Coleg y Cymoedd awarded for support of inspirational young carers

Coleg y Cymoedd has received a national award for its work with young carers.

The college, which has campuses in Ystrad Mynach, Aberdare, Rhondda and Nantgarw, has been awarded the bronze and silver Young Carers College award in recognition of the work it does to support its learners who have caring responsibilities.

Designed by Rhondda Cynon Taf Young Carers’ Service, the award was presented by Cabinet Member for Adult & Children’s Services, Councillor Tina Leyshon, at a celebratory ceremony whick took place at the college’s Aberdare campus on Wednesday 29th January, ahead of Young Carer’s Awareness Day.


According to the latest census in 2011, there are currently over 2,500 young carers in Rhondda Cynon Taf. These young people help to look after a relative, friend or neighbour who wouldn’t otherwise be able to manage alone due to illness, age or disability.

Young carers find themselves juggling a caring role with school or college work and often give up on education and training as a result, feeling that they cannot cope with the additional pressures of studying. Estimates suggest that young carers are five times more likely to drop out of education than other leaners.


The Young Carers College award recognises initiatives implemented by colleges to ensure young carers are happy and comfortable at college, helping them to succeed despite their extra responsibilities. To help young carers with their education, Coleg y Cymoedd offers learners flexible learning hours, free meals and extra support throughout their college journey. The learners, who are often the primary carer for individuals suffering from serious illness, are also provided with access to counselling and taken on an annual residential trip to give them a break from their responsibilities at home.

Councillor Christina Leyshon, Cabinet Member for Adult and Children’s Services said: “I am extremely pleased that Rhondda Cynon Taf Council has been able to recognise the work that Coleg y Cymoedd has made over the last 12 months to improve identification, recognition and support available to Young and Young Adult Carers.


“Young Carers in Rhondda Cynon Taf often provide essential care to the ones they love the most, which takes an incredible amount of dedication and commitment. However, this can also impact on them socially, academically and emotionally. It’s critical that organisations are working together to identify Young Carers at the earliest opportunity to provide them with the support they need to continue with their studies, reduce isolation, and offer an opportunity for respite.

“I would like to thank everyone at Coleg y Cymoedd for the work they have put into achieving the Bronze and Silver Awards this year, and I am sure they will continue their hard work to achieve the Gold award in the future.”

The awards ceremony was attended by Coleg y Cymoedd staff, learners and parents, as well as council Carers Support Workers, Rebecca Knight and Mari Ropstad. 

During the ceremony, attendees heard from young carers from across the college’s four campuses who each shared their stories of how the college has helped them. They accept the trophy, which has been designed by another young adult carer, on the college’s behalf.

Karen Phillips, Principal at Coleg y Cymoedd said: “It’s important to us that all our learners feel happy and supported while at college to ensure they’re able to reach their full potential. Young carers take on an enormous amount of responsibility at home, so we want to do all we can to help make their college experience as smooth as possible.

“We have worked hard to ensure we have support structures in place including helping our staff to understand the signs that a learner may be a young carer, and signposting learners to appropriate help. We’re incredibly proud to be receiving this award and are committed to continue increasing awareness for young carers and supporting them throughout their time with us.”


After achieving both the Bronze and Silver accolades, Coleg y Cymoedd is now on track to receive the Gold Award later this year and, if successful, will become the only college in Wales to hold all three levels of the award.

To continue raising awareness of young carers, the college is taking part in the ‘Driving Change’ pilot project – a three-year National Lottery funded initiative that will provide support to UK colleges to help them improve their support for young adult carers. Once completed, the college will obtain a qualification that only 12 other further education colleges in England and Wales will hold.



College learner sets up mental health support group for young people of Rhondda

An inspiring young carer from the South Wales Valleys has set up her own support group outside of college to help other young people and carers in the region who are struggling with mental health.

Twenty-year-old Coleg y Cymoedd learner Alisha Morgan, from Penrhys, has worked with Ferndale Community School to create a weekly support group, providing advice and a safe space for young people to talk about the issues affecting them.

Alisha, who is the primary carer for her mother, originally decided to set up the youth club after suffering with poor mental health herself. The tragic loss of several young people in her community to suicide showed she was not the only one struggling.  

She also wanted to provide support for young people like her who have care responsibilities, knowing first-hand how much of emotional and social impact the role can have.

