Coleg y Cymoedd celebrates landmark A-level success

It’s full steam ahead for Wales’s next generation of railway workers, as the first wave of learners arrived this week to join Coleg y Cymoedd’s ground-breaking Rail Engineering Apprenticeship Programme.

Following the first stage of a £3m investment in new equipment and facilities at the college’s Nantgarw campus, an initial intake of nine young learners from across south Wales have started their apprenticeships as rail track engineers. Over the next 12 months a further 40 new apprentices will join the programme.

The intensive training, which is linked to employment in the industry, is being delivered jointly by Coleg y Cymoedd and specialist recruitment firm McGinley Support Services; a partnership which is fifty per cent funded by the Welsh Government.

The apprentices will earn their Level 2 qualifications working on the college’s industry standard equipment, which includes a section of full scale replica rail track.

Further investment is taking place at the campus and by September 2015 work will be complete on a purpose built rail facility at the Nantgarw, which will establish Coleg y Cymoedd as a centre of excellence for railway training.

Shay Smallman, is one of the first rail apprentices to study at the college. Speaking of his first week’s training, the 18 year old from Gilfach Goch in the Rhondda Valley, said: “After reading up about the apprenticeship, I saw the great opportunities it offered. I really enjoy practical work so it was a brilliant choice for me.

“So far we have been learning a lot about health and safety on the track and how to use the equipment properly. Because there are so many dangers involved it’s important to learn this now. We have used the replica track twice so far which is really exciting.”

Tony Rowberry, 21 from Mountain Ash, in the Cynon Valley, has already decided he would like to pursue a higher level qualification in rail track engineering after this year is complete. He said: “My brother works with McGinley, so I have seen first-hand the amazing opportunities he has had. I’m really glad I chose to do the apprenticeship because I have loved it so far, particularly because I enjoy learning on the job. Our course tutor has given us amazing support so far, and always been there if there is anything we need.”

In addition to core rail engineering skills, the facility is designed to provide enhancement to a number of transferable skills such as building works and electrical trades which can be migrated across to the railway environment.

McGinley’s railway apprenticeship course tutor, Wayne Chawner, who is based at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “The railway apprenticeship is a fantastic opportunity for these young people to work on a real life replicated track with proper components, in a very safe environment. This course will provide the learners with first-hand experience with huge career advancements in the rail industry on offer. We have just finished the first week of the apprenticeship, and I have been so impressed at how eager and engaged the learners are.”

This initiative was also supported by Speedy Services who donated power tool equipment for the apprentices to use, and Walters UK who donated money towards equipment.

Commenting on the new apprenticeship programme, Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “We’re very pleased to be working with McGinley, as our latest industry partner, to deliver innovative training that leads to real jobs. With major rail investments planned for the coming years the prospects are bright for these young people. The investment by the Welsh Government to create a centre of excellence here, shows their confidence in Coleg y Cymoedd’s ability to deliver excellent education, training and career opportunities to young people in south Wales.

Vocational learners on the path to success

Two learners from the South Wales Valleys have travelled around the globe to represent Wales and the UK as part of an international student exchange programme with China.

Laura Averiss and Atlanta Taylor, a learner and alumna (respectively) at Coleg y Cymoedd, were the only two UK representatives to travel to Asia as part of a hundred strong student delegation representing fifty nationalities.

The pair visited China as part of the 10th annual Shanghai International Youth Interactive Friendship Camp, a scheme aimed to give teenagers all over the world a chance to study Chinese culture, as well as introduce the locals to their own.

Atlanta and Laura spent 10 days in and around China’s largest city serving as would-be ambassadors for Wales and the UK. During their stay they were taught various traditional Chinese discipline, s including singing, martial arts and calligraphy.

They also spent several nights with local families, who they called their ‘Chinese sisters’, in order to brush up on their Mandarin and enjoy a truly immersive experience of the country.

Laura, 18, from Danescourt, Cardiff, has now returned for her final year at Coleg y Cymoedd. She explained how the trip has inspired her to continue travelling: “I loved experiencing the different cultures so much that I booked a three week trip to India in April 2015 to work with underprivileged children as soon as I got home from China! I am still in touch with some of the people I met on the trip, from New Zealand, Denmark and Australia, and I have been invited to stay with them all at some point.

