Young people in South Wales illustrate new book about life in the Valleys

Talented young artists from South Wales have won the chance to have their illustrations included in a new novel about youth culture in the Valleys.

The illustrations of 11 learners from Coleg y Cymoedd will be featured in White Petals, the debut novelby author Maria Grace, from Pontypridd. The artistic learners entered a competition to have their illustrations included, and the winners were hand-picked by author Maria.

White Petals is a comic yet personal account of life in a Valleys children’s home for 14-year-old protagonist Emmeline, whose mother has become too sick to look after her. Maria specifically intended for her first book to be illustrated by young adults, for young adults, and teamed up with Welsh publisher Firefly Press to find the most suitable artists for the job.

After a tough competition, 27 gifted teenagers from across South Wales were chosen to contribute their illustrations towards the 36 chapters of the book. 11 of the young artists from Coleg y Cymoedd make up over a third of the illustrations in the book, with some of the learners contributing twice.

Speaking about illustrating two chapters of White Petals, learner at Coleg y Cymoedd, Aerun Edwards, 17 from Rhondda, explained, “We were all assigned our own chapters to illustrate so it allowed us to be creative.”

“I’m hoping to study Level 3 Art and Design at Coleg y Cymoedd next year, so this experience has been invaluable for a potential career in the creative industry.”

The artists were presented with a signed copy of the book, a certificate and a white rose at the White Petals launch at the college’s Nantgarw campus. The book launch is part of Coleg y Cymoedd’s annual creative industries summer show that showcases the institution’s fresh talent, with their winning young illustrators giving them all the more reason to celebrate.

The book was part of Maria’s dissertation from the University of Glamorgan in 2011, where she graduated with a first-class honours degree in Creative and Professional Writing. “The idea for the illustrations came very early on for me”, Maria said.

“I knew from day one that I wanted the novel to have something different about it, and I wanted to provide an opportunity for young artists to test themselves and their talents by entering the illustration competition. I can’t explain how proud I am of them all. They delight me, they really do.”

Coleg y Cymoedd tutor, Paul Lavagna, commented, “We’re thrilled that Maria chose to work with Coleg y Cymoedd on this unique project. For many of the learners, this will be a great stepping stone for a career in art or illustration. The book looks fantastic, and the illustrations are a testament to the talented young people here at the college and across South Wales.”

Business Tutor Honoured at National Teaching Awards

An education professional at Coleg y Cymoedd has been named as an ‘inspirational leader’ at a national awards ceremony.

Kim Purnell, a Business Lecturer from Coleg y Cymoedd was honoured with the FE Lecturer of the Year title at the Inspirational Teaching Awards held in Cardiff on Friday 19th June.

The awards ran by recruitment and training firm New Directions pay homage to staff from the education community throughout Wales. The evening saw 11 individuals honoured by colleagues, parents and pupils with over 150 nominations.

FE Lecturer of the Year, Kim Purnell has worked for Coleg Cymoedd for over seven years as a Business lecturer. Her nomination spoke highly of the opportunity Kim affords her students. Asked to describe her in five words, her nominators said ‘nurturing, entrepreneurial, loyal, and compassionate role model’.

On receiving the award Kim said I was incredibly proud to have been nominated for this award and was honoured and amazed to have won. I would like to thank my family, the BTEC Business team and Jayne MacGregor, my line manager. Without these people not only putting up with me, but supporting and encouraging me, nothing I do would be possible.”

Jayne MacGregor, Head of School for Business at Coleg y Cymoedd who nominated Kim for the award said of the win ‘we thoroughly enjoyed the evening, and we were delighted that Kim won the award. It is thoroughly deserved. Kim really goes the extra mile to help her learners; she has had a huge impact on so many lives’.

The Inspirational Teaching Awards took place at the Mercure Holland House in Cardiff on Friday 19th June 2015. The event, organised by recruitment and training specialists New Directions Education paid homage to over 30 shortlisted members of the education community who had been shortlisted for the awards by their colleagues, peers, parents and students.

The evening was hosted by broadcaster, comedian and one-time teacher at Barry Comprehensive School – Chris Corcoran. Guests enjoyed a three-course meal and were entertained by ‘Choir Factor’ competition winners Treorchy Comprehensive, who gave their interpretation of Bastille’s Pompeii and an arrangement of Chasing Cars and Run by Snow Patrol.

