Cymoedd Alumnus has Nailed It

When Abi Markey completed her A Levels and attended an Open day at Coleg y Cymoedd, she could not have believed the career path that lay ahead of her.

After completing her A Levels at school, Abi enrolled on a Level 2 Beauty Therapy course at the Rhondda campus and on completion of the Level 2 course progressed to Level 3 Spa and Customer Care at the Nantgarw campus.

With the academic qualifications under her belt Abi worked for some time at The Vale Spa, and at Nailsinc in Debenhams and House of Fraser; gaining excellent experience. The practical experience, together with her CIM qualification gave her the enthusiasm and determination to set up her own business – focussing on the nail treatments.

The 27 year old Cymoedd Alumnus from Tonypandy set up Nailedit Beauty in 2017, based in a little summer house at the rear of her home. The number of regular clients grew and this became her full time job.

  

Speaking of her enterprising journey Abi said, “I would definitely recommend studying at Coleg y Cymoedd. The staff are so supportive and have a wealth of experience from working within the industry; the skills and confidence I gained whilst at the college were immense.

 

I would like to say a big ‘thank you’ to everyone – my business ‘Nailedit’ has recently celebrated its 3rd birthday and I have also been shortlisted as a Finalist for Nail Technician of the Year at the Welsh Hair & Beauty Awards 2020, taking place later this year – So watch this space!!

College technician helps create vital face shields for frontline workers

A Coleg y Cymoedd technician has been producing face shields in his own home to support key workers in the battle against Covid-19.

Creative Industries Technician Will Thomas, who is based in the Nantgarw campus, joined an initiative set up by Dimitris Pletsas and Robert Venus of Amman Valley MakersSpace – a rural community facility established by Cwmaman Town Council which provides access to modern technologies and traditional crafts – to create protective equipment for frontline staff using 3D printers.

Using 3D printers from Coleg y Cymoedd’s creative department, Will has helped to make more than 100 reusable face shields, which have been used by hospital staff, care home workers and Coleg y Cymoedd employees.

Established three years ago, the Amman Valley MakersSpace is a creative design and making facility based in Glanaman, which provides local residents with access to state-of-the-art equipment to work on a range of creative projects and activities, from traditional woodcraft to developing computer code for robots. The facility, which also delivers classes and groups to support skills development across South and West Wales, aims to increase community access to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics (STEAM).

Following the Covid-19 outbreak, the MakersSpace turned its expertise and manufacturing skills to design and develop face shields for key workers. It became part of the ‘F3D Innovation Frontline 3D Print Farms’ initiative – a scheme that brings together public and private sector organisations as well as community groups to develop personal protective equipment using their own respective 3D printing equipment.

The MakersSpace called out for anyone with a 3D printer to get involved and become part of a wider national 3D printing network to produce the protective visors using an approved design. 

Over 40 ‘printing farms’ volunteered their skills and services, with the farms ranging from individuals with at home 3D printers to colleges and entire companies repurposing production from their normal activities to manufacture face shields.

Thanks to the collaboration of print farms across the country, over 11,000 of the face shields have been produced to date. The visors have been distributed to nurses, care home staff, health boards and other key workers across the region as well as to vulnerable people and those self-isolating.

Having lived in the region for 20 years, Will was familiar of the MakersSpace and was desperate to get involved when he saw the initial call out. Will said: “When the Covid-19 outbreak started and the shortage of protective equipment was widely reported, I wanted to do what I could to help. When I heard about the 3D printing initiative, I knew we could use the college’s equipment to make a difference.

“The Amman Valley MakersSpace initiative is fantastic, and I am so proud to have been involved. The shields we have created as a community have gone directly to those that need them, helping to get them protected quickly.”

Created using a 3D printed main head piece combined with off the shelf materials (acetate screens and elastic bands), the face shields are quick, easy and relatively cheap, as well as easy to clean and sanitise. The design, which was developed by members of the Amman Valley MakersSpace, was approved by Clinical engineers from Hywel Dda Health Board for use within medical environments.

