Hair and Beauty learners showcase their skills

Hair and beauty learners from Coleg y Cymoedd showed off their talents at this year’s Avant-Garde Showcase, putting their skills to the test to impress industry judges.

The first showcase to be held at the new Aberdare campus saw learners from both departments team up to makeover models and create an array of themed looks including ‘galactic prom’ and ‘avant-garde’, with the finished looks judged by an external panel.

Dave Bassett, President of the Association of Hairdressers & Therapists, and Sue Morgan, retired lecturer, joined the campus to cast their expert eye, carefully judging each of the looks for skill, creativity and relevance to the theme.

Karen Rees, 37, who is studying NVQ Level 3 Hairdressing took home the winner’s title for the ‘Avant Garde Prom’ and ‘Avante Garde individual theme’ categories thanks to her galactic and unicorn inspired looks. She said: “This has been an amazing event. Everyone who took part gave 100% effort and it all turned out perfect. I am personally thrilled to have won two categories and with the feedback made by the judges.”

The event involved learners on level 1,2 and 3 hairdressing courses as well as those studying level 1 and 2 beauty. Level 1 and 2 were required to create the avant-garde look, while level 3 learners were tasked with completing both themes.

Completed as part of the learners’ studies for the ‘Develop, enhance and evaluate your creative hairdressing skills’ module, each hairdressing learner was paired up with two beauty learners to create the final looks for the competition, working throughout the entire day in preparation for the evening show.

Level 1 and 2 catering learners also got to put their skills into practice, providing a buffet for the event, while media learners assisted with the lighting and production for the stage. In total 90 learners at the college took part.

Open to the public, the showcase welcomed more than 75 guests on the night, with a raffle and live performances from Rio Scibona also on offer to attendees.

Karen Fenn, hairdressing lecturer at Coleg y Cymoedd said “This was a fantastic event with high standards of skills, demonstrating the quality of the hair and beauty courses on offer at Coleg y Cymoedd as well as the exceptional campus facilities. All learners worked exceptionally well for the event with great details put to their work.”

Coleg y Cymoedd Senior Leadership Team supporting Pride

The Senior Leadership Team at the College, recognise the barriers that LGBT people often face. We know that delivering a service with an understanding of LGBT experiences can make a real difference to the lives of LGBT people.

During the past 18 months the college has achieved the following for LGBT equality:

– Stonewall Workplace Equality Index ranking of 202 (an increase of 162 places from 364 the previous year)

– Introduction of a College LGBT+ Staff network (Amity)

– Development of a range of policies and guidance documents supporting our LGBT staff and learners, including information on how we can all be an Ally to our colleagues.

– Co-hosting a Trans Allies Programme with RCT Council, run by Stonewall

– Participation in national and local campaigns and awareness raising events

– Continued involvement with Pride Cymru and Stonewall

– Forthcoming participation at Pride Big Weekend, Cardiff (25th and 26th August).

Judith Evans, Principal stated” I would like to thank all of our employees for their support and commitment in ensuring all LGBT people are accepted without exception in our College, both as a place to work and study.

We look forward to progressing our promotion of equality and diversity for the benefit of all and our continued involvement with the Stonewall Diversity Champions Programme.

Cymoedd Childcare learners take part in Physical Literacy Pilot

Two groups of Childcare learners have been involved in a Welsh Government Physical Literacy programme. Physical Literacy Wales promotes learning through movement and being physically literate; using activity as a way of learning.

Cymoedd tutors Sharon Reed and Ann Parker who teach on the Level 3 Children’s Care Learning and Development and Level 3 Playwork at the Ystrad Mynach campus have been part of the pilot involving ten colleges.

Both Sharon and Ann were eager to be part of the pilot as they have always had an interest in having a healthy lifestyle and being physically active. Ann commented “A healthy body leads to a healthy mind and vice versa. Physical Literacy allows learners to have a positive mindset to learn and hopefully that will develop into an interest in sport. I wanted the learners to develop a ‘have a go’ attitude which will give them confidence to try new things – it builds resilience and takes away the fear of trying”.

Learners at the Ystrad Mynach campus have used the campus to build in physical activity including walking and use of the gym. Despite their initial apprehension they have enjoyed the activities and will benefit from achieving the Playmaker Award at the end of the project, which they can use in their chosen employment.

