Learners ‘peg out’ future of education in South Wales Valleys

It was all hands on deck at the site of a new state-of-the-art further education campus in Aberdare, as learners helped to ‘peg out’ the layout of the facility which is set to transform education and skills training for hundreds in the region.

Following Welsh Government backing at the end of last year, construction has now begun on the site of Coleg y Cymoedd’s £22 million Aberdare campus. Current Coleg y Cymoedd learners from a variety of courses joined forces to help construction company Kier mark the outline of where the new building will stand.

From plumbing and construction to business administration and computing, the learners from the current Aberdare campus were able to see first-hand where their specific course will be located in the new building. Visiting the site for the first time, the learners spoke with their Principal Judith Evans about what facilities they can expect come next September, specifically designed to give them the best quality education possible and meet the needs of their chosen industry.

Two of the learners who on site to ‘peg out’ the layout of the new campus were Rhys Harding and Matthew Bullock, who are both studying towards their level 3 diploma in IT.

Rhys Harding, (20), from Mountain Ash, said: “We’ve been able to see the designs before, but it’s great to get an idea of how the new campus will look. It’s definitely going to offer learners much more than we currently have. Being close to the train station will also make it much easier for people to get here.”

Rhys’ course mate, Matthew Bullock (20), who is also from Mountain Ash agreed that the new campus is already attracting interest from potential new students, he commented: “The campus is a definitely a draw, I’ve already had friends tell me that having a new campus here in the town is one of the reasons they’re planning to come to the college next year.”

Located in the heart of Aberdare, the new campus will replace Coleg y Cymoedd’s Cwmdare Road site. The facility has been jointly funded by Welsh Government and Coleg y Cymoedd.

Judith Evans, Principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, who was at the site while the pegging out took place, said: “This exercise was extremely valuable for our learners as it means they are involved right from the start of the construction process, and the ability for learners from all different courses to get on site and see where their new campus will sit is testament to our close working relationship with Kier.

“It’s so exciting to see the construction team make headway on the new campus, helping in our mission to make excellence in education and skills development a reality for all learners in the communities we serve.”

The site’s proximity to Aberdare railway station, the new Aberdare Community School and the town centre will provide learners and staff with significantly improved access to public transport and commuter links from outlying areas.

Jason Taylor, Operations Director at Kier was also on site. He said: “This is the first real milestone for the project and we were delighted to welcome staff and learners on-site. Some of these learners will go on to be the future workforce in the construction industry, so it means a great deal that they were part of this event and actually responsible for the pegging out” 

Half a million pound investment set to take place at Sardis Road

Ambitious plans to transform Sardis Road rugby ground have today received funding support from the Welsh Collaborative Sports Facilities Group. Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and Coleg y Cymoedd have also committed funding to deliver the new sporting facility for Pontypridd RFC, college learners and other local sports clubs.

With the support of Council Leader Andrew Morgan and local MP Owen Smith, Pontypridd RFC, the Council and Coleg y Cymoedd recently submitted a funding bid to the Collaborative Sports Facilities Group – which includes the WRU, FAW, Welsh Hockey and Sport Wales – to part-fund a rugby standard 4G pitch on Sardis Road. This new pitch will allow back to back matches to be played all year round and will provide a new sporting venue for Coleg y Cymoedd learners to further enhance the range of sports opportunities offered to young students.

County Borough Councillor Andrew Morgan, Leader of Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council, said:

“I have been delighted to be part of the group which has worked to develop this ambitious proposal which will transform the training and match facility at Sardis Road rugby ground.

“The local MP Owen Smith, the Council, Pontypridd RFC and Coleg y Cymoedd have worked collaboratively to seek to deliver a new 4G pitch at the Sardis Road ground. The proposal seeks to address the match play issues Pontypridd RFC have faced over a number of years and in doing so will provide new capacity for local clubs from other sporting disciplines to utilise this state of the art pitch. 

“This new pitch will provide a new sporting venue for Coleg y Cymoedd students and will further enhance the range of sports opportunities offered by the college in addition to those already offered for young learners.

Owen Smith, Member of Parliament for Pontypridd said:

“As a lifelong Ponty fan I am just delighted to have been able to play my part in bringing this new investment to Sardis Road. The Club, the Council, Coleg y Cymoedd and the Sport Wales Collaboration Group are all to be congratulated and thanked for the hard work and commitment they have shown, working together to create a new partnership and to fund the new pitch.

“Sardis Road is an iconic ground for us here in Pontypridd and for the global rugby community, but it has suffered with wear and tear and poor weather in recent years. When I first brought the partners together several months ago we all agreed that a new playing surface was vital if the club, the College and the wider community was to make the most of the famous Sardis brand in future, and I am delighted that we have been able to progress so quickly, in time for next season.

