Learner from Cymoedd on Road to Russia

A learner from Coleg y Cymoedd is taking on her toughest skills challenge to date this week, when she goes head to head against another Patisserie and Confectionery learner to try and win a place to represent the UK at WorldSkills Kazan 2019 this summer.

Known as the ‘Skills Olympics’, the WorldSkills Competition sees the world’s best apprentices and learners battle it out to win Gold, Silver and Bronze in their chosen skill. The UK is currently tenth in the WorldSkills rankings following its medal success at the last WorldSkills Competition in Abu Dhabi in 2017.

Alys Cadi was invited to compete for a place in ‘Team UK’ for WorldSkills Kazan 2019 after excelling in the WorldSkills UK National Competitions. She will compete from 4th – 7th March at the City of Glasgow College. ‘Team UK’ for WorldSkills Kazan 2019 will be announced on 11th March.

Karen Phillips, Principal, Coleg y Cymoedd said “Alys has always been an inspirational learner and her tutors and fellow learners are in awe of her extraordinary skills in patisserie and confectionery. Alys has not only excelled in her studies and in competitions, she has also participated in the entrepreneurship scheme in the college to set up a business. We are very proud of her achievements to date and wish her every success in the forthcoming competition”

Commenting on her success to date and the challenge ahead Alys said “I will always be grateful for the support, encouragement and opportunities I received throughout my 2 years at Coleg y Cymoedd”.

WorldSkills UK is responsible for selecting, developing and training the team for the WorldSkills Competition. A partnership between business, education and governments, WorldSkills UK runs skills competitions for thousands of young people every year in key economic skill areas, boosting the technical skills, mind set and employability skills of young people.

Dr Neil Bentley-Gockmann OBE, Chief Executive of WorldSkills UK said: “I wish Alys the very best of luck as she competes for a place in the team to represent the UK at WorldSkills Kazan 2019.

“By entering the WorldSkills Competition, we can transfer the insights gained from competing against other countries into the wider economy, driving up training standards in the UK to world-class levels, boosting productivity.”

Inspired by Alys? WorldSkills UK is looking for apprentices and learners to take part in WorldSkills Shanghai 2021. Register at worldskillsuk.org by 5th April and see how far your skills can take you.

Globally sourced skills come to Cymoedd

Even tutors benefit from going back to class, and a recent exhibition at the our Nantgarw campus provided a chance for those who have taken that opportunity to showcase the creative skills they have gathered from around the globe. 

Learners, staff and visitors to the campus were able to view a range of exhibits created by tutors. All the pieces on display were made possible thanks to the skills tutors have been able to gain and refine through courses funded by the Skills Priorities Programme.

Thanks to the Programme, tutors from across the college’s four campuses have been able to take part in courses and a range of professional development opportunities that have enabled them to bring a wider range of skills, knowledge and processes to the college, which they can then pass onto learners.

The body of work on display at the show includes, among others, creations by chocolatiers, blacksmiths, textiles specialists, fine artists, painters, pattern cutters and photographers. In addition to finished works, many of the pieces tutors volunteered to display were there to illustrate new practices and processes, which learners will now be able to acquire as a result of the programme.  

Just some of those skills include: Experimental Pattern Cutting approaches obtained at the internationally renowned Central St Martins design college, traditional marionette carving crafts from the masters at the ‘Puppets in Prague’ workshop, new drawing techniques homed at The Broadway Drawing School in Cardiff, and from San Francisco, dark room processes developed by the world-famous photographer, John Sexton.

Reflecting on the hard work and talent on show at the exhibition, Foundation Diploma Art & Design Lecturer, Claire Prosser, said: “The quality of the exhibits on display at the college not only illustrates the exceptional skills of our tutors, it stands as a celebration of their dedication to their own development and desire to provide the highest standards of training to those they teach.”

The Skills Programme also allowed for college representatives to investigate state-of-the-art tech and practises that can be applied to various courses and disciplines, with one tutor travelling to Singularity University in Silicon Valley to explore combinatorial exponential technologies and their effect on multiple industries.

Commenting on the show, and the Programme that made it possible Coleg y Cymoedd Principal, Karen Phillips, said: “One of our goals is to help instil a passion for learning in our learners that fosters a lifelong drive for continual development. So, it is vital that we support our staff in leading by example, by pursuing all opportunities to do the same.  This commitment to supporting our tutors and staff to enhance their own skills, represents another way in which we seek to enable our learners to benefit from the most up-to-date teaching practises, skills and academic learning.”

