Network Rail engineers prepare for electrification of the Severn Tunnel at state-of-the-art training facility in Wales

Network Rail engineers are busy preparing for the electrification of the Severn Tunnel at a state-of-the-art training facility in Wales.

The 130-year-old Severn Tunnel will close for six weeks from 12 September to prepare it for electrification, a critical milestone in the project to deliver electric trains for passengers in South Wales, part of Network Rail’s Railway Upgrade Plan.

The training facility at Coleg y Cymoedd in Nantgarw, jointly funded by the College and Welsh Government, comprises of a life size mock-up of the overhead line equipment that will be used to power the new fleet of electric trains through the tunnel.

Network Rail is working in partnership with ABC and AMCO and supported by McGinley Support Services, to deliver the training which enables engineers to build, dismantle and maintain the overhead power lines and specialist equipment unique to the Severn Tunnel electrification project.

It is the only facility in the UK to offer training on this specially-designed piece of equipment known as a Rigid Overhead Conductor Rail, which will help power trains through the narrow tunnel.

During the six-week closure, 200 members of Network Rail’s orange army will be working day and night to install over eight miles of conductor rail.

Dan Tipper area director at Network Rail Wales said: “This is a great example of working together with our suppliers which is so important to the success in delivering this key milestone in the project to electrify the South Wales Mainline. This training facility allows our engineers to train in a safe environment, gaining new qualifications and fully preparing them for the unique work they will be undertaking this autumn to prepare the Severn Tunnel for electrification, providing faster, greener and quieter services for the growing number of passengers that use the railway.”

Minister for Skills and Science, Julie James said: “Coleg y Cymoedd delivers first class training in a first class facility, ensuring there is a skilled workforce to deliver the major improvements Wales’ rail infrastructure will see over the next five years. When the facility in Nantgarw, opened in September last year, we knew our £1.54m investment would be put to the best possible use.Network Rail, with support from the Welsh Government, will spend more than £1bn modernising the rail system in Wales. The fact we can support Network Rail in this way as it moves into its new era is something of which we can be rightly proud.”

Judith Evans, principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “The College could expand off the back of the electrification programme. We’ve got four campuses across Rhondda Cynon Taf and Caerphilly and the Rail centre at our Nantgarw campus is easily accessible from the M4.  I’ve already started discussions within the college as to whether or not in the next year or two we might even consider expanding. If the growth continues at the speed it is, I can see us having to put on an extension in the future.”


Cymoedd Care learner on ‘pathway’ to success

Cymoedd learner Lindsey Jenkins from Treherbert, Rhondda has won the WorldSkills competition in Care.  The competition, hosted by Bridgend College is part of a Welsh Government backed initiative which promotes the importance of developing a highly skilled workforce and aims to boost skills levels across Wales.

Lindsey secured first place in the skills competition competing against learners from colleges across Wales.  All finalists had to complete a series of ‘Care’ challenges, demonstrating their caring skills, whilst being assessed by a panel of expert judges.

Speaking of her success Lindsey said “I really enjoyed the experience although I was quite nervous. The tasks were challenging but my course at the college and my placement put me in good stead; I can’t believe how much I’ve learnt over the last couple of years.  The judges were lovely and I received some inspiring feedback”.

Judith Evans, Principal said “We are delighted with Lindsey’s success in this competition, she has demonstrated her caring skills at a very competitive level. The Care Pathway toEmployment course, which Lindsey is following at the college is offered in partnership with Rhondda Cynon Taf Council and has proved a great success – Natasha Hallett, a former learner on this course, also secured gold in this competition two years ago. I wish Lindsey good luck for her chosen career and I would also like to thank the staff for their handwork and dedication in supporting our learners”.

WorldSkills competitions inspire young people and adults to be ambitious and give learners the chance to compete against the best in their chosen field from across the whole of Wales. The competitions also benefit the colleges who get involved as they are able to benchmark their performance against other organisations and develop best practice. 

Apprenticeship scheme driving Valleys unemployment figures down

A further education college with over 12,000 learners across South Wales is putting its strong working relationships with local businesses to good use in order to tackle high levels of employment in Blaenau Gwent.

