Last week, Coleg y Cymoedd welcomed BBC Radio 4 for a live recording of one of its popular panel shows.
The college’s Rhondda campus hosted the radio channel’s ‘Any questions?’ show – a topical discussion programme hosted by Chris Mason which sees a panel of personalities from the worlds or politics, media and elsewhere answer a number of questions posed to them by a live audience.
The event was attended by members of the public as well as learners and staff from the college. Panel members included politicians Delyth Jewel MS, Nick Thomas-Symonds MP, Bob Sealy MP and Wera Hobhouse MP.
During the show, four questions were put forward to the panel by the audience. Learners attending the event also had the opportunity to get a behind the scenes insight into how the show is put together as well as gain first-hand knowledge of the making of the programme from the production team.
Performing Arts learner, Katie Griffiths, 18 was one of the individuals selected to have her question put forward.
Katie questioned the panel about whether they supported the full relaxation of travel restrictions in the UK from the end of March in light of the latest Covid-19 variant emerging numbers.
Katie said “When I asked the question, I felt nervous, but it was a great experience. I found it interesting seeing a debate in person, as well as hearing the different points of each MP. I didn’t agree with all the opinions but found the panel was a great way to broaden my mindset on various topics.”
An assistant principal at Coleg y Cymoedd has been recruited by a Welsh semi-professional football team to form part of its strong coaching team.
Neil Smothers, the college’s assistant principal of teaching and learning, has been selected to form part of the Wales C coaching team for its upcoming game against England C on the 30th March.
The Wales C squad is a national football team that represents Wales at a non-league level, consisting of players competing at the highest levels of Welsh football.
Neil, who holds a UEFA Pro Licence – one of the highest qualifications in international football coaching – will join Cardiff Metropolitan university’s Christian Edwards, who won a senior cap for Wales during his footballing career, and Mark Jones, the current team manager, to make up the Cymru C coaching staff ahead of the upcoming fixture.
The three talented coaches will help prepare the players for the game, developing their skills and discussing strategy.
As the former manager of Carmarthen Town AFC, he will bring with him years of experience competing in the JD Cymru Premier – the national football league of Wales. Alongside his direct football involvement, Neil also boasts a breadth of experience within sports education, having previously held the position of Head of School for Sport, Travel & Public services at Coleg y Cymoedd as well as sports lecturer at Ystrad Mynach college prior to that
Neil’s involvement in the Cymru C game will provide him with further practical experience of coaching a semi-professional team, enabling him to bring back first-hand insights an advice to staff and learners at the college.
Coleg y Cymoedd has launched a new initiative to train current apprentices to become the next generation of lecturers at its campuses.
The college has unveiled its ‘Apprentice Lecturer scheme’ – an eight-year programme that will equip engineering and manufacturing apprentices at the college with the skills and knowledge they need to become future lecturing staff within those departments.
The learners are studying, engineering or manufacturing programmes, the programme will see each of the apprentices spend time shadowing tutors, receiving mentoring, taking part in industry placements and completing a variety of teaching qualifications.
As they progress through the programme, the learners will work as workshop technicians at Coleg y Cymoedd and will begin delivering their own lectures in their third year, gradually increasing the number of hours they spend teaching to build their experience.
One learner taking part in the scheme is Richard Jones, 29, from Pontypridd, who is opted to join the programme after completing a qualification in mechanical engineering.
Richard said: “Just over three years ago I decided to make a complete career change, leaving my job in retail to pursue an NVQ in mechanical engineering. At the time, I never thought that by the end of my qualification I would be enrolled on a programme to become a lecturer in the subject.
“Teaching was not something I had previously considered until my tutor told me about the lecturer apprenticeship scheme and suggested I give it a try. I’m so glad that I did as I love being on the programme. I get on well with all my learners and enjoy helping and watching them improve. It has given me a sense of reward I have never had before with other jobs. I now know that lecturing is definitely what I want to do as a career.