Robert Venus, who the runs the Amman Valley scheme, said “The 3D Print Farm initiative has shown the power of creativity and collaboration. It’s amazing to see how many shields have been created so quickly and I am grateful to all the printing farms that have made this possible, including Coleg y Cymoedd.

“This project demonstrates how 3D printing technology, design and innovation can be applied to provide solutions that are urgently needed by frontline medical and care staff during the Covid 19 crisis. This work has helped to ease pressure on supply chains and local authorities, ensuring much needed equipment was available at short notice.

“We have some more exciting projects that we are working on and cannot wait to get started. We are looking forward to the possibility of working with the college on future schemes.”

College Assistant Principal becomes UEFA Pro

An assistant principal at Coleg y Cymoedd has secured one of the highest qualifications in international football coaching.

Coleg y Cymoedd’s assistant principal of teaching and learning, Neil Smothers, has obtained a UEFA Professional License, a mandatory qualification for coaches to work in national leagues across Europe.

Neil’s career as a football player and an educator have been intertwined since he played for his university team, UWIC (now Cardiff Metropolitan University), while studying for his teaching degree. The Pro License course is designed to provide aspiring coaches with the necessary training, support and guidance to succeed at the very highest level in football.

A semiprofessional career has seen Smothers play for several Welsh clubs in addition to coaching internationally. In 2019, he was appointed as the manager of Carmarthen Town, where he guided them to a ninth-place finish in his first full season in the Cymru Premier.

Securing the UEFA Pro License follows 18 months of training designed to prepare participants for managerial and coaching roles at the elite level of the game including international, Premier League, Football League and FA Women’s Super League level.

As part of his training, Neil traveled to study with Swedish club AIK Fotboll and visit UEFA’s headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland. Here in Wales, Neil and his fellow coaches had the opportunity to observe and discuss the work of the Welsh National rugby Team as they prepared for the Six Nations game against Scotland.

The group also benefited from working with some of Welsh sport’s most experienced managers and international sports professionals, including Welsh national team manager Ryan Giggs and former welsh international rugby player turned endurance athlete, Richard Parks.

Commenting on his achievement and plans for the future, Neil Smothers, said: “I’ve always enjoyed passing on the lessons and skills I’ve developed on the pitch to learners. Pursuing the UEFA Professional License has been both a privilege and an amazing experience.

“At the highest levels in sport, success requires so much more than skills on the pitch, helping to develop teams and players takes innovation and an ability to find new approaches. For me, the goal is to share what I have had the opportunity to learn with my colleagues and our learners, so that more can benefit from the experiences I have been fortunate enough to gain.”

Black Lives Matter statement

We are shocked, saddened and deeply disturbed by the tragic murder of George Floyd, which has highlighted the systemic issue of abuse and discrimination towards BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic) communities all over the world.

As a diverse college, we abhor racism or discrimination of any form and are committed to fighting prejudice and championing equality. We believe every person should have the right to equal opportunities, and that race, gender, age, sexuality, faith or disability, should have no bearing on the challenges they face or the opportunities that are presented to them.
The college stands in solidarity with the Black community and we support organisations such as Black Lives Matter, who are working hard to highlight the discrimination faced by BAME communities, and fight for change.

We must all play our part and work together to achieve this goal. Education has the power to bring about real change – to create inclusivity and equality – and as a place of learning, we have a responsibility to educate and support our learners, staff, stakeholders and communities to fight against injustice.

It is not enough to silently condemn racism. It is vital we speak out against prejudice and discrimination in order to continue the current momentum of change created by recent protests.

The college works hard to promote equal opportunities and to educate learners on these issues but we know that much more needs to do be done to break down the barriers that Black communities continue to face in the UK, and we are committed to doing more.
Any learners or staff who require further information and advice, or who would like to find out more about what that they can do to help, can visit the following resources:

Any learners who have any concerns or who would like to speak to someone about these issues can contact our welfare team. Affected staff can also speak with our HR team.

Coleg y Cymoedd launches record label to support next generation of creative talent

A college in the South Wales valleys has created its very own record label to provide aspiring musicians with a platform to get their music out to the masses.

