Construction of new £20m Coleg y Cymoedd Aberdare campus to start in the New Year as plans are accepted

Plans for a new £20m college at the former railway goods yard in Aberdare have been given the green light, with construction set to go full steam ahead.

Rhondda Cynon Taf council’s development control committee met on Thursday evening and granted full planning permission for the Coleg y Cymoedd project in Robertstown, a stone’s throw from Aberdare Railway Station and the new state-of-the-art Aberdare Community School.

Coleg y Cymoedd principal Judith Evans has said she is “delighted and grateful” that permission had been granted.

During February, the development, which will replace the existing college campus in Cwmdare, was earmarked as a priority scheme by the Welsh Government in its 21st Century Schools Programme – which could help fund it by up to £11m.

Ms Evans said: “We’re delighted that plans for the new Coleg y Cymoedd Aberdare campus are now fully approved to allow construction to commence in the New Year.

“We are grateful that the council is supporting us in our mission to make excellence in education and skills development a reality for all learners in Rhondda Cynon Taff.

“Everyone at the college is eager to progress with this development, to provide the best facilities for our learners in Aberdare and its surrounding communities.

“We especially look forward to working in partnership with the new campus’ neighbouring schools to develop a curriculum which complements and enhances their own offerings.”

The new Wellington Road college will serve up to 800 students.

The now-accepted plans include the refurbishment of an existing disused railway station building, while a 133-space car park served by an existing access will be built.

A public consultation event took place at Aberdare’s Sobell Leisure Centre at the end of October for local people to have their say on the development, while members of the council’s planning committee had visited Robertstown on November 30 to inform Thursday’s decision.

Inspiring tutor honoured at college awards

A tutor from Pontypridd has been honoured by her learners for her enthusiasm and engaging lessons at a recent awards ceremony, beating over 400 other tutors from South Wales to the post.

Helen Haines, 62, was presented with the Learner Choice Award at the first Coleg y Cymoedd Staff Recognition Awards. The Award was voted for by learners from across the college’s four campuses in the South Wales Valleys.

Helen, who has taught the ‘Access to HE Biological Sciences’ course at the Ystrad Mynach campus for 12 years, was praised by her learners for her “bubbly personality” and “refreshing approach” to lessons.

One learner, Michelle Dupuis, 43, from Caerphilly, spoke of Helen: “She is a brilliant and engaging person who can bring the subject of biology to life. I always look forward to my lessons with Helen. It is her lesson that has inspired me to follow my dream career.”

Following the award ceremony at the Nantgarw campus, Helen said: “I was completely blown away. I never expected to win the award, but it’s a great pleasure. I absolutely love teaching Biology, and meeting so many fantastic learners.

“We have such a range of people on the course now, including many mature learners who have chosen to return to education. Some have been made redundant, some have already got degrees, but everyone is so enthusiastic about the subject and achieving their career goals. It’s not a hard task teaching them.”

Helen even commented that, despite her husband’s wishes, she has no plans to retire any time soon as she loves teaching far too much.

Judith Evans, Principal at Coleg y Cymoedd said: “It’s a pleasure to see Helen receive the Learner Choice Award, following glowing comments from some of the learners. Helen captures the enthusiasm we encourage all our staff to have in their lessons, giving our learners the best education to ensure they’re at the forefront of any employment opportunities that come their way. She is an asset to the college!”

In its debut year, the Staff Recognition Awards covered categories such as Team Achievement Award, Use of Technology Award, Service Excellence Award, Literacy and Numeracy Award, Welsh Award, Teaching and Learning Award, Business Support Award, Special Recognition Award and Distinguished Employee Award, recognising some of the 900 staff across the four Coleg y Cymoedd campuses.

Learners help to sculpt a future for Nepal

Two learners from Coleg y Cymoedd have created a sculpture for a major charity event aimed at raising money for the Nepal earthquake disaster.

Two Performing Arts Technologies learners who specialise in prop making were tasked with crafting a large-scale Buddha sculpture for the charity event in London, raising funds for the natural disaster that occurred in Nepal.

The two talented learners created the sculpture for the Nepal Earthquake disaster event which was held in November in Clerkenwell in aid of demonstrating to key donators where their money had been spent, on what, who benefited and who is still to benefit from donations.