“I think this is just the beginning of a great new chapter in the proud history of Sardis Road and Pontypridd RFC. Working together we can build on this development to keep our ground, our team and our community where we want to be – and always will be – at the heart of Welsh rugby.”


Judith Evans, Coleg y Cymoedd Principal, added:

“The College is delighted to be involved with this project which will be a huge asset to our Sports department.  We have invested and continue to invest in our Estates programme, and have superb academic facilities but sadly lack sports fields. Now, working with Rhondda Cynon Taf CBC and Pontypridd RFC we have the opportunity to offer our learners a first class facility to develop and maintain their skills to the highest standard.

“The college has an excellent reputation for producing sportsmen and women, many of whom have represented and even captained the Welsh Youth rugby teams. The facilities at Sardis Road will also provide an impressive venue when hosting matches.”

Mr Peter Howells, Director of Finance at Pontypridd Rugby Football Club, said:

“During a history of 140 years, many exciting things have happened at our club, such as finishing top of leagues, winning National Cup competitions and producing quality rugby players.  However, I do believe that the latest news of a new 4G surface being laid at Sardis Road could very well top the lot.” 


Adele Baumgardt, vice-chair of Sport Wales, said:

“The investment will breathe new life into a historic sporting hub at the heart of the town. The facility will serve a wide spectrum of sporting needs, becoming a hub of excellence, growing the game of rugby in the community and giving more opportunities for under-represented groups such as women and girls.

“The numbers of people being able to play sport on the pitch annually will increase from hundreds to thousands, meaning a new generation of people in the community getting to enjoy sport.

“The development has received considerable support from key partners and stakeholders and this has been a credit to the plans at Sardis Road.

“This is another significant milestone in our work to support a network of new artificial pitches across Wales.”

This investment in Sardis Road will see the new facility used during the day time by Coleg y Cymoedd for their successful rugby academy and then in the evening by Pontypridd RFC. The proposal will see the venue turned into a wider community sporting facility available for use by other local sporting clubs. A local recreation league will also be developed on the pitch allowing everyone to benefit from this new modern facility.

The Collaboration Sports Facilities Group membership is made up of representatives from Hockey Wales, Welsh Football Trust, Welsh Rugby Union and Sport Wales. Its aim is to ensure the future development of artificial surfaces, ATP and 4G, meet the needs of both the users and the wider community but also allow each sport to grow and develop across Wales. 

Skills Competition success for budding decorator

A 19-year-old from Bargoed has won third place in a painting and decorating ‘New Entrant’ category in the Welsh heats of the World SkillBuild competition.

Nicola Parker, from Coleg y Cymoedd, competed against learners from across Wales in a series of painting and decorating challenges designed to stretch the ability of each participant within a short five hour time period. Learners were required to work from a set design and perform technical skills including sharp cutting in brush skills, wall papering and stenciling.  

This year SkillBuild opened up the ‘New Entrant’ category for learners in their first year of college to compete against each other to celebrate the emerging talents of learners getting started in their trade.

The CITB SkillBuild Welsh Final is part of a series of competitions designed to celebrate vocational skills and create a highly skilled Welsh workforce for the future. The standard was particularly high for Welsh trades this year, with the winners going on to compete in the UK Final in Birmingham followed by the World Skillbuild competition in Russia in 2019. 

Held at NPTC Group of Colleges Neath and Swansea Campuses on Thursday 2nd June 2016, construction students travelled from colleges all over Wales to take part in the competition.  

Nicola, who is studying Level 1 Painting and Decorating at the Ystrad Mynach, said she is thrilled to have been placed at the competition: “Winning third place in this tough competition was a total shock. I was really nervous on the day, but also excited to be showing off my skills. I did a practice session with my tutor Mark Jones the week before and went through all my techniques until I felt confident and ready for the big day. I’d love to run my own business one day and taking place in the competition makes me feel like I’m one step closer.”

Martin Watkins, Head of Construction for Coleg y Cymoedd said: “The World SkillBuild Competition is a wonderful opportunity for students to compete on a national and international stage. It is important that we encourage as many learners as possible to compete, they have outstanding high level of skills.  This is a fantastic achievement for Nicola, we wish her well with the rest of her course and future competitions.”

South Wales learners experience work placement with an Italian twist

A group of globe-trotting learners from South Wales have travelled to Italy for a unique work placement that is set to enrich their studies now they have returned to the UK.