Coleg y Cymoedd has launched ‘Cymoedd Creative Records’ to give learners studying on its creative music courses the chance to release their own music to the public.

Learners signed to the label will see their songs added to leading music streaming platforms, including Spotify and Amazon Music – thanks to licencing and distribution rights arranged by the college – as well as shared across social media.

The record label is the brainchild of Coleg y Cymoedd music tutors, Scott Jones and Scott Howells, who wanted to give learners the opportunity to showcase their talents to a wider audience and gain professional experience of writing, recording and releasing music.

Scott Jones said: “As part of our music courses, learners have to write and produce their own original music, which they record at our in-house recording facilities. Over the years we have heard so many fantastic original songs that, more often than not, remain saved on a hard drive when they deserve to be heard my more people.

“We wanted to change this and help learners get their creations out there and heard by more people. Getting music onto streaming service can be confusing and difficult so we take care of this through the label, enabling learners to get their first foot on the ladder to a professional music career.

“We are so excited to be launching our own label – doing so will go a long way to giving the amazing talent we have here at the college the platform to showcase their music and grow their audiences.”

Over the years, Coleg y Cymoedd alumni have experienced great success in the music industry with former learners having gone on to win national song writing competitions, achieve radio airplay and be featured on the BBC Horizons programme – an initiative designed to develop new, independent and contemporary music in Wales.

The college plans to release around 10 songs a year. To date, two songs have been released from rock band ‘Deadlines’ and solo artist, Lauren Evans. The 19-year-old, from Tonypandy, has just released her first single ‘Last Goodbye’.

Speaking about the record label, the aspiring star who is currently studying Music Level 3 at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “I’m hoping to pursue a career as a singer-songwriter and think the label will really help me and other musicians to get a foot in the door, providing a good platform to get my music out there.

“I wrote Last Goodbye within a day from my personal experience. It’s about having the courage to cut off toxic relationships and the lyrics are personal and powerful. My music tutors helped me to record it professionally using the college studio facilities. They have all supported me since day one – they believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and with hard work and determination, here I am with my first ever single out on Spotify and Apple Music.

“Being on streaming platforms has given me so much more exposure. Last Goodbye has even been playlisted, which is really exciting as it will now reach even more people!

“I think it’s a good thing for new musicians too because once your music is out there, you are inspired to make more. I’m now currently in the process of writing and recording an EP which will be a different style of music and hopefully be out towards the end of the year.”

The college has set up a team of learners who are responsible for managing music releases and social media posts. The team meets up every fortnight – now done virtually – to decide what songs are released next as well as discuss promotion and marketing strategies.

During the lockdown, the label has also provided learners with an outlet to focus their attention on, motivating them to continue writing and creating their own music from home. Tutors at the college are still encouraging learners to send raw music files to them which they will mix and produce into polished, finished songs on their behalf.

Scott added: “We are still mixing learners’ music and getting them onto the label which is helping to engage learners and push them get creative and productive during the lockdown.”

Coleg y Cymoedd was the first Welsh college to provide Rock School music qualifications – industry renowned qualifications that have produced some of the biggest names in the charts including Ed Sheeran, Rita Ora and Jess Glynne.

The Rock School Diploma for Music Practitioners course at Coleg y Cymoedd aims to give learners an understanding of everything they need to know about the music industry as well as practical experience that will equip them with the skills needed for a career in music.

Coleg y Cymoedd helps support local businesses through the crisis

It’s a difficult time for many businesses at the moment and Coleg y Cymoedd is committed to doing what it can to help support them through this uncertain period.

To help make sense of the support that’s available to businesses and assist them in making the transition to working from home, Coleg y Cymoedd hosted a webinar in conjunction with college partners, JL Training and Consultancy and KS Accountants.

19 representatives from a range of local businesses joined the call which explored remote working strategies and how to access financial support.

JL Training and Consultancy, which specialises in bespoke courses on professional development, leadership and HR, shared its expertise on how to adapt to home-working and manage staff remotely, stressing the importance of flexibility. The training specialists also shared tips on how to maintain wellbeing while working from home and even created a dedicated virtual workshop which businesses can access here.