The event was built by Dresd in partnership with Chapell productions and supported by the Coleg y Cymoedd learners who supplied the Buddha as a leading part of the set.

During the interactive event clients entered an earthquake zone to immerse them in the setting that the Nepalese have encountered, they then went into a separate room which showed a pop up classroom, family shelter and stores.

The outcome of the event was to ensure further funding to continue with the work that the Disasters Emergency Committee carry out.

Art and Design tutor Alistair Aston said: “This was a challenging build for our prop students, both in terms of the scale and lead-times involved, but it is exactly these kind of projects and experiences that furnish our learners with the skills and attributes required to be successful within this fast moving industry.

The client was extremely pleased with the end result, receiving lots of positive feedback from those that attended the event.”

More information about the Disasters Emergency Committee can be found at:

Aspiring professionals gain insight into the world of finance

Business learners from Coleg y Cymoedd were given the opportunity to gain insight into finance, security and investment on a unique visit to the chartered institute.

Five learners on BTEC Level 3 Business at the Nantgarw campus were invited to a Financial Services Insight Day at the head offices of the Chartered Institute of Securities and Investment (CISI) in London.

The budding businesspeople have opted to study an additional ‘Introduction to Securities and Investments’ qualification alongside their full time studies.

The insight day included Speed Networking and a Networking Lunch with top level financial practitioners and a detailed tour of Winterflood Securities and CISI head offices.

Learners also observed a day in the life profile of the roles of top financial professionals for large corporate firms and specialised financial services companies. Some of the top roles demonstrated to the learners were Corporate Broker, Operational Risk & Control Manager, Client Director, Product Controller and Investment Manager.

Business tutor Kim Purnell said “It was an amazing opportunity for the students to meet practitioners in the financial sector and they visited the trading floor of one of the financial organisations.”

“The learners showed amazing commitment to the visit, even meeting at 5am on the first day of the Half term to travel to London for this activity.”

20 year old Nicola Rodgers from Pontypridd studies Level 3 Introduction to Securities and Investments alongside the Level 3 Business course. Reflecting on the visit she said: The CISI visit was a great opportunity to gain a better understanding of the different roles within the finance sector and meet people from through the country who were also studying the same qualifications.”

Sam Braithwaite, 18, from Caerphilly reflected on the benefits of the visit: “I found the day very interesting especially visiting the trading floor. The business people we met gave some valuable career advice. It was well worth the visit.”

18 year old Ellis Smith from Caerphilly who also studies Business and CISI modules at the college added: “It was a great insight into the financial world. I would recommend it to anyone.”

21 year old Stephen O’Shea from Maerdy highlighted specific elements of the visit he found beneficial: “It was good to have a chance to speak to real workers in the finance industry through the speed dating activity. My favourite part of the day was having the chance to visit the Winterflood Trading Floor though.”

Beauty learners spread Christmas joy to those in need

A new group of beauty learners from Coleg y Cymoedd have been collecting Christmas presents for families who have been affected by domestic violence.

For the second year running groups of beauty therapy learners from the Nantgarw campus of Coleg y Cymoedd have gathered presents for children who will spend Christmas in a domestic violence refuge.

The learners have been involved with the ‘Don’t Look Back’ charity, which supports victims of domestic violence and their families, since the founder became a client at the college’s commercial salon.

Rachel Court inspired the Level 3 Beauty Therapy learners with her incredible story of escaping domestic violence and using the experience to make a positive impact on other people’s lives as an Ambassador for Welsh Woman’s Aid.

One of the many projects the charity is involved with is supporting families in safe houses away from difficult domestic situations. The learners decided to make the festive season special for children living in these refuges by buying them Christmas presents.

24 year old Jodie Cummings from Beddau said “It has been fantastic to be involved with collecting presents for the ‘Don’t Look Back’ charity. After hearing the inspirational stories of what people go through, and what can be done to help, we all really wanted to be involved. It is lovely to know that we have done something to help make someone else’s Christmas better”.

Tutor Nicola Davies said “I am very proud of these learners for the willingness and generosity they have shown and I feel that they deserve real recognition for their efforts and the amount of Christmas presents gathered for children.”