“I am currently helping lecturers with their teaching and the next step for me is to complete my teacher’s assessor award which will allow me which will allow me to practice and develop my teaching skills and become qualified. I’m hoping that once I qualify, I’ll be able to secure a full-time job at Coleg y Cymoedd.’
The initiative was the brainchild of Gavin Davies, Assistant Principal of Quality Improvement at Coleg y Cymoedd, who wanted to develop a way of retaining talent and attracting highly skilled staff to lecturing positions, following the retirement of three lecturers at the college who had a combined total of 96 years of experience.
Gavin said: “The loss of skills and talent through retirement is a concern for all organisations so it’s important to have a strategy in place to ensure that skills remain once experienced staff leave. This new programme will ensure a continued pipeline of lecturing talent at the college.
“The initiative will allow a new wave of hard-working digitally capable engineers to learn from experienced staff and pass on their own skills while bringing fresh ideas and points of view to the college.”
The programme was first introduced in 2019, with the first round of learners on the scheme now set to begin the teaching element of their training. They are now working towards their Level 3 Certificate in Assessing Vocational Achievements and Assessor awards, which will allow them to assess practical work completed in the workshops.
Following the success of the initial pilot programme, Coleg y Cymoedd hope to expand the apprentice lecturer programme to cover other departments within the college.
Two Coleg y Cymoedd Electrical apprentices travelled to Coleg Gwent to compete in the Sparks Magazine Learner of the Year Welsh Regional Heat, against learners from Coleg Gwent, Gower College, Cardiff and Vale College and JTL in Birmingham.
The event is run by Sparks Magazine and sponsored by Schneider Electric along with Electric Center, The IET, Napit, Ideal Industries, Prysmian and VW Commercial Vehicles. The competition holds six regional competitions across England and Wales in search of the best up and coming industry talent from Level 2 and 3 electrical students.
Representing the college, were George Phelps, 22 from Pontypridd and Paige Morris, 23 from Caerphilly; both Electrical Installation apprentices, studying on the EAL Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Electrical Installation at Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach campus.
The competition required the learners to undertake a live practical installation whilst working to strict time constraints, quite a challenge but also an opportunity for them to showcase their skills. Both learners competed to an extremely high standard, with Paige winning the heat and the title of ‘Sparks Magazine Learner of the Year Welsh Regional Heat’.
Winning this heat has secured a place at the Grand Final where she will compete against the other regional winners at the Schneider Electric Innovation Hub in Coventry on April 27th & 28th.
Speaking after the competition, Paige said, “It was a great experience to take part in the Wales Regional Heat for the Sparks Learner of The Year Award. I am looking forward to competing in the Grand Final and representing Coleg y Cymoedd. I would like to thank my lecturers and NVQ assessor for the support over the last 3 years of my studies and during this competition.
Congratulating Paige and George, Ryan O Neill, NVQ Assessor added “Both learners gave an excellent account of themselves, they are very capable learners and have bright futures ahead of them.
The Electrical department are delighted that Paige won the overall heat, she should rightly feel proud that she won this competition, she is a credit to the college and her employers at Starlight Electrical. She should be very optimistic looking ahead to the Grand Final in Coventry”.
Coleg y Cymoedd has joined over 30 organisations in Wales that are engaging with Age at Work, a partnership with Business in the Community Cymru (BITC). The partnership supports employers to put practices in place that create age-inclusive, multigenerational workplaces that pro-actively support people over 50 to remain in or return to work.
Wales’ workforce is getting older with one in three workers aged over 50, so recruiting, retaining and retraining people over 50 is essential for business and the wider economy. Coleg y Cymoedd is working with Business in the Community and Age Cymru to take action now that prevents employee early exit from the workplace, to support later-life working, and to value older workers as part of a diverse, inclusive and dynamic workplace.
Through Age at Work, employers have access to a range of free toolkits, networks, and support to help inform the action they take to create a workplace that is better for mature employees and will benefit employees of all ages.
Jill Salter, Age at Work Programme Manager, BITC said, “We’re all living longer, which means the majority of us will be working for longer too and, with an ageing demographic across Wales and the UK, employers need to prepare for this and make the most of the experience and expertise of older employees.
