Valleys teenagers launch their own publishing enterprise

A group of enterprising teens from Rhondda, who launched their own children’s publishing business last year, are set to unveil their second book following the continued success and growth of the start-up.

Katie Burgess, 16, Seren Collier, 16, Zoe Gable, 17, and Megan Thomas, 18, are the brains behind Lemonêd Publishing (Cyhoeddiadau Lemonêd) – an educational children’s book publisher which aims to encourage young people to open up and get talking about mental health and wellbeing.

The youngsters decided to set up the firm in 2019 after being inspired by their own experiences with mental health and bullying. The group wanted to raise awareness of these issues and educate children on the  personal challenges they can face growing up.

The company focuses on creating accessible picture books for children featuring simple, yet impactful illustrated storylines exploring a range of personal wellbeing topics including bullying, confidence and self-care.

Initially starting out as a small project between the four learners, the idea quickly grew into an established publishing business with the help of the Ynysybwl Regeneration Partnership, a trust dedicated to supporting and developing regeneration projects in the local area. The trust assisted the team to source printers for their products, provided mentoring and helped create an ecommerce platform for Lemonêd to generate sales across the local community and further afield.

Lemonêd published its first bilingual book, ‘The Story of Lemmy the Lemon (Stori Lemmy Lemwn)’ last year. Designed, written, and published by the talented young team, the book tells the story of character Lemmy, who experiences difficulty making friends in school due to his ‘sour’ nature,  exploring the topic of bullying and teaching the importance of kindness and acceptance.

Since its release, the book has been well received by the local community, being sold in a number of shops in the area including Siop Y Bwl in Pontypridd, ARTtic in Treforest, and Pontypridd Market. It is also available on online retailers including eSpace Wales, an online platform for local businesses and services.

Following the success of the first book, the young co-founders are now looking to grow the businesses further, enlisting the help of South Wales college, Coleg y Cymoedd, to achieve this. The company is receiving tailored guidance and support from the college’s Enterprise and Employability Hub.

As part of their support, Katie and her team are receiving one to one mentorship from Peter Wright – the Chair of entrepreneurship charity Tafflab – who has taken on the position of Entrepreneur in Residence at Coleg y Cymoedd to support new businesses with their development and growth.

One of Lemonêd Publishing’s founders and current Coleg y Cymoedd learner, Katie Burgess, from Pontypridd, said: “The team and I have our own experiences with bullying and mental health. Growing up, we felt that there should be more awareness of these issues, and that’s what led us to create Lemonêd Publishing.

“We want to create books aimed at young people that have simple but impactful storylines that can open up conversations about mental health and wellbeing.”

The company is currently working on its second book, Witch’s Socks, which explores the topic of self-confidence, and is receiving advice from Coleg y Cymoedd on how best to promote the book, maximise sales and craft a business plan to help support the company’s wider expansion plans.

Katie added: “The positive response from the local community has given us such a big confidence boost and we’re excited to bring more of our ideas to life. With the support and mentoring offered to us by Coleg y Cymoedd, especially the Enterprise and Employability Hub, we’re now on the path to developing our business model and growing Lemonêd Publishing even more.”

Coleg y Cymoedd’s Enterprise and Employability Hub was created in response to the pandemic as a ‘one stop shop’ for learners to access guidance, events, mentoring and training to help them develop professionally and kickstart their own businesses.

Lesley Cottrell,  Enterprise, Skills and Employability Manager at Coleg y Cymoedd,  said: “My role is to support learners to develop the personal skills and confidence they need for a successful future, both personally and professionally.  I want to ensure that learners like Katie and the team behind Lemonêd Publishing have access to key resources that will enable them to succeed with their business ventures.

“It has been a pleasure working with Lemonêd so far and to witness the journey the company has been on. We’re so proud to see such amazing talent in the college and we’re excited to see Katie and the Lemonêd Publishing team continue to grow and thrive.”

Lemonêd Publishing is set to launch its new book exploring the topic of self-confidence ‘Witch’s Socks’ later this year. To support the team and their journey, visit:

Coleg y Cymoedd learners shortlisted for national apprenticeship awards

Four Coleg y Cymoedd learners have made the shortlist for national awards aimed at celebrating the most promising and talented apprentices in Wales.

William Davies, Bethany Mason, Connor Paskell and Sophie Williams have all made the shortlist for this year’s Apprenticeship Awards Cymru, which recognises the hard work and achievements of individuals and organisations involved in apprenticeship programmes in Wales.

Organised by Welsh Government and the National Training Federation Wales (NTfW), the awards recognise the contribution of all those who have played a key role in Welsh Government’s Employability and Apprenticeship programmes, with separate categories for individuals, learning providers, and employers.