The four Children’s Care, Learning and Development learners from Coleg y Cymoedd embarked on a two week trip to the town of Castelfranco Veneto in Northern Italy. The trip was part of the Erasmus+ programme which offers students across Europe the chance to study abroad.

The learners from Coleg y Cymoedd, who are based on the Nantgarw campus, spent the first week at a nursery followed by a week in a junior school allowing them to get as much work experience as possible with different age groups. The group observed how lessons and activities were carried out there, noticing some differences in the style of education in Italy compared to back in the UK.

One of the learners who was lucky enough to travel to Italy was Laura Watson, 17, from Cardiff, who was quick to pick up on a more relaxed style in the Italian schools. “It was obvious how encouraging the nursery teachers were to the children, trying to get them to make decisions themselves rather than rely on being told what to do. There was a similar approach in the junior school as well, and it’s definitely a style of teaching I would like to bring back to the UK.”

The group from South Wales faced some initial language barriers whilst in Italy, but were quick to settle into the environment. Laura explained: “It was intimidating at first with everyone speaking a different language and I felt nervous trying to communicate with the teachers there. But after the first couple of days my confidence grew and I started to pick up some basic phrases which helped me interact with the staff and children.”

In addition to gaining hands on experience, the trip also offered the leaners a cultural experience, spending the day in Venice, Treviso and Bassano del Grappa. Picking up Italian culture along the way, the group sampled the best local delicacies from the nearby markets. Laura continued: “I loved every second of the trip and learnt a lot about myself while there. We had to manage our own money, organise our own trains and overcome the language barrier, which meant I gained a lot of independence.”

Elsewhere in Coleg y Cymoedd, three Business learners have also been making the most of the Erasmus+ programme, jetting off on a work placement in the Basque Country, northern Spain. The learners gained experience working in a virtual office where they adapted to a different culture and working environment, whilst overcoming the language barrier and developing confidence and independence.

Emma Baxter, Childcare tutor at Coleg y Cymoedd, who travelled to Italy with the learners, spoke of the trip: “At Coleg y Cymoedd we encourage our learners to embrace as many experiences as possible that will enrich their studies. The Erasmus+ programme is extremely rewarding and the practical work experience offered to learners will give them invaluable knowledge for the future. We know the trip will have a profoundly positive effect on the returning learners.” 

Cymoedd’s Jenkins sets her sights on big time

Budding football star Shaunna Jenkins insists confidence is soaring as she looks to one day realise her dream of playing for a professional club.

The 16-year-old, from Aberaeronn, currently plays for Cwbran Celtic, who have just finished fourth in the Welsh Premier Women’s League.

After establishing herself in the first team and on the fringe of the Wales national squad, Jenkins is aiming big, admitting she would love to star in the FA Women’s Super League in England one day.

Jenkins is part of the first ever cohort at the Elite Football Academy at Coleg y Cymoedd, and insists that the move to the Ystrad Mynach campus has done wonders on and off the pitch.

Jenkins, who also benefits from being a part of the SSE Next generation programme, spoke about her time at Coleg y Cymoedd: “People who I have spoken to are gutted that they didn’t have this chance in the past but we have it now. I wasn’t sure whether to go to this college or not but now I have gone there, I am so glad. At the start I wasn’t that confident but it has just made a massive difference to myself and really boosted my confidence. I am not as nervous now.

“We have college games too and played a five-a-side tournament. We won and went to Newcastle and it was really nice to play a game like that with a new bunch of girls and help them, and give them the guidance that I had and pass on what I know to them. I would like to start in my WSL 2 (Women’s Super League 2) and then make my way up to WSL 1 (Women’s Super League 1) eventually and stay in there until the end of my career.”

This year Jenkins has represented Wales LadiesUnder-19s, while she has also been a part of the senior squad at times and she admits the experience is one that has only served to whet her appetite for more.

“It is a great experience, going on camps with the seniors. It is just getting to know what they are like and that makes a massive difference. I would say that has beneficiated me in a way too, because I am one of the youngest ones there and to go into a team with so much talent is so hard but so good at the same time.”

SSE’s Next Generation Programme partners with SportsAid to provide financial support and training to the sports stars of the future.  

Multi-campus college to unify data management

Coleg y Cymoedd choose Dynistics’ dashboard technology

Welsh further education college, Coleg y Cymoedd, has installed Active Dashboards from specialist software provider Dynistics to enhance the college’s information management across its entire organisation. The college, one of the largest further education providers in Wales, has campuses in Aberdare, Nantgarw, Rhondda and Ystrad Mynach, and has 12,000 learners and over 800 members of staff.