Sharon added” The learners have experienced some great opportunities during the pilot; taking part in Ultimate Frizbee, organised by the Wales Girls’ Football Academy at the Centre of Excellence, trampolining in caves in North Wales and a fun filled game of Bubble Football – enjoyed by all.

It would be great if Physical Literacy could be built into the curriculum for learners to have as part of their employability skills; having the confidence and knowledge to deliver Physical Literacy in their future employment will prove valuable”.

The college will offer additional Physical Literacy sessions through next year’s weekly Boost Programme. This will give the learners the opportunity to acquire Physical Literacy skills and enjoy movement and activity.

Creative learners’ exhibit works at local museum

Since relocating to its town centre location; staff and learners at the Aberdare campus of Coleg y Cymoedd have been proactive in forging links with businesses and organisations.

The most recent example of partnership working is the Creative Media Exhibition which is currently on display in the Mezzanine Gallery at the Aberdare Museum.

The wide range of learners’ work includes stunning photography, thought provoking art work and exciting media projects; all produced during the past academic year.

The Level 1 and 2 Full Time Creative Media learners, based at the Aberdare campus study a range of disciplines including Art, Media, Design, Music, Photography and various Craft Skills. This helps the learners to explore Creative Arts and Media to help them progress and specialise in a Creative Industries pathway of their choice.

Donna Price, one of the Creative Tutors stated” The learners have been really excited to display their work at the museum, they have worked really hard to produce such a professional exhibition.  The Creative Industries of South Wales are looking for strong creative thinkers and our courses could be the start of an exciting career for them”.

Roisin McGarvey, Level 1 Creative learner added “I felt really proud seeing my work at the museum, because I feel that I’ve worked really hard and I’ve never seen my work displayed before. It was also really nice to see everyone else’s hard work on display”.

To view the exhibition visit Aberdare Museum, Depot Road, Aberdare, CF44 8DL from 7 June – 4 July

Coleg y Cymoedd learners refuel fundraising cyclists

Coleg y Cymoedd learners provided a welcomed ‘pit stop’ for a team of 65 licensing professionals who were taking part in the Light Fund Cycle Tour 2018. The cyclists started their four day – 325 mile tour in Bristol on Tuesday, to cycle 102 miles in one day; stopping off at the Aberdare campus before continuing to their Llanelli destination.

Their Challenge meanders through the Welsh and Irish countryside before arriving in Dublin on Friday 15th June; hopefully smashing their target of raising £150k for good causes.

The Hospitality & Catering learners on the Aberdare campus practiced their skills providing much needed refreshments and a professional front of house service. Creative Tutor, Chris Summeril joined the cyclists on their route from Bristol to Aberdare campus, photographing their challenge on the way.

The organisers of the event were delighted with the hospitality provided by the college, thanking the staff and learners Project Manager for Classic Challenge, Lucy Thomas said” Thanks so much for your hospitality, it was amazing the staff and learners were fantastic”.

College starts sustainability buzz with beehives

A college in the South Wales Valleys is playing its part in saving the honey bee and helping to improve the environment after providing a home to thousands of native species at two of its campuses.

Coleg y Cymoedd has installed apiaries at its Ystrad Mynach and Nantgarw campuses as part of a wider sustainability program at the college designed to increase sustainability and minimise its impact on the environment.

The college has placed five bee hives across both campuses and incorporated a range of bee-friendly measures throughout its grounds in a bid to tackle declining numbers of honey-bees, which play a vital role in our ecosystem.

The initiative, which is now in its fourth year, aims to raise awareness among the student body and the public about the importance of urban bee-keeping in promoting sustainability.

Located on the campuses’ rooftops, the hives will provide learners at the college with an insight into the benefits of hosting bee-hives, as well as an understanding of how a bee colony is managed. Three lucky environmental learners at the college will also be fully selected to work with the bees over the summer, looking into apiary management, from hive assembly to honey harvesting.

As well as their educational and environmental benefits, the hives will also be used to produce honey and candle wax for the college, which will be sold to the public at local events and festivals. In just four months, more than 140 jars of specialist Coleg y Cymoedd honey have already been made.