“Age at Work” helps businesses to understand the business and social benefits of recruiting, retraining and retaining individuals aged 50+.
Mature workers are skilled and bring experience, knowledge and a different perspective to the workplace. Businesses like Coleg y Cymoedd have recognised that it’s crucial to continue to invest in the development of staff over 50, and ensure recruitment practices don’t alienate this cohort, provide training opportunities and, in some circumstances, make reasonable adjustments to support older staff with caring responsibilities and health issues, so that they can retain knowledgeable, valuable colleagues.”
Jonathan Morgan, Deputy Principal at Coleg y Cymoedd added “We are delighted to be to be working with Age at Work, Business in the Community Cymru to ensure that all our employees aged over 50 are helped and encouraged to be able to live the fullest life possible, in both a work and personal setting. Coleg y Cymoedd recognises the benefits of having older staff members within our team. Their experience, knowledge, diligence and positive approach to work is often hard to beat. Creating an environment where individual are happy in their work and feel supported to give their best is of vital importance to us.
Coleg y Cymoedd learner Ruben Duggan has secured his place at the Grand Final of the HIP Awards, beating off stiff competition from learners from across Wales; to win the Welsh Regional Finals.
The Regional event which took place at Coleg Gwent earlier this month is part of an annual competition which takes place at six regions throughout England and Wales; in search of the best up and coming industry talent.
The standard set at the competition is extremely high and this year was no different requiring the Level 2 and 3 Plumbing and Heating learners from the Ystrad Mynach campus to demonstrate their skills and timing, in order to complete the task of a live practical installation.
Ruben 20 from Man-Moel is studying Level 3 Plumbing at the Ystrad Mynach campus and has been a learner at the college for 4 years. With his sights set on a career in the Plumbing industry Ruben has always been keen to participate in extra- curricular competitions; to further his skills and increase his knowledge of the trade.
Following his success at the competition, Ruben said “The competition was quite intense but tutors at the college have prepared us for challenges such as this, sharing their professional skills and knowledge. I have to thank them for their encouragement. I am looking forward to the Grand Final in April and I know I can depend on their support”.
Congratulating Ruben, Lee Perry (Plumbing tutor) said” It was great to see the return of this competition and the department are so proud of all the learners who took part, they produced excellent work. We are delighted that Ruben won the competition, his work was very impressive. To complete the task under the pressure of competition standards and time restraints is always difficult, but the quality of workmanship shown by Ruben is a testament to himself.
We will continue to support him going into the HIP Learner of the Year Grand final which takes places at Worcester Bosch in April; and hope to see him crowned UK Plumber of the Year. The college has a proven track record at these awards winning the Regional event five times and on one occasion being crowned overall winner in the UK – testament to the quality of learners and ourselves as a department. The college’s electrician learners were also winners in their respective competition. So an excellent result for the department and the college”.
Every year on St David’s Day, Coleg y Cymoedd organises a week of events for learners and staff to celebrate our proud heritage and the Welsh language. And this year, we were not disappointed. Many exciting activities were held throughout the week.
This year, there was a unique opportunity to work with the National Eisteddfod to host a series of on-campus gigs and workshops to promote the Eisteddfod which will be coming to Rhondda Cynon Taf in 2024. At the Nantgarw and Aberdare Campuses Chroma performed and at the Ystrad Mynach Campus we welcomed Mali Hâf.
The crowds were also entertained by Coleg y Cymoedd’s own bands, The Hostels; The Redfreds and Wallflower. As part of this collaboration, a group of Music Production students at the Rhondda and Nantgarw Campuses had the opportunity to attend a bilingual workshop with Heledd Watkins, of the band HMS Morris, on how to introduce the Welsh language to their music.
Josie Davies, one of the learners who took part in the workshop, said: “I enjoyed being better educated about Welsh music and Welsh culture. I felt very engaged with the session and enjoyed taking part. I’ll be listening to more Welsh music and composing more Welsh songs.”