The national Skills Priorities Programme has been designed to allow the Further Education sector to respond to and develop provisions to address job specific, higher-level skills gaps, at a regional level as identified by Regional Skills Partnerships. It also supports Further Education Institutions to develop the skills base of their staff through continued professional development activity.          

Student art creates healing environment

A group of aspiring artists from Coleg y Cymoedd have turned their collective talents to creating a refuge of calm for patients of Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr Hospital.

The 28 Level 2 art learners from the college’s Nantgarw campus have worked to create a series of colourful pieces to transform the outside courtyard used by patients of the hospital’s Acute Adult Mental Health Ward.  


Working with a theme of natural patterns, insects and colour, the installations created by the learners will transform the otherwise bland area into a welcoming and safe outside space for patients.

The project provided the first opportunity for the learners to work to a client’s brief and real-world deadlines. They were also able to benefit from the experience of one of Wales’ most successful location artists, Chris Gadd, who visited the college to reveal how his career has allowed him to work around the world to create largescale pieces. That work includes creating multiple pieces for UK theme parks. 

The artists each took an individual approach using a variety of materials and techniques to create pieces that will withstand the elements once they are installed on the walls.

Working with Eleri Pritchard, a Senior Occupational Therapist at Ysbyty Ystrad Fawr, ensured that the subject material of each piece would not only be suitable, but beneficial for patients of the Hospital’s Acute Adult Mental Health ward.   

Commenting on the learners work, Eleri Pritchard, said: “We’d been struggling for a while to find a partner to help us make the yard a more comfortable, colourful space for both patients and ward staff. Thankfully, Paul at the college was happy to come along to see how the learners could help turn the stark walls of the yard into the therapeutic space we need it to be. When I met with the class the learners really got the concept and the specific needs we had.


“A lot of stigma still exists around mental health and this was a great opportunity for us to discuss the realities and share wellness practises that I hope will help them in the future.

“We couldn’t be happier with the artwork and it will be exciting to see the positive effect it is sure to have on those who will get to enjoy it.”

As level 2 learners studying towards an OCR diploma, many in the class will soon be looking to progress to the next stage of their studies, with a majority hoping to progress to university.

Talking about the project, Coleg y Cymoedd Art Co-ordinator, Paul Lavagna, said: “This is the first live project the learners will have worked on and they quickly adapted to working with a real client. The work required them to not only produce weatherproof pieces that delivered on aesthetics, but to create designs that create an environment that aids patients’ wellbeing. They delivered on all counts.”


Emma Winters was one of the learners who took the challenge to create an artwork for the hospital. Describing the project Emma said: “This was an amazing experience for all of us and  the first chance we’ve had to work with a client to create a custom piece. Personally, I loved the chance to experiment, work with bright colours and draw from life.

“It’s been an intense experience creating these pieces in just a few weeks, but we’ve had the chance to work with a location artist who has worked in Japan, America, Dubai, all over the world. I can’t wait to see our work at the hospital, it makes me excited to think about what I’ll get to do in the future.”


Pet therapy introduced to help college learners


A college in the South Wales Valleys has introduced a pet therapy initiative as a new way to further help re-engage learners who might otherwise be at risk of leaving education.

The scheme will see Coleg y Cymoedd working with Time to Change Wales, the first national campaign to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. The goal is to support learners who might potentially be at risk of becoming disengaged with education, training opportunities and future employment.

Pet therapy sessions will become an extension of the college’s existing pastoral care provision. As one of south Wales’ largest further education providers, college teams are ever vigilant for signs that learners may need additional support and were keen to explore new ways to help those who may be affected with challenges, such as anxiety.   

The sessions will see Time to Change Wales volunteer, Alexandra Osborne, attend the college’s Nantgarw, Aberdare, Rhondda and Ystrad Mynach campuses on a monthly basis with her doggy therapist, Dora.  

Alex began providing pet therapy ten years ago with her border collie, Isla. As a child Alex spent a lot of time in hospital and always missed her dog. Years later she heard about the benefits provided by therapy dogs and decided to train Isla to become one. She began taking Isla to colleges and universities to visit young people with autism and non-verbal learners and was amazed to witness that many people, who were generally non-verbal, would speak to Isla.