Staff at the college were originally inspired to start their own beehives after speaking with a local bee keeper, who was already housing bees on the Ystrad Mynach apiary, and hearing about the perfect environment that the Nantgarw Campus rooftop green spaces offered for bee-keeping.

Nantgarw Campus Director, Karen James, said: “Bees play a critical role in our ecosystem, pollinating flowering plants, trees and crops, which in some cases, wouldn’t otherwise grow. However, due to modern agriculture and changes to the honey bees’ habitat, we are seeing a huge decline in their populations with honey bees now facing the threat of disappearing.

“We wanted to take action to protect these pollinators, promoting habitats, food sources, and safe places for them to nest at the college and raise awareness about their importance – installing our own bee hives was the logical next step for us. With plenty of green spaces and being located away from our learners, the college’s rooftops were an ideal site to host the bees.”

After seeking advice from Pollen8 Cymru and receiving a £5,000 grant to help set up the hives on its roof, the college welcomed its first colony of bees in 2010 at its Ystrad Mynach campus, with a further three colonies at the Nantgarw campus following in 2015.

The hives are not the only bee friendly additions to the college. To maximise its environmental objectives and make its space more liveable for bees and other pollinators, the college has planted bee friendly plants throughout its gardens and ensured bee-friendly weed killer is used at all times.

Although beekeeping is not part of the official curriculum, anyone interested in learning how to take care of bees is welcomed to contact the bee-keeping team to get involved.

College takes a pass on plastic

Learners at a Coleg y Cymoedd are being urged to make a pass on plastic in a bid to improve the environment and help lead the way in reducing plastic pollution.

Coleg y Cymoedd is hosting plastic-free Fridays at two of its campuses in Ystrad Mynach and Nantgarw, following increased awareness about the damaging effects that discarded items have on oceans and wildlife, as well as human health and livelihoods.

Learners at the campuses are being encouraged to switch from disposable water bottles to re-usable alternatives, which are being offered out for free at both campuses every Friday.

Hundreds of re-fillable bottles have already been handed out to tutors and learners throughout the college, while a designated stall has also been set up to raise awareness about the dangers of single use plastics and inspire others to make changes themselves, both at the college and in their personal lives.

The initiative is part of a campus-wide effort at both locations to phase out plastic use, with plans for further environmentally-friendly measures already on the horizon. Both campuses are hoping to replace plastic straws with recyclable paper ones at their canteens and cafés, as well as discourage the use of takeaway coffee cups with the introduction of reusable mugs.

Alison Roberts, Campus Director at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach campus said: “Plastic waste is hugely damaging to the environment and is destroying the lives of individuals living in developing countries. The problem is that, while people see images of plastic waste on TV, there is a disconnect between this and their actions. We wanted to do our bit to help as a college and felt that providing reusable bottles was a good starting point for our ambitious plans.

“It was important to us what we engage learners and staff in change and help them understand the impact their choices have.  Speaking with them about plastic waste and its effects and showing this through real-life images, such as those of fishermen in Indonesia struggling to work in a sea full of plastic, is definitely helping to hit home the gravity of the situation.

The scheme is just the latest eco-friendly measure implemented at the college as part of its commitment to the green agenda. Other initiatives include the installation of apiaries and green rooves on campus, food waste reduction programmes across its catering and hospitality services, as well as a longstanding commitment to sustainable building practices at each of its sites. The college was also awarded the ‘Platinum Level’ at the Wales Travel Plan awards for its work to encourage staff and learners to use alternative transport solutions such as cycling, public transport and car sharing.

Alison added: “The response we have received has been immensely positive and it’s been really heart-warming to see so many people on campus bringing in their reusable bottles every day. The conversations we are having with learners has demonstrated that people are very passionate about making a difference, no matter how small, and we are looking forward to implementing other changes over the years to come.”

The reusable bottle scheme at Nantgarw and Ystrad Mynach will continue into the end of the summer term and is set to return to all campuses again in September and will enable learners and staff to make a small contribution towards a reusable bottle.  

Initially piloted across two campuses, the college hopes to expand the scheme to its other campuses in Aberdare and Rhondda.