First up representing Coleg y Cymoedd is twenty-year-old William Davies, from Aberdare, who has been nominated for the Apprentice of the Year category after impressing his employers at Kautex Textron CVS Ltd in Ystrad Mynach. Since joining the firm in 2018, William has already saved Kautex £20,000 a year on labour costs by automating a product assembly system. He has also been instrumental in implementing numerous health and safety and productivity improvements as well as managing a project to renovate and make a canteen Covid-secure.

The aspiring chartered engineer has made just as big an impression at college, winning Coleg y Cymoedd’s Apprentice of the Year award two years in a row. He also achieved his Apprenticeship in Engineering Manufacture (Engineering Technical Support) six months ahead of schedule as a result of his determination and dedication.

Business learner, Sophie Williams, 24, from Hirwaun, has made the shortlist for the Tomorrow’s Talent award which sees employers nominate a current apprentice that has made a tangible positive impact on their organisation’s performance. Originally wanting to pursue a teaching career, Sophie’s plans changed after witnessing her mum become a foster parent, which inspired her to become a qualified social worker.

After graduating from Swansea University with a degree in French and Spanish, Sophie joined Coleg y Cymoed to complete an Apprenticeship in business administration, while working at Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council’s foster service.  She has made a lasting impact on the team and was recently promoted to regional recruitment officer.  

Also in the running for the Tomorrow’s Talent award is Connor Paskell, 21, from Llantrisant, who is currently nearing the end of a three-year engineering apprenticeship with Coleg y Cymoedd. Joining Llantrisant-based British Airways Avionic Engineering (BAAE) as an apprentice avionic engineer in 2018, he is due to complete his apprenticeship at the end of May 2021.

With a string of qualifications already under his belt, including an Apprenticeship in Electrical Engineering, Connor has continued to develop his skills and technical knowledge which have helped him to improve the efficiency of various maintenance practices at BAAE, saving the business hundreds of thousands of pounds.

And, last but not least, Bethany Mason, 21, from Llantrisant, has been nominated for the Foundation Apprentice of the Year award. Bethany is currently working towards an NVQ level 3 in Business Administration while working as an apprentice at Glyntaff Crematorium. She has been an invaluable addition to the team, adapting to numerous challenges and helping to improve the smooth running of the crematorium by digitising and centralising burial records and cemetery plans. She has also been responsible for introducing a digital portal to access music for family cremation services, along with webcasts and visual tributes, which have been important for funerals held during the pandemic restrictions, helping to bring comfort to people during the hardest of times.  

The 2021 Apprenticeship Awards Cymru is being held virtually on the evening of Thursday 29 April 2021. We wish all of our learners involved the very best of luck!

Pontyclun Apprentice runner up at national manufacturing awards

Local Apprentice, Jamie Jones from FSG Tool & Die was given National recognition at one of the UK’s most prestigious awards programmes organised by Make UK, the manufacturers’ organisation.

Jamie from Porth initially joined Coleg y Cymoedd to study engineering where his keen interest in machining gained him an apprenticeship with FSG Tool and Die based in Pontyclun.

Jamie was announced joint runner up in the national Make UK Engineering Apprentice Endeavour award which was given in recognition of the way he has learned and progressed quickly, making a marked impact on projects.  In particular his ability to input into key engineer level decisions which has proved valuable in the prototype to production journey where there are many technical challenges to overcome. 

Janis Richards, Region Director for Make UK in Wales, said:

“These awards are a testament to the dynamic companies and individuals working within engineering and manufacturing in Wales. The sector has been at the heart of delivering during the crisis and as we re-build our economy there will be a bright future for companies and individuals that make the most of their talent, just like Jamie.”

Mike Hynes, Senior Account Executive, relayr, the sponsor of the Manufacturing Matters Award, said:

“We help companies in industrial markets to successfully navigate disruption and stay relevant. Our unique combination of applying first-class technology, with powerful financial and insurance offerings to deliver business outcomes, has been particularly important this year as manufacturers have shown adaptability and resilience in responding to unprecedented challenges. We’re proud to sponsor the Manufacturing Matters category and it’s been inspiring to hear the great work of this year’s winners.”

Cymoedd learner reaches for heights at local forklift company

Rhys Lloyd Thomas 19 from Hengoed attended the first FutureFest held at the Ystrad Mynach campus, and hasn’t looked back since. Rhys visited the event to gather some information on the Apprenticeship Programme, with a particular interest in Electrical Engineering.

Following the event Rhys registered with the Employment Bureau at the college and met with a member of the Futures team to discuss his career ambition, work experience, achievements and personal interests; in particular those linked to engineering. Rhys informed the team of his volunteering role at Blaenavon Heritage Railway, an experience which he hoped would support his application when applying for an apprenticeship.

Throughout ‘lockdown’ Rhys focussed on completing his Level 3 Engineering qualification and attended Futures virtual one to one meetings via Teams. During the meetings the staff supported him in preparing for interviews, ensuring his CV was fit for purpose and relevant covering letters were drafted.