Following a talk Alex delivered at Coleg y Cymoedd about the Time for Change campaign and how her dog had helped her personally, the college asked if she would like to run some sessions with learners. Alex will now run sessions with her new Jack Russell, Dora, who took over as a four-legged therapist, through pets as therapy, when Alex’s border collie, Isla, retired for a well-earned rest.  

Talking about her personal journey and experiences working with therapy dogs, Alex, who also works as an information officer for Newport-based charity, MIND, explained: “I find the scheme really rewarding. I know first-hand what it’s like to suffer with issues with mental health and also know just how beneficial therapy dogs can be. My dogs have helped me immensely over the years with my own mental health, so I wanted to help others in the same position. Dogs have an amazingly calming effect – just stroking a dog can bring your blood pressure down.

“It’s amazing to see how the visits are helping the learners. If it means someone stays in college because of Dora, it’s definitely worth it.”

The half hour sessions at the college allow the learners to sit with Dora, cuddle her and relax. For learners who feel stressed or suffer with anxiety, just half an hour with Dora helps to calm them and make them feel much better.

Alex has found that time with Dora during the sessions encourages learners to open up about how they are feeling, giving Alex the opportunity to share her own experiences while sign-posting them to where they can get help.

Commenting on the introduction of pet therapy, Coleg y Cymoedd Principal, Karen Phillips, said: “Our mission is to ensure that every learner has the opportunity to access the very best education to enable them to be successful and progress to university, work or an apprenticeship. Providing the highest level of pastoral care for all learners is a key part of this. 

“This includes excellent academic support through an extensive personal tutorial programme, mentoring programmes, educational visits and guest speakers. But, of equal importance is the wellbeing of our learners and the work of our expert learner support teams, who look after the physical and emotional health of learners.

“The introduction of pet therapy on campus is just the latest step we are taking to support our learners to ensure they are able to succeed in accessing the education, training and employment opportunities available to them here.”  


Cymoedd learner secures a place at Camp America

A Cymoedd learner will be heading to Pennsylvania, America this summer to work for Camp America.

Twenty year old, Josh Thomas, from Llanbradach has studied at the Ystrad Mynach campus for the past three years. Throughout his time at the college, he has gained the confidence to apply for a job that he could only have dreamed of before enrolling at the college.

Josh applied for a place on the Camp America Programme, and went through the application process of form filling, interviews etc.; using skills he has learnt at the college to display his knowledge.

He was delighted to hear that he had been successful and surprised to find out that he was one of only six learners from Wales to have been accepted on the Programme; which sends over 7,000 young people to work at camps in all 50 states of the USA every year.

Josh completed a Level 2 Sports course prior to enrolling on the Level 2 Play Work course at the college and progressed on to his current Level 2 Childcare course; the combination of the Sports, Play Work and Childcare courses will certainly equip him with a broad range of skills to carry out his placement. He will complete his course before travelling to America in June 2019.

Josh has always had a passion for working with children and wants to make a difference in the work that he does. Following his three- month placement in the USA Josh will return to the college to study on the CACHE Level 3 Diploma, which will involve work placement within a variety of real work environments and a range of units, such as Child Development, Observation & Assessment, Play, Safeguarding and working in partnership with parents and professionals.  On completion of the course he is looking forward to pursuing a career in teaching Physical Education.

Commenting on his success Josh said” I am looking forward to travelling to America to work at the Summer Camp.  I will be working in a team providing all sporting activities, including football, basketball, swimming, hockey for children aged 9 -17 years of age. I am grateful to my tutors who have given me the confidence to apply and my friends and family for their support – without their help I wouldn’t be at the stage I am with my course and the opportunity that awaits me at camp America. I am so thankful to everyone who has been on this journey with me”.

Care Tutor Angela Jones said: “I am delighted that Josh has been successful in his application to Camp America it will give him the opportunity to experience the American culture and meet new people. It will also help boost his confidence skills further, whilst enjoying a fantastic life experience”.

Cymoedd learners build on success

A group of Cymoedd Construction learners took part in the recent South East Regional Welsh Construction Skills competition, held at the Ystrad Mynach campus.

The learners competed in a variety of construction trades including joinery, painting and decorating and brickwork. The learners, all studying on Construction courses at the Ystrad Mynach campus impressed the judges, securing three first and three second places in the competition.