Cymoedd Photography learner is a finalist for the Inspire Learning Awards 2018

Congratulations to Cymoedd learner Booker T Skelding on being Shortlisted as a finalist for this year’s Inspire Learning Awards. Booker is studying on the two year fulltime Foundation Degree course in Photography at the Nantgarw campus                                    

Out of over 200 entries in the category the panel acknowledged Booker’s achievements in reaching the final stage stating “Booker’s determination and motivated attitude towards the course has paid off and it has been so fantastic to see you develop into such a great photographer”.

As an Individual Learner Awards Finalist, Booker was asked to put together a statement on how her learning experience changed her life …….

Before embarking on a Foundation Degree in Photography, I was a Police Officer for 17 years and I was the happiest I had ever been, doing my dream job.

However, in 2009 I was injured in a car crash, which left me with a life changing injury and chronic pain including a herniated disk in my lower spine.  After nine years of treatment and therapy, I still see a chiropractor weekly to improve my quality of life.   During that time my mental health deteriorated from constant pain.  After 3 years on restricted police duties, pain and depression became worse and I took ill-health retirement in 2015. The next two years I spiralled into further depression and started drinking heavily.

My mind was in a state of hyper-reaction and loud unexpected noise and crowds led to anxiety and panic attacks. I had lost my identity, my purpose, my health and my reason.

My daughter, now 18 years old, asked me, “What are you going to do with your life”? Being a single parent, I had always been her role model.   Later that year, as I had always loved photography as a hobby, I decided to enrol on the Foundation Degree in Photography at Coleg y Cymoedd.

Since starting the course, my enthusiasm for life has returned as has my damaged confidence and I have learnt so much. I’m so engrossed in the work, I can’t stop thinking of the next image to make.  For the first time I have found something that can distract me from my pain.

However, during the course my mum has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and, as her only child, I have become her Carer.  In addition to that demand, my recently diagnosed dyslexia is a massive learning difficulty for me.  I take three to five times longer to learn and produce pieces of work than your average student.  I am currently finding ways to help overcome the barriers with specific software and alternative ways of learning.

Photography is my therapy:  I am able to be creative.  My life and career have always been about helping other people: it gives me purpose and identity.  My long-term plan is to progress onto the BA (Hons) and to use my photography to raise funds for charities.  I hope to sell ‘fine art’ prints in local shops, cafes and galleries.

Finding photography has been my route to improved health – physical and mental – releasing my creativity and finding my identity. 

I have recently won Gold in the Wales Skills Competition with a set of seascape images taken around Wales (as part of the Year of the Seas, Visit Wales Campaign). My lecturer, Jessica Emanuel, saw my potential and suggested I put myself forward.  My confidence has soared, so much so that I’ve now entered another competition at a local Camera Club.

Everything is not perfect as my condition means that I have to travel light: one camera, one lens. I have found a camera with an oscillating screen, which helps with low angles.  I limit my camera hours to avoid aggravating my back and neck pain.

But, I have my life back now, which I fully embrace.

For more information on the Foundation Degree in Photography (2 years full time) – Visit our blog…

Welsh language skills opens doors for Cymoedd learner

When Coleg y Cymoedd learner Owen Bennett enrolled at the Aberdare campus in September, he could not have imagined what doors the qualification would open and so quickly.

Owen, originally from Llanelli but now living in Penderyn, enjoys cooking and is keen to pursue a career in the Catering and Hospitality sector. During his visit to the newly opened campus he was impressed with the facilities and knowledge of the staff and signed up to the Level 1 Professional Cookery course at the college.

During the year, Owen had the opportunity to improve both his Welsh Language and Customer Care skills through following the Welsh Medium Customer Care qualification – Yr Iaith Ar Waith (Using Language at Work). This course gives learners the opportunity to develop their Welsh language skills in a way that is relevant to the subject they are studying and prepares them for the workplace by ensuring they are confident when dealing with customers.

Fortunately for Owen, Alison Jones, Head of Welsh Language Development at the College, recognised his Welsh language skills and when she was asked by the owner of Caffi Soar, the newly re-launched café in Merthyr’s Welsh Centre, Canolfan Soar, to recommend a learner who was studying Catering and could also speak Welsh –she knew just the person!