A variety of activities were held by different subject areas throughout the week, including a Basic Welsh session with the Pathways 4 – Gateway to Employment group at the Nantgarw Campus. Welsh Language Manager Lois Roberts ran the session with the group, and they learned greetings, numbers and vocabulary relating to St David’s Day.
The celebrations continued with an online quiz, where learners and staff had the opportunity to answer questions relating to Wales and win vouchers. The response was incredible, with 284 learners and staff competing. The winners were Natasha Stone, Cerys Baker, and Luke Murgatroyd.
Rounding off the celebrations was the annual St David’s Day competition with great excitement across the college – who would be the winners?
The competition, sponsored by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, was open to individuals and groups across the four campuses. The competition asked learners to answer the question ‘What does Wales mean to me’, by any means they wished.
There have been some truly amazing entries and the judging panel had the difficult task of selecting the winners.
The Rhondda Campus winning entry, and the overall winning entry was submitted by Ben Jonson and Liam Strudwick (Carpentry Learners) and Ethan Black and Sam Barry (Level 3 Engineering) for their coal dram.
The winning entry from Nantgarw Campus was a poem by Level 3 Childcare learner Mollie Evans.
A giant dragon head of papier-mâché and needlepoint created by Vocational Access learner, Gemma Bush was the winner at the Ystrad Mynach Campus.
Liam Bolsom, Kian Griffiths, Emilie Howells, Rhys Morgan, Killian Morris-Cosh, Alex Sambruck, Megan Thomas, Harley Traylor, Ethan Watts from the Pathways Lefel 2 Group were victorious on the Aberdare Campus with their artwork using milk carton lids.
Congratulating the participants, Lois Roberts, Welsh Language Manager said “It’s been an amazing week. This year we have really seen learners and staff embrace the event and get involved with a whole host of activities across the college. And the standard of the St David’s Day competition and the effort put into it was truly astounding. I’m over the moon!”
Cymoedd’s Director of A-Levels, Ian Rees, was delighted to catch up recently with Coleg y Cymoedd A-Level Centre alumnus, Andrew Williams, amongst the dreaming spires of Oxford!
Andrew, originally from Ynyshir, Rhondda, studied A-Levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry at Coleg y Cymoedd, achieving stellar grades of 3 A*s and 1 A, before going on to gain a First Class Honours degree in Physics at St Hilda’s College, Oxford.
He has subsequently embarked upon a PhD (DPhil), also at Oxford University. In his DPhil, Andrew studies how clouds respond to climate change, and then how these changes impact on weather events like extreme rainfall. Andrew is in his third year of the four-year course, and, once he is awarded his PhD, he hopes to continue working in academia by applying for a Fellowship in the UK or in America.
Andrew has maintained regular links with South Wales, in particular with the Seren Hub, which is hosted by Coleg y Cymoedd and supports More Able and Talented A-Level learners throughout Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr to apply to Oxbridge and other leading Russell Group universities.
Andrew continues to help prepare learners for the challenging Physics Admissions Test sat by Oxford applicants and during their meeting he commented “My time studying A-Levels at Coleg y Cymoedd was formative for me and provided me with the skills I needed to succeed at Oxford. I want to continue to do whatever I can to support other learners from Valleys communities to aim high and achieve their goals.”
Ian and the A-Level staff team at Coleg y Cymoedd are tremendously proud of Andrew’s outstanding academic successes and would like to wish Andrew all the very best with his ongoing studies and future career path. We also hope that his significant achievements will inspire current STEM learners in the A-Level Centre to aspire to follow in Andrew’s footsteps!
A renowned artist from Rhondda is working with teenagers from Coleg y Cymoedd to support their artistic dreams and help them develop a series of public artworks celebrating Wales and its culture.
Treorchy artist and TV presenter, Siôn Tomos Owen, who previously fronted S4C’s Pobol y Rhondda, is hosting a number of bilingual workshops with art learners from Coleg y Cymoedd and working with the aspiring artists to create their own masterpieces.