The Active Dashboards from Dynistics will enable the college to connect information across each site to produce in-depth visual reports on key performance areas.

Paulo Batista, Director, Planning and Funding, Coleg y Cymoedd, cited Dynistics’ impressive industry relevance as a major influence on their decision to employ Active Dashboards. “With proven success in the fast implementation of its dashboards with FE colleges, particularly in with Welsh colleges, we were impressed with Dynistics’ sector knowledge from the outset. This, coupled with how easy it is to utilise the Active Dashboards and configure them to meet our specific needs, really won us over. We’re convinced that we will very quickly be able to gain value from the visual dashboards, enhancing both our information management and decision making.”

“We’re delighted Coleg y Cymoedd has chosen our Active Dashboards,” commented Jacob Kemp, Head of Direct Sales, Dynistics. “Data is taking an increasingly integral role within a college’s management function and with campuses in four different locations, Coleg y Cymoedd is already gaining benefit from a single view of its data. Yet with the application of Active Dashboards the college will be able to drill into detail at individual campus level whilst also gaining a comprehensive overview of all. This insight will help them to save time and improve accountability by reporting back easily across all departments, and greatly assist in planning and forecasting.”

Building the next generation of property professionals

Local student Claire Miles, studying Foundation Degree in Sustainable Construction and Surveying at Coleg y Cymoedd in partnership with University of South Wales, has come top in the South Wales Region competition, sponsored by Cambria Consulting, Gleeds and RICS, which recognises the talent available to the industry at the earliest possible stage, while students are still studying.  

The Awards aim to highlight to industry the necessity to link with Universities early in the education process and also improve the students’ knowledge on the career options available to them.  Many secure work placements as a direct result of competing in the Awards, which often translate into permanent positions upon graduation.

Much has been reported on the damaging skills gap faced by the UK property and construction industry.  The Association of Women in Property (WiP) has been working to encourage girls and young women to enter the industry through an extensive Education programme that includes its National Student Awards, now in their tenth year.

Mandy St John Davey, Chairman of the South Wales branch, said, “Claire has done really well to win the regional Award and we are delighted she will be representing this region at the national final in September.  This is a tough competition with some extremely talented, enthusiastic and professional young women taking part, all of which bodes well for the industry recruitment pipeline. 

“But this is very much a pipeline and the industry can’t afford to have any blockages.  It is crying out for more young people to come on board.  Despite the skills shortage, careers in property and construction are still largely forgotten, particularly for young women, when looking ahead past their GCSEs.  We are calling upon schools – and parents – to remember the amazing opportunities offered by this industry, when they are giving careers advice.”

The Student Awards are sponsored nationally by three major industry names, Construction company Bouygues UK, property advisers Cushman & Wakefield and house builder, Linden Homes.

Carole Ditty, Legal Director of Bouygues UK, said, “We’re pleased to be supporting the Women in Property Awards again. The awards provide a strong platform for students to be able to pitch directly to the businesses, employers and industries that are of interest to them. Speaking as an employer, it is also a great way for us to spot new talent and to see the genuine passion that people have for the industry. Most importantly, it helps the students to get a good insight into the kind of companies they might be working for and how their career might develop, which is useful for people who may yet be undecided on their career path.

“It’s great to see so many women taking part in the awards this year and on behalf of Bouygues UK, congratulations to Claire and all of the finalists here today.”

The regional judging panel includes representatives from different industry disciplines, with Gary Mitchell, director Cambria Consulting, Leigh Hughes, regional MD Bouygues, Jonathon Smart, associate director Residential Agency & Valuation, Cushman & Wakefield and Mandy St John Davey, Property Developer and Chairman of Women in Property South Wales, taking part this year.

Claire receives a cheque for £300 and a trophy.  She said, “I was thrilled when my University nominated me for these Awards and the process has been an amazing experience.  I’ve learned a lot, met some great people including the judges – I’d like to thank them for putting their faith in me.” 

In addition to Claire there were five other regional finalists, all of whom were nominated by their Universities.  They were invited to go before a judging panel of industry experts, where they were questioned on a piece of coursework and topical industry issues.

The finalists were:-

Nichola Meredith studying HNC Surveying at the University of South Wales

Kate Davis, studying BSc City & Regional Planning at Cardiff University

Chelsigh Hacker, studying BSc Quantity Surveying and Commercial Management, University of South Wales

Gwen Thomas, studying BSc Geography (Human) and Planning, Cardiff University

Hayley McCarthy, studying BSc Project Management Surveying, University of South Wales

The national final will be held at Claridge’s, London on Wednesday 21st September when students from across the UK compete for the National Student Award trophy.


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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