Coleg y Cymoedd has teamed up with Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council to deliver the Aspire apprenticeship programme, an initiative directly targeting towns within Blaenau Gwent – a region with the second largest unemployment levels in Wales, double the UK average to boost the take-up of apprenticeships in the area.

Towns like Ebbw Vale have seen significant investment in the last year, such as car manufacturer TVR set to open a new facility by 2017, however independent studies by the Universities Heads of the Valleys (UHOVI) have identified a significant skills gap within the manufacturing and engineering sector in the region. Along with the attraction of the Ebbw Vale Enterprise Zone for new investors, the apprenticeship programme, of which Coleg y Cymoedd is the leading provider, aims to actively fill the available jobs and produce apprentices that are work-ready.

Coming to the end of its pilot year, the programme has successfully placed 17 apprentices in 11 businesses from the area, across a range of industries from motor vehicle manufacturers and mechanical engineering. Each apprentice has a bespoke training plan agreed with the college ensuring they’re on track to become work-ready.

One of the Coleg y Cymoedd learners benefitting from the Aspire programme is Declan Hughes, 17, from Merthyr Tydfil, who has been employed by leading international automotive industry supplier Continental Teves. Declan said of his first year on the Aspire programme: “My first year as an apprentice has been a really valuable experience and provided me with the perfect platform for what I’d like to achieve in the future.

“There are so many benefits for work place learning but for me personally it has improved my communication skills in and outside of work. I’ve gained more knowledge and practical ability that can be applied within my placement and personal life. It’s been a brilliant first year!”

It is hoped the success of Aspire’s pilot year will encourage more young people to take advantage of the training opportunities in Blaenau Gwent, and in the long term reduce the 12.5% unemployment rate for the area, which equates to around 3000 people being out of work.

With over 50 young people applying for one of 20 places during Aspire’s pilot year, it is anticipated that the 25 spaces available during the next academic year will be filled quickly.

Judith Evans, Principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “There are worryingly high unemployment figures right on our doorstep. But with the level of investment that has come into South Wales recently, plus a significant gap in the jobs market for highly skilled individuals, we want to ensure our learners are right at the front of the queue to fill job positions that could come their way.

“We’re thankful that our working relationships with local manufacturers have allowed us to create opportunities for our young people to develop the skills employers are specifically looking for. Feedback from the businesses engaged with Aspire has been incredibly positive, a real credit to our learners.”

Jim McIlwee, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council said: “The Aspire Shared Apprenticeship Programme is a fantastic scheme to help up-skill, support and provide employment opportunities for people in Blaenau Gwent. The programme focuses specifically on the engineering sector and is the first in Wales and Blaenau Gwent. I am pleased that last year’s programmes started well.”

Recruitment for the September 2016 programme has begun and further information can be obtained from the Aspire team, contact:

Coleg y Cymoedd HR professional scoops CIPD Student of the Year Award

Human Resource Manager Claire Evans was announced as Coleg y Cymoedd Student of the Year at this year’s Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development South East Wales Awards held at St David’s Hotel in Cardiff.

The annual awards celebrate excellence and a Student of the Year is announced for each training provider – in this case the training provider, Coleg y Cymoedd, nominated Claire for her hard work and dedication to her studies.

Claire, who is from Llantwit Fardre and works for The Hotel Collection, studied the CIPD Certificate Level 3 in Human Resource Practice and has been promoted to the position of HR Manager for the Angel Hotel since commencing the course.

On being presented with her award Claire said: “It was a fantastic surprise to receive this award. Thank you so much to Julia who was an excellent tutor, mentor and support. The group of students that we had on this course were so lovely and helpful. We got on extremely well and help each other through the course and made it more enjoyable. It was not easy juggling the course, a full time shifted managerial role, young child and job searching but it has help me get my dream job.”

Coleg y Cymoedd CIPD Tutor Julia Collier said: “The college nominated Clare because she showed full dedication to the course and to her personal ambition of gaining her first rile within HR, having been in the Hotel leisure industry since university and balancing studying with a young family.”

