Berlin sites inspire Cymoedd students

History and Law students from Coleg y Cymoedd visited Berlin from Monday March 2nd – Friday March 6th 2020. The group of 11 students accompanied by two members of staff Mr Chris Griffiths and Ms Kayleigh Long joined a walking tour of the city.

The sites included the Brandenburg Gate, Memorial to the Murdered Jews and Jewish Museum, Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie, Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp and Tiergarten Park.

Ms Kayleigh Long said, “Berlin is an exciting city with its modern areas and fascinating past. This trip was the first time that some of our learners had been abroad and I am sure it will be one to remember. It has been a valuable experience for everyone both educationally and culturally.

Emily Richards (17 years) from Blackwood, who is studying History and Sociology A Levels and WBQ at the Nantgarw campus said” The Berlin trip was an amazing experience for us to bring our course work alive, and gave us the opportunity to see a different perspective of history through Germany’s eyes. Overall it was a really good trip.

History tutor Mr Chris Griffiths said, “It was a busy few days visiting all the sites but the students enjoyed the opportunity and showed great interest. Berlin has a lot to offer as a City of Museums. The students soaked up the History – it was a great debut trip for the History department and sure to be repeated”.

TV chef returns to Valleys college to inspire future culinary talent

A successful Welsh pastry chef who saw his creations appear on national TV has returned to the south Wales college he originally studied at to share his top tips and advice with aspiring young chefs hoping to enter the industry.

Michael Coggan, who appeared on Channel 4’s ‘Bake Off: The Professionals’, visited culinary learners at Coleg y Cymoedd to give them an exclusive cooking masterclass and answer any burning questions they have about working in the sector.

Currently working as Head Pastry Chef at the luxury five-star vocoâ„¢ St David’s Hotel in Cardiff, the talented pâtissier wanted to give back to the college that helped kickstart his career.

During his visit, Michael spent the afternoon teaching learners on the Level 3 Patisserie course how to master essential dessert skills such as tempering chocolate and creating garnishes. He also gave them an insight into the world of entremets – small, sweet French dishes traditionally served between savoury courses – and showed them how to make a chocolate showpiece to display these delicate creations.

Boasting an impressive culinary CV, Michael originally studied Professional Cookery at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach campus, before landing his first professional role at the Hilton in Cardiff, following a college work placement at the hotel chain. He then worked as a pastry chef at Scottish luxury country estate, The Gleneagles Hotel, before securing his current role and appearing on the Channel 4 series, where he made it to the third round with his patisserie partner, Rebekah Clash.

Following a successful career, Michael wanted to share his success and knowledge with the next generation of patisserie experts. He said: “While my job has taken me all over the UK, I always knew that one day I wanted to come back to the college I trained at to thank tutors for the support I received when I was a learner myself.

“It’s been wonderful to return to the place where I developed my love for patisserie in the first place. Without the support and opportunities I received here, I wouldn’t be where I am now, so I wanted to give something back. Pursuing a career in this industry can be hard so I hope I’ve helped to inspire learners to stick with it and work on developing their pastry skills.”

As well as helping learners develop their practical skills, Michael also shared his expert advice with them, discussing their plans for the future and offering them the opportunity to take their first steps into the professional pastry world with a work experience placement at vocoâ„¢ St David’s Hotel.

Jess Sullivan, 20 from Abertysswg, is class rep for the Level 3 Patisserie course and attended Michael’s visit. She said: “It was so inspiring to get an insight into what life could be like after college if we work hard. Michael taught us so many skills, like how to use different equipment and make the most of the ingredients, which will be really helpful for future competitions and jobs.

“My dream is to have my own business and open a bakery after working in the patisserie industry for a while, and Michael gave me lots of tips and advice on how to achieve this.”

With over 160 learners studying culinary courses, which includes Level 3 Patisserie, the college has developed its own state of the art facilities equipped with specialised training equipment, placing them locally and nationally on the map as a culinary training facility.

The college also runs four restaurants across its Aberdare, Nantgarw, Ystrad Mynach and Rhondda campuses, with learners creating and preparing dishes for the public which have received rave reviews on Trip Advisor.

Inspiring Panel mark International Women’s Day

Staff and Students at Coleg y Cymoedd were delighted to welcome a panel of inspirational guests to the college’s Nantgarw campus, to mark International Women’s’ Day. Cymoedd’s Principal Karen Phillips opened the event, which brought together four guest speakers from a range of professions to participate in an interactive session.

Panellists included-

Tracey Smolinski, founder and Managing Director of Wales’ leading independent business network, Introbiz. The network boasts over 300 members from a wide range of industries and sectors, and hosts 60 networking events a year in various 4 and 5 star locations throughout South Wales and internationally.

Tracey spoke openly about how she got networking very wrong during her first three months as she was giving it the hard sell and almost completely gave up on it, but not before, she took on some very sound advice.