When Owen was approached he was keen to pursue this opportunity as he realised it would provide him with the relevant experience for a career in the sector. Owen started work earlier this month and has already proved a valuable member of the team.
Welsh language campaigner and Cafe Owner Jamie Bevan said” Owen has a great work ethic and it is obvious that the experience he is getting at Coleg y Cymoedd has gone a long way to prepare him for employment. I couldn’t cope without him – he is an asset to the team and the business”.

Commenting on his employment Owen stated” This is a special opportunity to use the Welsh language and the skills I have learnt on my Catering course at the Aberdare campus, in the world of work”.

Witnessing the benefits of being able to speak Welsh and having studied Customer Care to learners such as Owen, Alison Jones added “I am delighted to see Owen doing so well and getting the chance to use his skills in Welsh, Customer Care and Catering – he has proved a ‘hit’ with the staff and customers”.

Sisters head to Transylvania to change the lives of children in need through play

Two sisters from the South Wales Valleys are set to travel over 1,000 miles across Europe to provide a lifeline to hundreds of desperate children living in deprived communities in Romania.

Rebecca Bennet, 31, who works as works as a playworker assessor at Coleg y Cymoedd, and her sister Ann-Mari Bennett, 26, will be jetting off to Targu Mures, a small Roma village in Transylvania, where they will help support families struggling with extreme poverty.

The sisters, from Caerphilly, will join a team of 12 volunteers spending a week at the village providing much needed food, clothing and play resources to support 120 children and their families.

With the children in the village currently receiving just two hot meals a week, the scheme aims to ensure that each child and its family members have access to three warm meals a day, as well as wider support, while the volunteers are there.

To ensure this is possible, the siblings are hosting a number of public fundraising events ahead of the trip this July including a charity bake off and an ‘evening of clairvoyance’ with four well-known mediums. The sisters have also set up a just-giving page for donations in order to maximise the money raised and the subsequent help they can offer.

The trip was organised through Transylvania Play Project, a scheme based on the idea that play is essential to a child’s development. During the two-week visit, each of the volunteers will work at the local cantina to prepare and serve meals, as well as run an activity camp to deliver games and play sessions to the Roma children. 

Rebecca said: “While our children have all they need in the UK, sadly this is far from the case in Romania. Many of the families live in extremely poor conditions within mass slums, and we wanted to do what we could to help. We all know how important play is to all children but many of the children in this village don’t have any facilities to enable them to do so.

“By setting up an activity camp for them, we will allow children to be children and enjoy themselves the way they should. Providing play sessions will make a massive difference to them, while the food and support that we will also bring during our trip will provide a real lifeline to the community.”

Ann-Mari added: We are both very excited to be a part of this project. Part of my day-to-day role involves working alongside disadvantaged young people and so this scheme allows me to continue this kind of work internationally. Providing this kind of support is something I have always wanted to do and having my sister with me means that we will both be able to support each other throughout the trip.”

Rebecca, who teaches a course on the importance of play and play-work in children and young people’s lives at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach campus, is even involving her students in the project. The mother of one has tasked her learners with designing and developing the games and play activities that the camp will provide for the Roma children during the volunteers’ visit in July.

Rebecca explained: “My learners are currently mind-mapping ideas for what could work within the camp setting. Due to the language barrier, they will need to develop games that are easy to understand and that will help the children to come together in play. I thought that this would be a great opportunity for my class to put what they have learnt into practice for a really good cause.”

The planned visit follows an initial trip to the village by Transylvania Play Project volunteers last October, after the scheme was originally set up by a group of playworkers who met at the National Play Work Conference in Eastbourne.

The Transylvania Playwork Project was founded by Joan Beattie, a lecturer in Playwork and Childcare at the University of the Highlands and Islands, Shetland College, following a number of trips to Targu Mures. Having volunteered in the village annually for the past 15 years, Joan had seen first-hand the importance of enabling the Roma children to play freely and access opportunities otherwise unavailable to them in their day-to-day environment, inspiring her to set up the scheme.

While the sisters aren’t heading off until the 7th July, they are hoping to raise as many funds as possible through fundraising events and donations before they go.


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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