“These awards from the CIPD, the professional body for HR, recognises students who have worked particularly hard during the course. Claire worked above and beyond and thoroughly deserved this award. She was always a keen member of the team, and always happy to engage.”

Coleg y Cymoedd have recently launched the Level 5 HR Management, which alongside the CIPD Level 3 HR Practice, which the college has been running successfully for years, will gain professional membership to the CIPD.

Coleg y Cymoedd strengthens links with Chinese counterparts

Coleg y Cymoedd has been successful in securing a place on the AOC Leadership Development Programme and securing a memorandum of understanding with a specialist technology college in China.

The college’s Executive Director of Resources Paul Davies took part in a two week visit to China with Nanjing Polytechnic Institute, to look at strengthening links with China that would be mutually beneficial to both organisations.

As a result of this visit the college has since hosted a delegation from Nanjing Polytechnic Institute to explore areas of collaboration and signed a memorandum of Understanding to formalise the partnership.

Areas of interest include, staff training programmes, student exchanges, benchmarking quality assurance and teaching and learning.

The rationale behind the memorandum of understanding, signed during a recent visit to Coleg y Cymoedd, is to share best practice and increase the college’s international collaboration and profile.

Paul Davies, Executive Director of Resources said: “It is fantastic for the college to be improving partnerships between ourselves and China. The opportunity to network with experts in in the vocational sector in China helps us to build on the excellent work we are already doing, and scope new areas to focus on that will benefit learners both in Wales and China.”

The college has worked in China for over five years and recognises the need to develop strong and trusted relationships with organisations to increase international links for the benefit of the organisation.

For two Cymoedd Media learners dreams really do come true

Two Coleg y Cymoedd learners studying on the Diploma in Creative Media Production (TV & Film) have been given the opportunity to follow their childhood dreams in the world of film and television.

Eighteen year old Dominic Farquhar, from Llantwit Fadre knew from an early age that his ideal job would be behind a camera and the experience he has gained on the course at the Nantgarw campus has put him in good stead.

Dominic, who completes the two year course this summer has already worked on various TV programmes at the BBC and S4C such as Only Connect & Pobl Y Cwm; he has also gained recognition for the production of a clip of the TV programme High Hopes.

He stated, “The course has opened my eyes to the opportunities out there in TV and Film. My tutor has encouraged and stretched me to achieve my full potential, throughout my time on the course I’ve gained confidence and would definitely recommend it – college certainly brings out the best”.

Meanwhile fellow course-mate eighteen year old Harri Jones, from ChurchVillage has secured employment that he could only have dreamed of. He has been employed as a runner on the new film ‘The Mummy’ working alongside famous actors including Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe.

Echoing his course mates comments Harri stated “I have been so fortunate to secure the opportunity to work on such a blockbuster; it’s been a real honour to work alongside Russell Crowe and Tom Cruise. I believe the course has equipped me with the skills, knowledge and attitude to succeed in the film industry. The facilities and equipment are of a professional standard and the support of the tutor is amazing”.

Commenting on the two learners Course tutor, Amanda Stafford stated “I am delighted for Harri and Dominic, they have both worked extremely hard and their enthusiasm and determination to succeed has paid off. Working in film and TV is a very exciting but challenging career path and both of them have the talent and the drive they need to succeed. At the college we have excellent facilities and the course provides the skills but in the end success comes down to the hard work and commitment of the learner. I look forward to seeing their names in the credits!”

Families benefit from mums returning to learning

A group of Rhondda mums have benefited from English and Maths courses provided by their local college in their school community. 

A determined group of mums have enrolled on English and Maths Adult Basic Education courses, aiming to not only develop their skills, but also arm themselves with the ability to support their children with their education. Many of the parents have overcome significant difficulties to ensure their children achieve their full potential.

The partnership between Darran Park Primary School and Coleg y Cymoedd has enabled a small group of parents to start on a journey to gain skills and build up confidence in Maths and Literacy. Courses were based on Maths and Literacy scenarios relevant to real life, for example the Maths needed for investigating nutritional values of diet.