Experts from KS Accountants explained the details and criteria of the furlough scheme, breaking down questions around taxes and advising businesses on how to access the funding and navigate the application process.

During the call, Coleg y Cymoedd also highlighted the training opportunities the college has available to staff who are currently on furlough and looking to upskill while they are not working. The college has a number of courses that employees can study from home such as management, construction, health and safety, transition to playwork and HR short courses.

Matthew Tucker, Assistant Principal (Business and International Services) at Coleg y Cymoedd and Chair of the Caerphilly Business Club said: “With so many uncertainties at the moment for businesses across the country, we wanted to give something back and help them, whether that’s clarifying the situation for those looking to put their staff on furlough, or helping those that are continuing to work through the crisis, to do so safely from home. Thank you to our partners at JL Training and Consultancy and KS Accountants, who helped make this webinar possible.”

“We also want to support businesses to return back to work and recover from Covid-19. Coleg y Cymoedd’s e-learning services, apprenticeships and ESF programmes provide an opportunity to upskill current and future staff, enabling them to diversify their skills and adapt to the new normal. Our employer engagement team and assessors are on hand to support any business wanting to explore these options.

Sweet Dreams are Made of These: Aspiring valleys singer wins global competition to work with Eurythmics icon David Stewart

An aspiring musician from the South Wales valleys has won a global competition to work with a legendary music icon.

Christian Punter, 22, from Ferndale in the Rhondda valleys, has beaten off stiff competition from thousands of other budding musicians around the world to win $6,000 and a recording deal with award-winning artist, producer and ‘Eurythmics’ cofounder, Dave Stewart.

The talented singer-songwriter, who performs under the stage name ‘Otto’, won the prize after impressing Dave Stewart with his song writing capabilities and is now set to release a collaboration with the star on Stewart’s very own record label.

To enter the competition, the former Coleg y Cymoedd music learner had to add his own music to a track recorded by Stewart – his unique blend of layered guitar chords, vocal harmonies and looped drum patterns saw him scoop the top prize.

Chrisitan will now work directly with Stewart on the song to be released as a single. Over the last few weeks, the talented young Welshman has shared numerous phone calls, video calls and emails with the star to finalise the track. He will see his collaboration released under Stewart’s brand-new LA-based record label, Bay Street Records, in the coming months.

Christian said: “Winning the Trackd song writing competition has been absolutely incredible and is an amazing next step in my career as an artist. Dave Stewart has had a very successful career working with some of the best artists in the industry such as Annie Lennox, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger so I’m honoured to be working with him.

“I can’t believe that my next song is going to be released on a proper label and I’m excited for everyone to hear the track we have collaborated on. I hope I’ll be able to work with Stewart again in the future.”

Before winning the competition, ‘Otto’ had already been making waves for himself in the music industry, having gained national radio airplay for several of his original songs, including his highly acclaimed single ‘The Boxer’ – the lead track from his debut EP ‘Post’ – which was A-listed on BBC Radio Wales for five weeks.

‘Post’, which was produced by Charlie Frances – a producer who has worked with artists like REM and The Noisettes – has also been nominated for Best EP at the 2020 Cardiff Music Awards.

Having always been passionate about music, Christian began busking in Cardiff and playing at local music spots while completing a diploma in Music Technology at Coleg y Cymoedd. After finishing college, he continued to pursue music as a full-time career, performing live at a range of venues in London as well as numerous festivals including ‘How the Light Gets In’ and ‘Live on the Wye.’

Following his competition win, Otto is now spending lockdown working on a new EP in his bedroom.

Aberdare

Wellington Street
Aberdare
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF44 8EN

Nantgarw

Heol y Coleg
Parc Nantgarw
Cardiff
CF15 7QY

Rhondda

Llwynypia
Tonypandy
Rhondda Cynon Taff
CF40 2TQ

Ystrad Mynach

Twyn Road
Ystrad Mynach
Hengoed
CF82 7XR

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