The Inspirational Teaching Awards saw eleven professionals from schools and colleges across Wales honoured with awards.

Gary Williams, Director of Business Development for New Directions, a recruitment and training provider to the education sector said of the ceremony ‘every year we come together to celebrate the outstanding contribution of our peers across this very special community. To read each of the nominations is very humbling; these individuals are shaping the future of our young people, and helping to make Wales a better place. Each of the winners has added to the sustainability of our country for many years to come’.

Learners provide comfort for Mothers Of Africa

A group of learners from Coleg y Cymoedd are using their expertise to create quilts for charity Mothers of Africa.

31 learners on the Level 3 Diploma in Art and Design have been stitching quilts to be distributed to hospitals and communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Three groups of learners have been involved with the Mothers of Africa Sponsored Quilt Project from January to June. Each group has had seven weeks to work on experimental textile techniques before applying their new skills to a final patchwork piece.

The first of the cot quilts from the learners has been completed, and the second and third quilts are nearly finished. Mothers of Africa have been blogging the success of the project and their appreciation at the learner’s involvement.

The quilts will also be displayed at the Art and Design end of year exhibition at the Nantgarw campus. The show will start with the private viewing on the 19th June and remain on show for a week.

This is the second year the colleges Art and Design department have been involved with this project after Esme Cowan, a Fashion and Textiles tutor at Coleg y Cymoedd, was inspired by the cause.

The learners are working on squares for three cot quilts which will be ready in the summer; these will be sent to Africa to help mothers in childbirth in remote hospitals and communities in Africa.

Tutor Sarah Brown said: ‘’Our learners have really enjoyed this project, it has given them the opportunity to learn a range of new textiles skills and apply them to produce beautiful pieces, it’s been great to see their efforts going towards such a great cause.’’

Maggie Cullinane at Mothers of Africa Sponsored Quilt Project: “It is fantastic to be receiving three quilts from the talented college learners, and they are also raising money for Mothers of Africa. Many thanks to all who have contributed, we can’t wait to see the finished quilts!”

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New Tredegar mum wins Learner of the Year award

A mother of three from New Tredegar was among the winners at the annual Learner of the year awards held by UHOVI (Universities Heads of the Valleys Institute) at the University of South Wales.

Lynda Porter studied a Foundation Degree in Digital Photography at Coleg y Cymoedd in Nantgarw:

“I’ve always been creative and interested in art and design. I was looking for a new challenge and as the course was part-time and local it fitted around my family commitments,” said Lynda.

“The tutors were excellent – always available, supportive and encouraging. In my circumstances I had other demands on my time and the tutors were able to be flexible, helping and encouraging me throughout the course.

“It has given me new confidence, new skills and a greater understanding of my abilities. I feel quite overwhelmed at winning the award, I didn’t expect it; I did work hard but I really enjoyed the work.”

Lynda was one of 10 winners at the event which was hosted by Heart FM breakfast duo Jagger and Woody, with Welsh tenor Wynne Evans on hand to present the awards:

Lynda was nominated for a Learner of the Year Award by Lecturer in Digital Photography at Coleg y Cymoedd, Peter Britton:

“When Linda she first came onto the course she wasn’t too confident with a camera, but then in the second year she has worked really well and the standard of her work has come on in leaps and bounds.

“Lynda’s motivation was the main thing that made me nominate her. Out of all the students that I teach, Lynda was the ideal candidate because she’s supportive to other students, she helps other students in class, as a photographer she has progressed wonderfully and she’s really looking forward to embarking on a photographic career.”

Dr Robert Payne, Director of UHOVI Operations and Partner Curriculum said:

“UHOVI is a vital part of the University’s commitment to make education accessible for people in every community in our region.

“What we heard and saw at our awards ceremony were the achievements of some truly inspirational students, and I’m so proud of both them and of our partners for the hard work and dedication they have shown throughout their studies.

“I look forward to seeing their continuing development and success.”

Learner tackles coaching scheme in USA

A learner at Coleg y Cymoedd has the opportunity to develop their budding soccer coaching skills across the pond in the USA.

The coaching scheme – called Challenger Sports – allows learner to travel to different areas of America to build on their coaching skills in a variety of soccer camps.

19 year old Connor Prankerd from Caerphilly, who studies level 3 BTEC Extended Diploma in Sport, will spend eleven weeks in Baltimore from mid-June.