The adult learners even enjoyed a day at the Ystrad Mynach Campus of Coleg y Cymoedd at the beginning of the year where they officially became learners! This was an important step for some members of the group, who had openly admitted that ‘school’ wasn’t for them. The group’s confidence has grown massively over the months, and has been witnessed by both tutors and school staff.

The literacy and maths group continue to meet weekly and initially worked to develop basic skills in each subject. The group’s confidence has greatly improved over time and they have now gained and are working towards further qualifications. 

Parent learner Clare Jones said: “I joined both maths and literacy at the start of the year and have become much more confident in helping my son with his homework, the groups are really friendly and I’m actually quite enjoying learning again!”

Karren Hurley, Family Engagement Officer at Darran Park Primary School said: “Our groups have felt totally at ease in the learning environment and have been given the confidence to further their education in other areas.  The commitment shown from our small group of parents has been nothing short of amazing! The attendance rate for both courses has remained steady throughout the year and our students are even looking forward to more sessions during the new school year. On behalf of our parent learners and the School would like to express our sincere thanks to both college tutors, Beverley Yeoman and Maureen Potter who have and continue to work with our groups.  They have been warm, welcoming and extremely caring in their approach.”

Parents at Ferndale Primary School have also sought guidance from Coleg y Cymoedd to provide to help their children with a ‘Big Write’ project. After completing an eight week engagement course each mum came away with ideas and confidence in literacy and permanent Literacy classes were requested from the college for the mums to work towards Level 2 qualifications.

Nancy Harris, Community Learning Officer at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “The mums in both projects have not only proven that it is never too late to learn, but also that learning can be fun. By giving them the confidence to express and address their own fears in an adult learning environment, they are confident in developing the progress of their children at home, to enhance what they learn at school.”

Interested in Literacy classes? ‘Learn to read, read to learn, back to basics!’ To find out more come along to Hafod Deg Resource Centre, Rhymney on Thursday 30th June at 1.30pm until 3.30pm or call  Nancy Harris on 01443 810128.

Animal magic! Learner design adorns local vets

A learner has brightened up the walls of a veterinary practice in Aberdare using his outstanding graphic design skills.

Victoria Veterinary Practice reached for a local learner talented enough to design and create a large sign for the recently-opened building on Aberaman Industrial Estate.

Ethan Miller, 18, a graphic design student who will be studying the Diploma in Foundation Studies Art and Design at Coleg y Cymoedd from September has produced the striking sign on the building.

“Ethan was more than keen to take on the challenge” said Marsha Kear, reception manager of Victoria Practice.

“He worked hard for many weeks before coming up with the end result. We were absolutely blown away by the finished product.”

The sign, brandishing Ethan’s signature on the corner, covers half of the whole building.

Highly involved with communities in Aberdare and Merthyr, the practice wished to leave the entire design and material choices up to the artist, providing it matched the sign colours of the original practice in Merthyr Tydfil.

“I let him run free with it,” Marsha said. “I’d definitely go back to him to be honest,” she added. “He showed so much commitment and worked so hard.”

Victoria Vets now aims to utilise Ethan’s skills when more practices open up in future.

After hearing the directions from Marsha, Ethan then went on to source images himself.

“The brief was pretty easy,” said Ethan. “I’m familiar with Photoshop so created designs on that. Then I showed the designs to Marsha and she helped me pick the best ones.”

Eager to perfect his public art, Ethan recalled trying various different designs and techniques.

“We ended up changing it around too much though and it didn’t seem professional enough.”

However, the teenager was pleased with the final result, which was eventually printed on a large aluminium sheet and varnished with gloss.

“The aluminium is durable and I decided to use the gloss so it would last longer,” he said. “And it stands out more.”

Ethan, who has applied for a Diploma in Foundation Studies Art and Design at the Nantgarw campus of Coleg y Cymoedd, said this opportunity will definitely benefit his career.

“I really want to go into sign writing and making logos for large companies. This has really given me a head start.”

Marsha also believed the commission could only benefit Ethan’s artistic career. “What an amazing thing to have in your portfolio at such a young age. I’m sure any future employers will be suitably impressed.”


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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