach
CF82 7XR

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