Rachel Court founder of ‘Don’t Look Back’ said “I was totally speechless and overwhelmed by the generosity of the learners last year, and once again the beauty learners have shown real hard work and kindness. Thank you all so very much”

Up-cycled cultural fashion ready for catwalk debut

Outfits that previously failed to find a loving home at a boutique Cardiff charity store are about to hit the catwalk after getting a complete revamp from talented creative industries learners.

For the fifth year running, aspiring designers from Coleg y Cymoedd have used their new-found skills to turn the clothes from the Oxfam Boutique Cardiff into a range of original ensembles, this year with an ‘East meets West’ theme.

Following the success of previous year’s events, the eye-catching handiwork will go on display during a fund-raising fashion show to be held at the college’s Nantgarw campus on Tuesday 15th December.

The event will be a joint enterprise between learners right across the college. Volunteers from the hairdressing and production arts make-up departments will prepare the models for the catwalk, music technology learners will provide the soundtrack and the whole event will be captured on film by digital media learners.

The garments and collection of accessories created by the learners was entirely constructed from fabric supplied by the Oxfam Boutique and other recycled materials and, which learners have up-cycled into upmarket cultural fashion pieces.

The continuing project aims to encourage learners to consider the ethical issues associated with the fashion industry. Moreover, the exhibition gave the talented learners ‘real world’ experience in the promotion, organisation and management of a large scale event.

Jessica Edwards, 18 from Llanbradach, an art and design learner at Coleg y Cymoedd, said “I have really enjoyed being part of this important project. It has been a great experience working on outfits for a real life brief, and it’s really exciting to think that our work will be on the catwalk and for sale to the public.

“The East and West cultural theme has been really interesting to work on and it has been fascinating to learn about the ethical considerations of the industries we want to go on to work in.”

Following their catwalk debut, the upcycled creations will return to the high profile Oxfam Boutique on St Mary’s Street, Cardiff to be sold in store, with all proceeds going to Oxfam.

Claire Samuel, manager of Oxfam Boutique Cardiff has said, “This is a fantastic collaboration, and a great opportunity to inform a younger generation of the great work being done by Oxfam nationally and worldwide. The work the learners created is excellent.

“It has made for a fantastic visual display in the Oxfam Boutique and engages the public with Oxfam’s mission to lift people from poverty. Many thanks to all the departments in Coleg y Cymoedd who made this possible.”

Alistair Aston, tutor at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Working with Oxfam Boutique is always a fantastic experience for our learners as it enables them to gain an understanding of the vital issues that Oxfam support as well as the preparation needed for large scale events and a commercial sale.

“They have worked with a real energy and enthusiasm, creating ‘East Meets West’ inspired garments, graphics and jewellery that will be exhibited during a catwalk show and retailed at Oxfam Boutique Cardiff. Working across disciplines and departments on a live brief has provided a real showcase for the talent that is being developed within Coleg y Cymoedd.”

Manufacturers newest recruits follow the apprenticeship path to success

A Newbridge-based contract electronics manufacturer has appointed three new apprentices to join it’s highly sought after scheme, which has a proven track record in providing new young talent with career path into the manufacturing and engineering industry.

Callum Caddy, 17, Joshua Maidment, 18, and Gareth Abraham, 20, have all secured apprenticeship places with contract electronics manufacturer, Axiom Manufacturing Services.

The apprenticeship scheme plays integral role in the company’s sustainable growth strategy, which has been developed to provide candidates with opportunities to gain experience across each of its business departments before selecting their individual specialisms.

Working as part of the wider 300-strong team at Axiom’s state-of-the-art Newbridge facility, the trio will also study at neighbouring college, Coleg y Cymoedd, as they work to gain their industry qualifications.

Now in its fifth year, Axiom’s apprenticeship scheme has developed a strong track record recruiting and developing high quality candidates into the industry. Crucially, the manufacturer has a history of retaining its apprentices as full time workforce.

Callum Caddy said: “This apprenticeship means a lot to me as I have been interested in electronics and engineering ever since my GCSE course in school. That was the point I first realised this is what I wanted to do with my career. I am very grateful for the company for giving me the opportunity to fulfil my career dream.”

