Coleg y Cymoedd learners join students from around South Wales to run pop-up festive market in Welsh capital

Having completed a series of entrepreneurial challenges throughout the autumn months, four Coleg y Cymoedd students joined 36 students from colleges around South Wales to put their commercial skills to the test by operating a number of pop-up Christmas market stalls in Cardiff city centre on Thursday (December 15th).

The ‘Trading Places’ initiative, which is run by First Campus and Big Ideas Wales, saw the budding entrepreneurs take over a unit in the Morgan Quarter and establish it as a festive marketplace in which to sell their own carefully selected products to the public.

The group of six joined participants from Coleg Gwent, Bridgend College, Cardiff & Vale College, St David’s College and The College Merthyr Tydfil, who were selected from 120 students at the Enterprise Skills Day event at Cardiff City Stadium last month. At the day-long training camp, the wannabe moguls impressed the judges with their keen business acumen, and all received training and mentorship from some of Wales’ most successful start-up entrepreneurs, many of whom serve as Big Ideas Wales Role Models. 

It is hoped that the practical experience gained at the Enterprise Skills Day and Trading Places will give the college goers the confidence to explore entrepreneurship as a viable career option. In the two days leading-up to the trading day itself, the teams put together Dragons-Den style pitches to event sponsors, which determined the order in which they could pick product lines to sell. They then had to conduct market research, formulate a business plan and finalise their products for sale in the 24 hours leading up to trading day.

A UK award-winning project, Trading Places has also helped inspire a change in business strategy for the privately owned Morgan Quarter. It’s director, Rory Fleming, said: “We are extremely pleased to welcome back another group of young entrepreneurs for Trading Places, for what has been an another incredibly valuable day of trading – both in terms of revenue and life skills.

“Partly because of such initiatives, we’ve opened up a number of permanent short-term trading spaces in the Morgan Quarter, which we hope will meet the demand for a more fluid entrepreneurial climate.”

Martin Burgess, a participating student from Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “It’s been great to be part of Trading Places. Once I’ve completed my business course at college I want to set up my own restaurant, so the experience of running a business has been amazing.”

Lesley Cottrell, Enterprise Champion at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Trading Place is a fantastic initiative that gives our students the opportunity to experience every aspect of running a business, while also building interpersonal and communications skills that will serve them well in the future.”

Supported by NatWest and EE, the Trading Places initiative ultimately seeks to hone the ambitions of budding young entrepreneurs and act as a catalyst to turn business ideas into viable start-up opportunities. In the week leading up to trading day, both NatWest and EE ran a series of business workshops with participants in preparation. And on the day itself Natwest was on hand with its double-decker business bus, which served as a base of operations for the teams, as they monitored live sales data from the six pop-up shops.

Oliver Watts, Chairman of NatWest’s South West and Wales Regional Board, said: “At NatWest we really want to motivate and inspire the next generation of business leaders and we are delighted to be working with all the partners led by First Campus to help find and develop the budding entrepreneurs that could potentially have a vital role to play in the future vitality of the Welsh economy.”

Tony Jenkins, Head of Planning at EE, added: “We are excited to be part of this amazing project for the 3rd year. It is already proven to be an incredible opportunity for our staff to engage with the local community and support the ambitions of both faculties and students.”

First Campus, the South East Wales Reaching Wider partnership, raises the aspirations and Higher Education awareness of learners through activities and workshops which take place at Higher Education institutions.

Big Ideas Wales forms part of the Welsh Government’s Youth Entrepreneurship Service. Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund it helps young people aged between 5 and 25 to develop business ideas and entrepreneurial talent. 

Apprenticeship scheme secures national award success

A partnership between Coleg y Cymoedd and one of UK’s leading electronics manufacturers has been declared ‘Development Partnership of the Year’ at the Insider Business and Education Partnerships Awards 2016.

The competition saw the college and Newbridge-based, Axiom Manufacturing Services, compete against some of Wales’ leading employers and further education colleges including, Deloitte and Cardiff and Vale College, Aneurin Bevan Health Board and Coleg Gwent, and, Skills Academy Wales and the NPTC Group of Colleges.

The partnership to create a bespoke apprenticeship programme began in 2011, its aim is to address the UK wide industry skills gap at a local level. Contract electronics manufacture, Axiom, sought to launch new careers in technology manufacturing in Wales, and required a further education partner with the ability to inspire and support new generations of Welsh talent to see manufacturing as a desirable career path.

The result is a three-to-four-year programme that delivers a focused approach to apprenticeship training by addressing current skill bases, and identifying areas for further upskilling. The partnership also enables Coleg y Cymoedd to ensure that the training it provides matches the exact skill sets that employers require from those entering the electronics and engineering sectors.

In addition to their college studies, Axiom apprentices also gain invaluable real world experience working with one of the UK’s leading contract electronics manufacturers. During their three to four-year apprenticeships, apprentices spend their first 12 months at Axiom rotating around every department in the business.

Commenting on the awards success Axiom’s Managing Director, David Davies, said: “Wales’ world class manufacturing industry provides exciting and diverse career opportunities for young people. Developing new talent is something we, as a company, are extremely passionate about. Our collaboration with Coleg y Cymoedd is very much about creating a long-term, skilled workforce for the company and engaging learners to recognise the career potential our industry offers.

“Recruiting people early in their career ensures their training fits our way of working and company ethos; it guarantees high-quality employees throughout our business. The college understands our need to recruit learners with the skill and the will to progress their development, and we’re committed to helping them engage all leaners to realise the potential that Welsh industry offers.”

To date, the scheme has recruited, trained, retained and supported ongoing development of eleven apprentices. However, each year the scheme has attracted an average 30 applicants per vacancy. As a result, Axiom has committed to taking on a minimum of two young people each academic year.

Matthew Tucker, Director of Business Services at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “This award is a recognition of the outstanding results this partnership has, and continues to deliver. We are proud of the longstanding relationships we have built with employers like Axiom Manufacturing Services.

“Successful businesses like Axiom need well trained and qualified staff who are able to meet the specific and often changing demands of their sector. Our role is to work in partnership with businesses and their employees and potential employees to ensure they have the knowledge and skills employers are calling for.”

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