Ryan Windmill (1st) Woodwork skills, Kory Llewellyn (2nd) Woodwork skills

Martin Watkins Head of School Construction & the Built Environment at Coleg y Cymoedd said” The competition went really well; all those involved worked hard and obviously impressed the judging panel with their skills. We are proud of all of their achievements they are a talented group of learners and have a bright future ahead of them. A big thank you to the staff who made this possible for all the learners who took part”.


Macey Rees (1st) Painting & Decorating                            Garin Watkins (1st) Carpentry

Successful learners:- Macey Rees (1st) Painting & Decorating, Ryan Windmill (1st) Woodwork skills, Kory Llewellyn (2nd) Woodwork skills, Garin Watkins (1st) Carpentry, Rhys Williams (2nd) Carpentry, Cory Probert (2nd) Brickwork


Rhys Williams (2nd) Carpentry                                               Cory Probert (2nd) Brickwork

Cymoedd Engineering learners address EQAVET Forum in Vienna

Three representatives from Coleg y Cymoedd joined over 100 participants from 40 countries at the Annual EQAVET’s Forum.

Essential Skills Wales Co-ordinator Michelle Simmonds, employed in the Work-Based Learning department at Coleg y Cymoedd was joined by Jordan Lawrence and Jacob Morrissey, both studying an engineering apprenticeship at Coleg y Cymoedd.

This years’ Forum, held in Vienna; was organised by the European Commission, the EQAVET Secretariat and the Austrian National Reference Point (ARQA-VET) and was part of the European Vocational Skills Week.

The event provided an opportunity to discuss the experiences of current and former VET learners from Austria, Finland, Romania and UK (Wales); and the ways in which providers and the national systems in these countries support and encourage learners to participate in quality assurance processes.

Speaking after the Forum Michelle said” Both myself and Phil Whitney, ColegauCymru EQAVET NRP in UK (Wales), had the opportunity to give our presentations which outlined the Welsh approach to Work Based Learning and the benefits and challenges of learners being engaged in designing and delivering WBL in Wales.

20 year old Jordan from Pontypridd and 21 year old Jacob from Caerphilly also participated as part of a panel, sharing their experiences with others at the forum, and responding to any direct questions from the audience. They were excellent role models throughout, providing their own personal first hand experiences of Work Based Learning, and the skills, knowledge and progress made throughout their apprenticeships.

Both presented themselves really well, demonstrating professionalism, outstanding manners and maturity. Their stories illustrated the many ways in which VET provision benefits from the learners’ perspective and why it should inform the quality assurance processes put in place”.

Both learners enjoyed the experience and were impressed with the Forum and the value that was placed on the voice of learners; also the importance of their role in strengthening the quality of Vocational Education and Training (VET).

Speaking about his experience Jacob said” The Forum gave myself and Jordan the opportunity to discuss our motivation for choosing a Vocational and Educational Training (VET) programme and highlight the value of our experience of Work Based Learning in terms of the learner’s role in enhancing the programme.

We are both fortunate that our employers, Axiom Manufacturing Services Ltd and Al-Met Ltd recognise and acknowledge the advanced skills we are learning and the new ideas we are bringing back to our companies; we are always encouraged to contribute to improvements in the quality of provision”.

Cymoedd learners secure Top Awards at Skills Competition Wales

A group of Cymoedd learners travelled to Bangor recently to compete against over 100 learners in the Creative and Media category of the Skills Competition Wales. This category includes Photography, Live Music and Digital Video, one of over 55 networks of the competition.

The competition, held at the Pontio Arts and Innovation Centre, Bangor provided Cymoedd learners with an opportunity to showcase their talents in front of learners from colleges across Wales.

This year, for the first time, two learners from the A Level Centre travelled with the team. Both Elliot Morris and Tahlia Morgan-Rose are studying A2 Photography as part of their A Level programme at the Nantgarw campus.


Elliot secured the Silver trophy, a fantastic result beating 23 entries from colleges across Wales.  On hearing the result Elliot said,” I enjoyed the whole experience, I am passionate about my photography and winning this award has boosted my confidence”. Commenting on her experience at the competition Tahlia added” I enjoyed taking part in the competition; I was really pleased that my teacher thought my work was good enough to be put forward”.


Continuing the success of the college, the Cymoedd Media learners claimed the top prize in the digital video production competition for their film A Red Documentary and making it three in a row for Cymoedd the Music learners’ scooped top prize in the popular Music competition, after an amazing performance by their band Hertz.


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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