Aged just 17, Alisha became a young carer after her mother became ill with a number of conditions that left her struggling to walk and take care of herself. Alisha found herself taking on a range of responsibilities including checking her mother’s insulin levels, helping her to walk, assisting her with daily tasks and taking her to hospital when episodes get severe.

Struggling to balance her care duties with her education, Alisha ended up leaving college completely. However, determined to forge a career, she returned to college a year later to study health and social care, with ambitions to work in paediatric mental health.

Alisha, who is now studying her level 2 diploma in health and social care at Coleg y Cymoedd, admits that she finds it difficult to focus on her education when she may be called at any time to help her mother. She also acknowledges that her responsibilities mean that she no longer has much of a social life and rarely goes out anymore. It was this feeling that first inspired Alisha to create a group where she could meet and socialise with other people in the same position.

In 2017, Alisha decided to undertake mental health first aid training as she wanted to help young people going though mental health issues. Shortly after, armed with an accredited qualification, she formed the Ferndale youth club.

Alisha said: “Having struggled with mental health issues myself, I really wanted to help other young people in the same situation. I think it’s so important that people speak out about mental health and get support. I wanted to do everything I could to help other people which is why I decided to set up the group.

“I attend the sessions outside of my college studies and we speak about a range of issues from depression and anxiety to bereavement and suicide prevention. Speaking to other people who understand what you are going through really does help.

“Being a young carer has become an everyday part of my life – it’s normal to me – but it can be difficult sometimes. I’m lucky that my college is understanding and is flexible with me when I come in late or need to leave early to help my mum. I’ll always be there to help my mum but becoming a full-time carer does take its toll. Hosting the group event not only enables me to help other people, but the sessions actually help me too, allowing me to have a moment away from my everyday life.”

The youth club currently supports seven individuals between the ages of 11 and 25. As well as group sessions, Alisha also speaks with members one on one, providing a confidential space for them to discuss their problems.

The group has become particularly important to the community following the suicides of four young people from Rhondda and Alisha is urging anyone struggling with mental health to speak out and not suffer in silence.

Cymoedd learners experience life in Tuscany

A group of Cymoedd learners recently spent ten days experiencing life in Tuscany – a visit arranged through Erasmus+ ; a European Union Programme for education, training, youth and sport.

The nine learners studying on the BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma in Business and Levels 2 & 3 Business Administration Apprentices travelled with three members of staff to Italy as part of a Work Experience Programme.

The Programme provided the learners with an opportunity to spend time in a beautiful part of the world; experiencing living and working in a different culture. The work placements were extremely varied ranging from an international business consultancy, health and fitness clubs to a tourism company, promoting and writing blogs about excursions in Italy.

The group developed and demonstrated a wide range of business skills throughout their Work Experience.  Excellent communication and problem solving skills were vitally important, together with the ability to work as part of a team.  The learners showed that they were adaptable to new situations, working flexibly to meet the needs of their host organisations.  This opportunity enabled them to show independence and resourcefulness, boosting their confidence and self-esteem.

Keen to experience as much of the country as possible, the learners sampled the local food in Montecatini Therme, their base during their stay. On the weekend, they made use of the Italian transport system to visit many places including Pisa, the Christmas markets at Florence and further afield to take in the culture and beautiful sites of Rome.

Paige Davies, Level 3 apprentice at GE Aviation who took part in the visit said, “The trip to Italy was definitely one to remember! We were given an amazing opportunity to spend two weeks undertaking work experience in another country, not only finding out how other companies operate but also trying to fit in to a company that doesn’t speak the same language.

It has helped me realise that barriers are only barriers if you let them get in the way of what you want to achieve. It also has helped me gain more confidence in not only myself but also in my ability and skills to overcome things, I never thought I could. It has definitely made me consider working in another country in the future. I would definitely recommend this experience to everyone who has the chance!

Course Tutor Yvonne Morris who accompanied the learners on the trip added, “This Programme was a fantastic opportunity for our Business learners to gain experience of working and living in a different country. The skills developed through their placements and the confidence gained by each of our learners during their time in Italy will undoubtedly stand them in good stead for their future careers and will be something they will remember for many years to come”.

First Aid through the medium of Welsh

Congratulations to three College learners who successfully completed the Agored Cymru Level 3 Award in Emergency First Aid at Work through the medium of Welsh last year. Megan Thomas, Demi Parsons and Jessica Morgan are currently studying the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Health and Social Care at Nantgarw. This enrichment course was delivered at our Nantgarw Campus by Ceri Davies, a Physical Education teacher at Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun and was funded by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol.