Axiom is also celebrating the news that two of its existing apprentices have accepted fully employed positions within the company.

Alex Lewis and Shawn Phillips joined the apprenticeship scheme four years ago and have spent that time gaining experience in each department at Axiom, in addition to their college and university studies.

Shawn, 26, will now take the role of junior PCB design engineer, while working to complete his Honours Degree in Electrical & Electronic Engineering. Alex Lewis is set to take a full time role within the company’s AI Systems Engineering Department. Reflecting on their time at his time with the company to-date, they said: “This is a massive personal achievement for us both. Axiom has been extremely supportive over the past four years and has offered a vast range of experiences”.

Alex and Shawn aren’t the only ones setting the example at Axiom, the company’s managing director David Davies also begin his career via the apprentice route.

David Davies, who is also a member of the CBI Wales Council and a board member of the ESTnet, said: “Ensuring that new talent is attracted to careers in electronics is of paramount importance to our business model. Developing career paths for young people is something that we, as a company, believe to be vital for our ongoing success. In the wider perspective, creating new routes is essential if we are to forge a long-term skilled workforce here in Wales to rival our global competitors.”

Axiom also operates a highly sought-after graduate scheme. The scheme provides degree level candidates with an individually tailored programme, which maximises the post-degree learning experience by allowing graduates to rotate through each of Axiom’s business support and manufacturing departments, before selecting their specialist field.

Young People invited to Grow for It

Young people aged 12 – 25 across Wales are being offered the chance to win £500 to help transform their community with wildflowers. Grow Wild, led by Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and supported by the Big Lottery Fund, is kicking off a UK wide search to find the most exciting plans for transforming a space with native plants and wild flowers.

The successful applicants will receive the funding and support to produce visual artwork, music or spoken word that conveys the importance of native wild flowers and wild spaces, or to sow, grow and enjoy wild flowers in a communal space.

Bethan Woods, is a student at Coleg Y Cymoedd, and part of a group who developed a Grow Wild youth project earlier this year. She said:

“The funding from Grow Wild allowed us to source equipment and plants and put a plan together to develop an area at the college. To get this done we had to develop various skills, some practical for the preparing of the area and the planting – but also other skills such as communication skills as we worked with various departments and we also had to develop different plans as to how we would do it.

“It ran hand in hand with a bee project we have on site so again we were able to learn more about the importance of pollinators and bio-diversity in general. When we then visited Kew Gardens in London Grow Wild organised for a speaker to come and talk to us and increase our knowledge further. All in all this was a great experience for us and I’d encourage anyone to “grow for it”.”

The Get Creative award is open under two age categories, under 18s (12 to 17) and over 18s (18 to 25), and winning applicants will get the chance to exhibit their artwork or perform their audio piece outdoors at a high profile UK summer event.

There is an additional ‘Transform a Space’ award, which provides an opportunity for young people who want to work together to transform a local space using native plants and wild flowers. The project can involve more than sowing and growing, as long as it communicates a message about UK native wild flowers and wild spaces in a creative way. It can involve using different containers for growing, arts and crafts or events and activities as well.

Maria Golightly, Grow Wild’s Partnership Manager in Wales, added:

“We’re looking for 12 to 25-year-olds who are brimming with creative ideas. We’re encouraging young people to let their imagination run wild and consider how wildflowers can be used as part of a project that can transform an area or how they can be part of an innovative visual or audio installation. I’m very much looking forward to see the ideas that come forward and would very much encourage anyone with an interest to get in touch.”

A panel of young people will be judging all entries and Grow Wild is working together with Youth Cymru to decide on the successful applicants.

The deadline for entries for Get Creative is 25 January 2016 and the deadline for Transform a Space is 22 February 2016. Grow Wild will provide support throughout the process, from discussing ideas with potential applicants, through to making things happen. For more information see the website: To ask a question or discuss your project idea please email: or call Maria Golightly 07917 266445.

Budding young entrepreneurs prepare for city centre retail challenge

Thirty-six South Wales students are about to take on the challenge of their life so far as they prepare to compete for sales during one of Cardiff’s busiest retail periods as part of an entrepreneurial challenge.