Representing Chwarae Teg, Learning Development Partner Beth Baldwin shared some personal challenges and her work within the organisation i.e. inspiring women in Wales to take ownership of their careers and develop their skills through delivery of our unique Career development programme. With over 20 years’ experience of empowering women to reach their potential, Beth’s mission continues to be  in supporting  women to be fulfilled with the choices they make. She was awarded a Pride of Britain award for charity fundraising and a dedication to making her life count by encouraging others to do the same.

Head of Operations at British Airways Interiors Engineering, Sarah-Jane Worley shared her experience of working at BAIE for over 21 years, both at BAIE and BAMC. The company maintain the interiors of the aircraft, safety equipment and manufacture carpets for the whole BA fleet. Sarah-Jayne outlined her personal learning journey and career path, demonstrating if you want something – you can achieve it.  Sarah’s activity, demonstrating lifejackets prepared at BAIE was enjoyed by staff and learners.  

Panel member, Rachel Rowlands, Chief Executive of Age Connects Morgannwg shared her memories of the Miners Strike to demonstrate how strong women are and the important role they play in our communities. She has a wealth of experience across a range of employment opportunities and in 2014, Rachel embarked on a Community Asset Transfer Project to transform a council owned older people’s day centre into a vibrant Community Hub in Aberdare.  The Project, called Cynon Linc, has attracted over £2.6m of investment from a range of sources, which will allow the hub to offer day-care facilities for up to 29 children, a GP Practice, a bistro and dementia café, sensory facilities, an Info Hub and the charity’s headquarters.

The event was well received by the audience, student Sarah James (17) from Porth said” I really enjoyed the session, each of the speakers had different inspirational personal stories to tell; but the message was the same from each of them – “Believe in yourself and you can achieve”!

Closing the event Principal Karen Phillips said, “This event has been an excellent opportunity for our students and staff to be inspired by such an experienced panel of interesting role models, who shared their personal experiences. There was a clear message from all panellists that with hard work and a positive attitude – anything is possible!

I would like to extend my thanks to all the speakers for joining the college to celebrate International Women’s Day. The college is keen to support its students in gaining career related experience and skills and has a female Mentoring Scheme which currently has 21 mentors; each highly successful and respected women within their professional fields”.

College launches mentorship programme to empower next generation of female leaders

A South Wales college has unveiled a new female mentorship programme aimed at supporting and empowering the next generation of young women to fulfil their education and career potential.

Coleg y Cymoedd, which has four campuses in Nantgarw, Ystrad Mynach, Aberdare and Rhondda, has officially rolled out its mentoring scheme, following a successful two-year pilot.

Originally trialled on a smaller scale, the scheme proved to be a success with learners and has now transitioned into a permanent programme at the college.

Designed to coach female, trans and non-binary identifying learners to help them reach their personal and professional goals, the programme sees each learner matched with a mentor based on their career interests or desired skills.

The scheme currently boasts 21 mentors who are each highly successful and respected women within their professional fields. Spanning a range of sectors from law and marketing to psychology, construction and finance, mentors on the scheme include a tribunal judge, chartered architect, executive producer at the BBC, and the director of BAFTA Cymru.

As part of the programme, learners have monthly one-on-one meetings with their mentors – either face to face or virtually – where they discuss their career aspirations and personal development, putting together an action plan to achieve these. For those unsure of what they’d like to do after college, the mentors help them to identify what career or subject they might be interested in pursuing.

As well as sharing their own personal experiences and learnings, the mentors support learners to gain career related experience and skills, introducing them to key industry contacts and helping them secure relevant work placements. 

They are also on hand to assist with drafting CVs and university applications, preparing for interviews, improving confidence and improving their presentation skills.

Megan Howells, 20, is one Coleg y Cymoedd learner to have benefited from the scheme. Megan, who is now in her third year of a law degree at Oxford University, was partnered with mentor Sian Davies, an employment judge, during her last year of college.

Thanks to the scheme and Judge Davies’ support, Megan gained work experience in a number of legal firms and was able to sit in on an employment tribunal hearing, giving her an insight into various areas of law.

Megan said: “I am really thankful for the mentoring scheme as it provided me with an invaluable opportunity to develop my skills and interest in law. Before starting the scheme, I felt lost and unsure about what I wanted to do post-university but working with Judge Davies provided me with a wealth of experience in a wide range of areas of law.

“The scheme helped improve my confidence, knowledge, and legal skills, better preparing me for university and my future career. It gave me the resources to further my academic performance, and the practical experience to aid me with decisions in the future.” 

Judge Sian Davies, who is a Diversity and Community Relations Judge, was instrumental in setting up the networking scheme at the college after contacting its Principal with the idea.

She said: “I am passionate about inspiring women to aim high and achieve their full potential, which is why I wanted to be involved in a scheme like this. I wanted to help young women who don’t have a professional role model, providing them with an opportunity to network with professional women and get work experience, which can be difficult to come by if you don’t know the right people.