Simon Jenkins, Head of the School of Health and Social Care at Coleg y Cymoedd said: “A big thank you to the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol for funding this training and to Ysgol Gyfun Rhydywaun for working with us to deliver this enrichment course. The learners appreciated being able to develop such a valuable skill through the medium of Welsh – a skill which will certainly put them in good stead in their future careers.”

Oxford Support for A Level learners

Cymoedd alumnus Calum Haggett visited the college with Professor Chris Butler of Trinity College Oxford to discuss with Ian Rees, Director of A-Levels an exciting new scheme at the college. The scheme will support and mentor Cymoedd A Level learners who intend to apply for Medicine or Biomedical Sciences at university.

Professor Butler will be working with Coleg y Cymoedd to ensure students gain relevant work experience in the healthcare field and that they are thoroughly prepared for interviews, and Calum will support their preparations for the aptitude tests required for entrance to Medical School. Both will also act as mentors for our aspiring Doctors of the future!

Calum studied at Coleg y Cymoedd achieving 3 A’s and an A* grade in his A Levels – he is currently a graduate Medicine student at Magdalen College Oxford.

College learners are set for the world’s most advanced careers

Learners from across the south Wales valleys will have the chance to secure careers working with the world’s most advanced technology, as Coleg y Cymoedd launches a programme that aims to boost employment in the region.

The college has teamed up with the University of South Wales and world-leading technology companies to create a scheme to provide learners with the cutting-edge skills required for careers in Wales’ semiconductor industry, which is predicted to create 5,000 high-tech jobs in Wales by 2025.

Compound semiconductors are essential for most of the electronic technologies we all use on a daily basis, including our phones, computers, smart devices and the internet itself. The path towards widespread 5G internet connections, autonomous vehicles and practically every new electronic advancement will be made possible by this technology. And, Wales is leading the way. 

South Wales is already home to companies that lead the world in the research, design and creation of compound semiconductor technology. The expected growth of that industry offers huge employment opportunities for learners in the region today.

Over the last 12 months, Coleg y Cymoedd has worked with university research departments and technology businesses to gain a first-hand understanding of the skills they will need for their future workforces.

The project has seen staff at Coleg y Cymoedd attend a number of courses run by the most advanced companies working within the sector, including Newport-based IQE, one of the world’s leading global compound semiconductor suppliers. Tutors have also had the opportunity to learn from the experts at Newport Wafer Fab, MicroSemi, the Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult and the science education specialists at Techniquest.

The majority of the organisations participating in the scheme are members of the world’s first compound semiconductor cluster, CSConnected, which was established here in 2017 as a means to supercharge the industry in Wales. Working within the cluster, universities, research centres and companies collaborate to develop a compound semiconductor hub that aims to create £375 million of private sector investment in the region over the next five years.

This training received by Coleg y Cymoedd’s tutors will allow the college to tailor its Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Maths (STEAM) courses to ensure the next generation of learners gain the exact skills that employers will be calling out for.

As a result, college learners will have a head start as they pursue lucrative career paths in emerging technology sectors that offer highly paid, sought after engineering and science industry roles.

Coleg y Cymoedd’s programme is led by physics and applied science lecturer, Steve Chapman, who said: “Compound semiconductors are already vital to the technology we all use today and that’s only going to grow. It’s crucial that we work with industry to ensure that we remain at the forefront of such technological advancements. As a tutor it’s been so insightful to learn about the industries at the forefront of science and pass on this valuable information to our learners.

“By working with these leading experts and employers, we can guarantee that our courses allow learners to develop the specific and transferable industry skills they will need to secure real and rewarding career paths.” 

The course updates will also benefit those choosing an apprenticeship route, as learners will be able to study specific modules that tie into the industry, improving their chances of finding apprenticeships and work in the growing semiconductor and engineering market when they leave college.

Karen Phillips, Principal at Coleg y Cymoedd said: “As a college, we utilise our relationships with employers to keep up with developing industries and future employment opportunities for our learners. We ensure our tutors have the relevant knowledge, filtering this expertise into our courses so that our learners are equipped with the skills that employers look for today, and in the future. 

“We have found this project extremely beneficial for both our tutors and learners and we hope to continue working on this initiative in the future.”


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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