To be chosen for the scheme Connor had to undergo a practical assessment and interview. On being successful the budding coaches had to attend a training weekend in April at Warwick University before flying out to America.

The scheme was introduced to the college by Head of Sport, Neil Smothers, who coached soccer in the States himself, as a learner at Cardiff Metropolitan University.

Neil Smothers said: “The scheme gives the students an opportunity to boost their coaching skills in a different soccer environment whilst living in and experiencing real USA culture. It also helps them to build their independence and confidence skills whilst having a truly fantastic life experience.

Furthermore, they will meet new people (other UK coaches and USA families and friends) and develop their portfolio of contacts that can provide further opportunities for them in the future.”

Connor Prankerd, said: “I’ve been playing soccer since I can remember and I find coaching youngsters so rewarding. It’s so exciting when you see young people working hard and improving, as I know how important sport is to young people, and I love putting the work in to help them get better.”

“I didn’t know coaching in the USA was even an option until college had someone come in from Challenger Sport to discuss the prospect with us. I took the opportunity straight away as I want to build a career in sport coaching, so this is ideal. I am so pleased to have been accepted and am very excited to go, I’m sure it will be a fantastic experience.”

Professor Julien Baker PhD, former learner of Coleg y Cymoedd, wins golden

Staff and learners at Coleg y Cymoedd are celebrating after alumnus Professor Julien Baker received an Association of Colleges Gold Award at a ceremony at the House of Commons.

The awards celebrate the success of further education alumni and acknowledge the vital role that colleges play in building the foundation of successful careers.

Staff and learners from Coleg y Cymoedd attended the star-studded awards ceremony in London on 10 June where Professor Baker was presented with his AoC Gold Award by Lord Willis of Knaresborough.

On accepting the award, he said: “Obviously the college gave me the opportunity to attend university and fulfil my ambitions. There is a pool of academic talent locally across the United Kingdom that may mature later than the traditional 16 to 18-year-olds that attend, or get a university education through the more traditional routes.

“Colleges of further education (FE) not only provide exceptional vocational education, but provide a traditional educational perspective/roadmap that includes a mechanism for both traditional and non-traditional academics to maximize their potential and realise total academic development.”

Professor Baker, who completed a one-year pre-apprenticeship programme while at the then Rhondda College in 1971, went on to take up an apprenticeship in engineering as a toolmaker with FSG Ltd. He left his apprenticeship in 1973 without completing it and instead went to Pontypridd Technical College to study GCEs in English Language and Art.

After working in industry for a number of years, he decided on a career change and returned to Pontypridd Technical College to study BTEC Building Studies with civil engineering at levels two and three. He progressed to the University of Wales Institute in Cardiff where he graduated with a BA Hons in Exercise Science in 1988. He subsequently gained an MSc in Exercise Science at University of Loughborough in 1989, a PhD in Human Physiology at University of Glamorgan in 2000 and a Doctor of Science at the University of West of Scotland in 2013.

Professor Baker is currently the Director of Research at the Institute of Clinical Exercise at the University of West Scotland. His current research interests include the use of high intensity exercise models in the management of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity.

Alongside, Professor Baker, Coleg y Cymoedd nominated Calum Haggett as a learner showing promise in a similar field to receive the Association of Colleges ‘Future Star’ accolade. Calum (18) is studying A Levels in Biology, Maths and Physics at the college whilst simultaneously captaining the Welsh age group teams in Rugby Union, recently touring South Africa as captain of the Wales U18 Rugby Union Squad.

The sky’s the limit for learners in South Wales

Learners in South Wales with jet-setting ambitions will have the opportunity to get first-hand cabin crew experience thanks to the latest investment in innovative equipment at Coleg y Cymoedd.

The new replica travel cabin at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach campus will provide high-flying learners on the Travel and Air Cabin Crew course with experience of working on a real-life aeroplane.

The purpose-built mock aeroplane cabin will support the practical side of the further education course, challenging learners to deal with real life situations that can arise at 35,000 ft. Learners use role play to learn about the health, safety and security of passengers, and how to respond correctly to emergency situations. Not only does this help build the confidence of the learners, but also provides them with customer service skills vital to the career.

The new mock cabin has been championed by the college for its realistic take on an actual aeroplane cabin, giving the latest cohort of learners the most up-to-date equipment to learn with.