Learners on the programme, who are all studying a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design, have developed their own murals which are being showcased on college buildings at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw campus.
During the workshops, learners heard from Siôn about how to convert their ideas on what Wales and the Welsh language meant to them into art, and how to do so creatively, without falling into stereotypes.
The project was sponsored by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol as part of a wider scheme to promote the Welsh language across FE colleges.
Speaking about the project, Siôn said: “The experience of working on developing murals with these learners has been interesting and challenging, which is my favourite kind of project! The ideas the learners have developed from the workshops have been impressive as they have creatively thought about what and who modern day Wales is and how to convey this artistically, considering how to incorporate both the English and Welsh language.”
The two murals, which include a self-portrait of every person who has worked on the project, will be displayed in a prominent position at the Nantgarw Campus.
Jessica Moss, lecturer on the Art and Design Foundation Diploma at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “I am so proud of the learners and the dedication they have shown to this unique collaborative project with Siôn. They have all worked very hard, learning new skills and techniques, and their works will be a great addition to the campus as well as their own personal portfolios.”
Coleg y Cymoedd’s Welsh Language Manager, Lois Roberts, who co-ordinated the project, added: “When I initially came up with the idea of having learners create murals to promote the Welsh language and culture, I was expecting to see a lot of daffodils, harps and other famously Welsh symbols, but under Siôn’s direction, the learners have created illustrations that have really got to the heart of what being Welsh means to them, as young people living in the valleys.
“I’d like to thank Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol for funding this important project and Siôn Tomos Owen for providing our learners with this invaluable experience”.
Following the success of this initial project, Siôn is now set to visit Coleg y Cymoedd’s Rhondda campus to deliver workshops to its Foundation learners and create another mural for the Rhondda Campus’s Colliery 19 restaurant.
Chloe Thomas, 25, from Barry hopes her career path will encourage more females into the Rail industry.
After completing her A Levels, Chloe enrolled on an aerospace engineering qualification, which sparked her interest in engineering and on completion of the course, gave her the confidence to believe that she had the knowledge to pursue a career in that sector.
Keen to further her interest in engineering she felt an apprenticeship
would provide the ideal opportunity to learn on the job and the rail industry was of particular interest as there is so much change happening in the South Wales area; which she was keen to be part of it
Chloe was successful in securing an Apprenticeship with Transport for Wales (TfW), and attended Coleg y Cymoedd, the college choice of TfW. Her experience at the college was extremely positive, providing a great environment with modern workshops and laboratories. These facilities were equipped to carry out ‘hands on’ tasks such as electrical circuit build and test, which gave Chloe a good basis to work on when undertaking projects within her current role.
The variety of courses on offer at the college has allowed Chloe to progress over the time of her apprenticeship, completing a Level 3 NVQ in Traction and Rolling stock as well as studying a Level 3 BTEC, HNC and HNC+ all in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. She then went on to complete a Foundation degree at University of South Wales and is now in the final months of her BSc.
Speaking about her apprenticeship Chloe said, “I would definitely recommend this apprenticeship, along with the college courses, it’s a fantastic way to start a career in the rail industry and it has given me the best possible education alongside a rewarding job.
Studying is extremely important, when attending college you are not only representing your company but also working towards your future. I studied alongside working both day and night shifts, so it was important for me to learn management and organisation skills; in order to keep on top of all assignments and exams whilst keeping a work/life balance.
Completing an apprenticeship has given me the opportunity to be successful in my workplace. Since starting seven years ago, I have exceeded all my initial ambitions and goals. From Apprentice to Maintenance Technician, to Fleet Support Engineer, it is definitely a position I would not be in without my apprenticeship and the courses I completed.
Working in a male dominated industry has had a positive impact on my ambitions, as I believe it has made me work harder and strive higher. Having been the first female apprentice to work at the Canton depot, my main advice would be to break the stereotype – do not let your gender hold you back from getting the career you desire. Since I have started at TfW, we have had two more females join the company as apprentices who are doing so well – which is fantastic to see!