The budding young entrepreneurs are through to the finals of Trading Places, a challenge designed to encourage entrepreneurship among college students in South East Wales, providing real life enterprise experience.

Over three days in the lead up to Christmas, the students from Coleg y Cymoedd, Bridgend College, Coleg Gwent, The College Merthyr Tydfil, St David’s Catholic College and Cardiff and Vale College will take part in a three-day real-life business experience leading to them running their own pop-up shop in Cardiff city centre’s Morgan Quarter.

The final six students from each college competed against 120 others during an assessment event involving role models and entrepreneurs from the Welsh Government’s Big Ideas Wales campaign at EE’s Wales headquarters at Merthyr Tydfil in November.

The finals take place in Cardiff between 15th and 17th December. The six students from Coleg y Cymoedd are Rebecca Cope, Performing Arts; Alex Davies, Sport; Efan Davies, Sport; Natasha Parry, Business Studies; Tahlia Taylor, A Level and Mali Lewis, A Level

Bob Tod, Enterprise, Employability & Skills officer from Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “I am delighted with this year’s team representing Coleg y Cymoedd. As in previous years the learners have stepped up to the plate to take on the Trading Places challenge. They excelled themselves during the selection day and thoroughly deserve their places in the ultimate event. They have been chosen from three of the college campuses and I am sure they will do their individual campus and the college as a whole proud. I am looking forward to working with them all during the December final and I know it will be an experience they will not forget.”

“We’re in our fourth year now and Trading Places has become a national exemplar of how to engage with young people who have the potential to become entrepreneurs of the future,” said Chris Webb of Further Education Co-ordinator of First Campus, which organises and co-ordinates the event.

“The finalists have already demonstrated their entrepreneurial streak to a panel of Big Ideas Wales entrepreneurs and role models and now they go forward putting that into practice in a real life business environment.”

Over the three day finals they will spend time at Cardiff University and the University of South Wales learning about customer service, putting together business plans, sourcing products and then selling to the public at a shop provided by the Morgan Quarter in Cardiff city centre during one of the busiest retail periods leading up to Christmas.

“It’ll be a very intense experience for them all, but they’ll learn a lot from the mentors and entrepreneurs as well as their own entrepreneurial streak as they compete for the final prize,” added Chris.

Exceptional apprentice shortlisted for top award

A Coleg y Cymoedd apprentice for British Airways Maintenance Cardiff narrowly missed out on an apprentice of the year award.

22 year old Aled Hughes from Abercynon was nominated as a Welsh Finalist at the EEF Future Manufacturing Awards in the Apprentice of the Year category.

Aled was shortlisted after going through a vigorous interview process to be nominated for the award and attended the recent award ceremony at Chester St Davids.

Aled said “I have thoroughly enjoyed the entire apprenticeship programme, and I feel it has given me the best start I could have hoped for in my chosen career.

I am entirely grateful to have been nominated for the award. The apprenticeship has presented challenges at times however this recognition makes all of the hard work worth it!”

British Airways Maintenance Cardiff (BAMC) head of operations, Stuart Rich, said: “Everyone here at BAMC is extremely proud of Aled.

“He is a great ambassador for the airline, is extremely professional and along with all our apprentices is a highly valued member of the BAMC family.

”The British Airways apprenticeship programme demands the very highest standards, and we’re very pleased that those qualities have been recognised in Aled’s achievement.”

Coleg y Cymoedd tutor Steve Manning “The apprenticeship requires dedication, commitment and focus, not just for one day, week or month but 3 whole years! Aled has maintained all these features whilst attaining an extremely high standard of work both academically and practically.

“Aled has outstanding personal qualities, especially for someone so young, always friendly, well spoken, good mannered but above all a very professional attitude.

“Whatever the task, this individual approaches it with the same boundless enthusiasm to meet the target or goal that has been set. As we all know this industry relies heavily on Team Work and it is here where Aled really shines being able to mix with others at all levels and contribute fully. It has been a very great pleasure to work with and witness such a talent.”

The EEF Future Manufacturing Awards are the most established and respected regional and national recognition of manufacturing success.


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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