Through the Employment Bureau Rhys was matched to an apprenticeship vacancy at a local family run forklift truck business. After attending an interview and completing a week’s paid work trial, Rhys was offered the position of Electrical Engineering Apprentice.

David Eyre, Engineering Co-ordinator Work Based Learning division said The apprenticeship will provide the foundation for Rhys’s personal development within his new role”.

Commenting on Rhys’s apprenticeship, Michele Harris-Cocker, Futures@Cymoedd Co-ordinator added “Rhys is a lovely polite young person who has a keen interest in electrical engineering. Whilst completing his studies he also found time to become a key volunteer at Blaenavon Heritage Rail. As soon as Betterserve got in touch with the college I knew he was the person for the role, the match was perfect. It’s so encouraging to hear that he is settling in well.

Vernon Leadbetter, Managing Director, BetterServe UK Ltd said The Futures Team at the college has been very supportive, helping us find the right candidate to match our business needs. Rhys has settled in really well and already taking on more responsibilities, I really have to thank them for all their support”

Cymoedd talent matched to Developer role at Digital Chimps

When Cymoedd learner Elliott Williams was approaching the completion of his Level 3 Extended Diploma in Information Technology at the Nantgarw campus, he expressed an interest in the Apprenticeship programme. Aware of Elliott’s computing skills including networking, Barbara Hayman, IT Course Tutor referred him to the Futures Employment Bureau at the college.

The Futures Team worked with Elliott to develop his CV, ensuring it captured the relevant requirements for the roles he was interested in, within IT Software Development.

During the period he was engaged with the Futures Team, Stephen Hewitt, MD Digital Chimps, Pontypridd contacted Futures to see if they could help his business to find the right talent to fulfil a recruitment need of Junior Developer.

The skill set and knowledge Elliott had acquired whilst at the college was a perfect match to the vacancy at Digital Chimps and the Futures team recommended Elliott, forwarding his CV for consideration.

Elliott was invited to interview and offered the opportunity to work for the business 2 days a week to gain more experience within a website design and digital marketing company.  This was an excellent opportunity for Elliott to gain experience and better understanding of the design, development and digital marketing services.

Elliott was successfully appointed to the role of Junior Developer and enrolled on a Business Administration Apprenticeship which would provide specific training needs, giving Elliott a better understanding of working within a small business.

Speaking of Elliott’s progress, Emma Davies, Training Advisor Work Based Learning Professional Service Industries Team at Coleg y Cymoedd said Elliott has got off to a flying start with his Apprenticeship learning programme and has already signed off his induction units, he is working closely with his employer to upskill and learn more about the business.

Stephen Hewitt, Managing Director Digital Chimps added “Before Elliott was appointed to the Junior Developer role he had been coming in and together we went over his portfolio website which I’m working with him on; supporting him with various aspects of the business. I am grateful to Coleg y Cymoedd for all the information and support with the new appointment to my business”.

Congratulating Elliott on his progress Michele Harris-Cocker, Futures Co-ordinator added

Elliott is an articulate, highly motivated and passionate young professional who is fully committed to his new role and keen to learn new skills to help fulfil his career ambition“.

Josh takes another step on IT career path

Cymoedd learner Joshua Beere 19, from Cwmparc has always had a keen interest in IT and throughout his school days his knowledge and enjoyment of using computers increased.

After leaving school Joshua joined the Care2Work programme which provided the support and encouragement he needed to identify a range of training and employment opportunities. He thoroughly enjoyed the varied programme and taking part in the social aspects of the group.

He completed several short courses and was amazed when he was awarded Virtual Learner of the Year at the Rhondda Cynon Taf 2020 Employment, Education and Training Team Celebration event.

With his qualifications, completed CV and new found confidence Joshua set his sights on a career within the Business and IT sector and took the first step – applying for a place at Coleg y Cymoedd. He was successful in securing a place on the Level 2 in IT Applications for Business course and started at the Rhondda campus in September 2020.

Despite the challenging times of studying at home, due to the Covid pandemic, Joshua said” After completing the Care2Work programme I felt more confident in applying to my local college and I’m so glad that I did. When I visited the college the staff made me feel so welcome and explained what the course would entail; they have been so supportive. Although we are currently studying at home I am enjoying the course and I’m looking forward to getting back to the campus, when the pandemic allows. I would thoroughly recommend the college as there are so many courses to choose from and the tutors are lovely”.

Course Tutor Rhian Morris added “Joshua has easily settled into college life and has made new friends within his classroom bubble.  When the pandemic is over and restrictions are lifted, I’m sure Joshua will enjoy getting involved in all the activities and events that are usually available to learners”.   

Great to see Cymoedd learner Thomas England featured in the recent Shore Angler publication.

Great to see Cymoedd learner Thomas England featured in the recent Shore Angler publication. Thomas is currently studying on the GCSE English course at the Nantgarw campus and submitted the article to demonstrate his writing skills. He was delighted to secure a prominent spot in the magazine, as the Readers Story. Well done Thomas


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