“Megan is an exceptional individual who is going to be a fantastic lawyer. Megan originally didn’t have connections to access relevant work experience, so I assisted her in getting experience in a variety of roles within law.

“The scheme is a fantastic initiative that focuses on empowering young women to succeed by providing them with a supportive and nurturing environment to flourish and enhance their skills. I am proud to play a role in helping young women to develop both personally and professionally.”

For anyone interested in becoming a mentor at Coleg y Cymoedd, please visit: 

Cymoedd learners support Dementia Awareness Pamper event

A group of learners studying on the Level 2 Beauty Therapy course at the Ystrad Mynach campus attended the recent Dementia Awareness Pamper event, held at Caerphilly Golf Club.

The learners provided a range of beauty treatments for both carers and service users, which added to the success of the event; and gave them the opportunity to practice their skills on the clients.

Alicia Jones, Tutor, praised the learners stating, “This event gave the learners the opportunity to put their skills in to practice. They were excellent, very understanding and extremely professional. We look forward to supporting events such as this in the future”.

Thanking the staff and learners Dementia Co-ordinator and event organiser Natalie Flowers said “I would like to say a huge thank you to the college. A simple event such as this can have such a positive impact on carers and service users living with dementia. It reduces stress, isolation and can encourage much needed peer support. With the support of the college and other organisations, we hope to continue to offer these much needed social activities to allow for people living within Caerphilly Borough to live well with Dementia.”

Celebrating Welsh Week at Cymoedd

Throughout the week Cymoedd staff, learners and external partners have been celebrating Welsh Week across all campuses with a wide range of activities. Welsh Week is an opportunity to celebrate all things Welsh, encouraging learners and staff to recognise the importance of our heritage and culture.

Stars of the Welsh language music- scene Carwyn Ellis and Merthyr’s own Kizzy Crawford kicked off the weeks celebrations at the Ystrad Mynach campus. Ysgol Bro Allta choir, a local Welsh school in Ystrad Mynach joined Kizzy on stage with Year 6 pupils invited to join College learners to be a part of the audience for Kizzy’s amazing performance.

The musical celebrations continued on the Nantgarw campus where Cymoedd’s own band ‘Hertz’ entertained the campus, with their bilingual set; these music learners scooped first prize in the World Skills Competition 2019. Staff and learners on the campus also held an interactive session on the Welsh National Anthem.

Each reception area and Learning Centre offered a variety of games and activities, teaching learners and staff about Welsh history and some basic Welsh phrases, with a selection of prizes on offer for the successful participants.

The annual St. David’s Day competition proved the highlight of the week with huge anticipation across the college – which campus would be the overall winner?

The competition, sponsored by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol was open to individuals and groups across the four campuses. The competition tasked the learners with answering the question ‘What Wales means to me’, through any medium, which resulted in some amazing entries. The Campus Directors had the difficult task of choosing the winning entry on their campuses, to present to the judging panel – Vice Principal Jonathan Morgan, Head of Welsh Language Developments Alison Jones, Marketing Officer Andrew Keeping and Welsh Language Officer Lois Roberts. A display of ‘Rebecca Riots’ produced by Ystrad Mynach’s Foundation Skills in Hair and Beauty Level 3 group was this year’s winning entry.

Congratulating the participants Jonathan Morgan, Vice Principal said, “It’s been an amazing week. What a great opportunity to demonstrate how proud College learners and staff are of our rich culture. The ‘What Wales Means to Me’ competition saw fierce competition between the campuses, further evidence of the passion of learners and staff. The standard was so incredibly high this year, picking a winner was an almost impossible task. A big ‘da iawn’ to the winners and ‘diolch yn fawr’ to everyone for taking part and to the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol for the prizes.”

Ystrad Mynach Campus Winners and Overall Winners

Foundation Skills in Hair and Beauty Level 3:- Cailyn Benjamin, Stacey Burns, Leah Davies, Ebony Ducie, Izabell Edge, Lucy Evans, Nisha Evans, Lauren Faircloth, Poppy Greenway, Alisha Horwood, Caieyler-Mae Howells, Tia Pinch

Nantgarw Campus Winner – Hamza Al Numeri

Rhondda Campus Winners – Carpentry Level 2:- Kye Chipilli, Garin England, Jack Hefford, Nico Hemming, Keenan Moulding, Tomos Pearce, Jenson Pride, Callum Williams

Aberdare Campus Winners – Joseph Cadwallader, Samuel Crowley, Emily Damen, Jack Davies, Anitia Hall, Kye Hooker,Declan Johns, Ebboney Rees-Lewis, Nenet Mbuyi, Joshua Portingale-Williams, Skye Spellman, Ethan Tucker, Joel Thomas, Nicole Walker and E3 Construction students


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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