“One of the families I stayed with was based further into the countryside so I got to see different areas in China and visit some of the temples ,which were my highlight.”

As representatives of the UK, the learners took the opportunity to share their own Welsh culture, including Welsh cakes, love spoons and their own rendition of Calon Lânwith the other nationalities at a ‘market’ event, devised as a way for all the students to learn about the different cultures present.

Atlanta, also 18, from Llantwit Fadre, who is just about to embark on her first year at Newcastle University to study Corporate Management, said: “We were the only people taking part in the experience from the UK so it was a lot of pressure to represent everyone, but we met some great people from lots of different nationalities and learnt so much.

“My favourite activity was orienteering around the city, and seeing it lit up at night from the Bund waterfront.”

Both learners were also keen to extend their thanks to the college’s tutors who “have really helped develop our confidence, which makes big trips like this possible.” As part of preparing the girls for the visit the college arranged for the girls to meet with learner Lucy Bainbridge from the School of Oriental and Africa Studies, part of the University of London, who introduced them to Chinese culture and taught them basic Mandarin.

Coleg y Cymoedd Strategic Alliance Manager Ian Rees, was keen to praise his students: “Laura and Atlanta are excellent examples of the innovative and dedicated learners we strive to nurture here. In addition to broadening their personal horizons, they have paved the way for future learners to travel and represent the college internationally.”

Bob Tod, one of the college’s enterprise champions was visibly delighted upon the pair’s return.

He said: “I could not be more proud of both of them for representing their college and their country so admirably. Having two learners fly our flag on the other side of the world has obviously been a really exciting venture for us. The girls even had to give a presentation about their visit to the senior management team on their return.”

From Nantgarw with Love

The first Annual Prize Evening Ceremony of Coleg y Cymoedd took place at the Nantgarw Campus on Tuesday 9 September 2014.

Principal Judith Evans welcomed the audience, stating the first Award ceremony of Coleg y Cymoedd was an important landmark in the success of the college, as well as the learners being awarded. With over 11,000 learners Ms Evans went on to congratulate the 50 learners who had been nominated by their tutors for their achievements and also thanked family and tutors who have helped them this year.

Coleg y Cymoedd’s Chair of the Corporation, Mrs Liz James gave an overview of the role of the Governing Body at the college and the pride and satisfaction that she and her fellow governors take from the achievements of all its’ learners. The learners and their guests were greeted by Hospitality & Catering learners, offering mouth-watering canapés and refreshments.

Members of the Senior Management Team introduced the winners who received awards from a wide range of subjects; with additional Awards presented to those learners who had made a significant contribution to the Welsh Language throughout the year. The awards were presented by Suzy Drane, Captain of Welsh Netball whom the college had sponsored for the season.

The two final Overall College Awards were presented to Christopher Rhys Thomas who had studied on the BTEC Level 2 Diploma in IT, gaining a distinction grade in every module. Christopher had overcome many barriers to achieve these results and had also been an active and extremely supportive member of his course.

Shannon Britton also received an Overall Award for her outstanding achievement. In just nine months Shannon achieved the remarkable grades of A* English, A* Law and A History, securing her a place at Oxford to read English.

Addressing the audience Suzy thanked the college for their sponsorship throughout the year and for the invitation to speak at this year’s Prize Evening. She spoke about her journey from a young netball player to her current position as Captain of the Team during the recent Commonwealth games in Glasgow; sharing some of the ‘highs and lows’ and the training leading up to it. She emphasised the importance of the support of friends and families, whether it be in sport or education and hoped that one day she may meet some of the learners at Cardiff Metropolitan, where she now lectures.

Learners from the Performing Arts department played key roles in the ceremony; James Owen was compere for the evening and led the bi-lingual programme in a very professional manner. Fellow learner Arwel Harries raised the roof and had the audience in tears with a strong rendition of ‘Stars’ which you could expect on the stage at any major musical theatre.

Closing the evening the Principal thanked the learners and their guests and all who had made the evening a success, she said “Evenings such as this reinforce why we are here and the important role we have to play in the future of our learners. We have a wealth of talent throughout the County Boroughs and I hope that Coleg y Cymoedd has helped to set you off on a learning journey. We wish you good luck for your future, whether it be continuing your studies at Coleg y Cymoedd, progressing to university or in employment”.

Photograph: Kirstie Wilkinson


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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