Course tutor at Coleg y Cymoedd, Gabriella Anderson, spoke of the equipment, “We’re very excited at the prospect of using the new aeroplane cabin on the course. Using role play and setting up mock flights makes it really enjoyable for the learners and prepares them for the real thing.

“Many learners who complete the course go on to become successful cabin crew for well-known airlines, so it’s really valuable to be able to deliver a course that gives them realistic insight into the industry and enables them to have a head start when they go onto training with their future employers.”

Since 2010, the travel and tourism industry has been the fastest growing sector in the UK in employment terms and is set to be worth over £257 billion by 2025. In South Wales specifically, recent additional flight routes from Cardiff Airport are set to boost tourism in the city, and increase the job opportunities available. This makes Coleg y Cymoedd’s advances in teaching in the industry with the most up-to-date equipment especially timely.

The intensive training on the Air Cabin Crew course also includes community first aid, firefighting, slide evacuation and foreign language skills. The course was among the first of its kind to be offered in the Valleys area.

Judith Evans, Principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said, “We’ve been thrilled at the success of the Travel and Air Cabin Crew course since it launched in 2012. We’re committed to providing our learners with the best equipment to support their learning, especially when entering such a fast-growing industry. This is a unique course to this area, so it’s important we’re able to give learners the best platform for a successful career in the industry.”

Learners on track for first-class education as Centre of Excellence is complete

Wales’s next generation of railway workers are on the track to success, as the final stages of investment at Coleg y Cymoedd’s £3.08 million rail engineering facility are complete.

The final ‘topping out’ stage at the Nantgarw campus follows a £1.54 million investment by the Welsh Government into an indoor state-of-the-art facility that will position the college as a Railway Training Centre of Excellence in the industry.

Along with staff and learners, Edwina Hart AM, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport attended the topping out event at the Nantgarw site, giving her a chance to see first-hand the second stage of Welsh Government funding.

The college launched the rail engineering apprenticeship in September 2014 after developing a purpose built replica track on site. Thanks to the second stage of investment, budding rail engineers will be privy to new classrooms and workshop training facilities, meeting the needs for excellence training in the industry. The new facilities will be fully complete and up-and-running for the September 2015 intake of learners.

At the event, Mrs Hart said: “A skilled workforce is vital for the growth of the Welsh economy which is why I am delighted to see how Welsh Government support has helped create this training centre of excellence for the rail industry. It will provide young people with the first class skills and hands on work experience needed to open up interesting career opportunities that are set to increase with the planned electrification of rail infrastructure in Wales.”

The new building is currently on target to achieve BREEAM Excellent status, the environmental assessment for buildings. The facility has been designed with sustainable features including triple glazed windows in order to reduce the need for additional heating. The college put significant emphasis on community benefits in the building process, committing to using 85 per cent of labourers and companies from Wales to deliver the facility.

The completion of the centre is especially timely leading up to plans to electrify the Valley lines and London rail links. This will not only improve services for train passengers, but also provide employment opportunities for a huge labour force in South Wales. Aspiring rail engineers will now have access to the most up-to-date facilities to train in the industry.

The existing rail apprenticeship training is being jointly delivered by Coleg y Cymoedd and specialist rail recruitment firm McGinley Support Services. The partnership with McGinley means that the learners will gain essential skills in a realistic environment, and head straight out to work with McGinley for a year of guided learning in the industry.

Coleg y Cymoedd now offers Level 1 Rail Engineering as part of its main curriculum. This programme is unique in that it offers both rail engineering and civil engineering making learning about the industry more accessible. Much like the apprenticeship, learners will be put into realistic workplace situations, gearing them up for the real environment.

Celebrating the completion of the facility, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, Judith Evans, said, “We’re thrilled that the final stages of our new rail centre are now complete to provide first class training to our learners. With major rail investment programmes planned for the coming years, these learners will hopefully fill a large job market coming to South Wales.

“We’re grateful to Welsh Government for their ongoing support and their confidence in Coleg y Cymoedd’s ability to deliver excellent education, training and career opportunities to young people”

The college has received further support in the process of developing the rail engineering facility with independent education charity, the Edge Foundation, awarding the college £100,000 to set up the Centre for Excellence. In addition, construction company Speedy donated over £5000 worth of tools for the apprentices, and civil engineers Walters UK also gave a financial donation in support.


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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