Declan thanks Coleg y Cymoedd for a ‘second chance’ to pursue his dream vocation

19-year-old Declan Thomas, from Trealaw, has gained a sought-after apprenticeship with Mid Glam Decorators, and claims Coleg y Cymoedd tutors are to thank for setting him on the right path after school failed him.

Out of more than sixty students, Declan has secured the traineeship at one of the most well-reputed firms in the area after joining the college’s Entry Level 3 Construction course just over two years ago, whilst acting as a part-time carer for his younger sister.

Leaving school with few GCSEs, uninspired, and juggling additional responsibilities at home, Declan was not sure of how he would ever reach his goal of one day owning his own decorating business. After hearing about its flexible timetables and enhanced student support network, Declan gave education a second chance by joining Coleg y Cymoedd, and turned his life around by embracing the practical style of learning and the independence that comes with college life.

Encouraged by the trusting relationship he developed with his tutors who supported his personal circumstances, Declan successfully passed all three units of Painting, Carpentry and Electrical Installation, and his determination and positive attitude saw him progress onto the Painting and Decorating Foundation course.

Declan was pleased to have been given another opportunity to follow his dreams. He said: “I love college. The tutors are so down-to-earth and easy to speak to about whatever I needed support with. They encouraged me to get my head down and try my best and so that’s what I did.”

As Declan grew in confidence and started to enjoy his time in classes, he began to thrive academically. Declan achieved a very good standard of work, and particularly impressed tutors during an Employability unit where he undertook mock interviews and prepared a CV.

When local traders Mid Glam Decorators approached the college for an apprentice, Declan stood out as the obvious choice for how much he had developed in such a short space of time.

“If you had told me two years ago that I would be in my dream job, travelling, and working in beautiful parts of the country and recently completed a decorating job at Margam Castle in Port Talbot, I wouldn’t have believed you. I’ve had so many opportunities from my apprenticeship and I owe that to my tutors. They have done so much for me and without them, I wouldn’t be here now.”

Speaking fondly of Declan’s success, Construction Lecturer, Christopher Marsh, said:

“It is with pride that I listen to Declan’s stories on a Wednesday afternoon in the Painting and Decorating Workshops. He shares with me all the travelling he is doing and the jobs he has completed as an apprentice. Declan is a very good learner, but through this experience and working in industry, he is becoming a great tradesperson.”

Looking to the future, Declan said: “My time at Coleg y Cymoedd has really broadened my horizons. I’m thoroughly enjoying what I’m doing now and most importantly, I’m happy. I hope to have my own painting and decorating company one day, and for now, I’m really enjoying working my way to getting there and I know I’m making my family proud.”

Discover Construction courses at Coleg y Cymoedd:

Welsh rugby pro Lowri Norkett-Morgan continues her sporting legacy at Coleg y Cymoedd

Five cap Welsh rugby wing Lowri Norkett-Morgan is set to pass on her legacy to the next generation of elite athletes in Wales after hanging up her boots to join Coleg y Cymoedd’s teaching team at its renowned Sporting Centre of Excellence in Nantgarw.

After the sudden death of her sister, Elli, in 2017, who was the youngest player at the Rugby World Cup in 2014, Lowri made the decision to switch from a professional netball career to one in rugby so that she could pay homage to her sibling and carry on her legacy in the sport.

She went on to play rugby league for Wales before becoming a Welsh Rugby Union test player, representing Wales during the 2022 World Cup in New Zealand and the recent six nations.

Quadruple threat Lowri is one of few female sports professionals to have represented Wales across multiple disciplines, having played for her country in netball, rugby union, rugby league, and Wales Sevens. She now hopes to bring her knowledge and skills to future sports stars at Coleg y Cymoedd’s highly esteemed Sports Academy.

As a lecturer at the college, the 28-year-old sports prodigy will teach across the South Wales college’s sports BTEC and A level courses, specialising in both female and male rugby, alongside netball academy, the 1st and 2nd teams of which are currently top of the AOC Sport Wales Schools and Colleges League.

Speaking about her new role, she said: “I absolutely love teaching, especially at this level because the learners have chosen to be here – this is what they’re passionate about and they’re so eager to learn.

“It’s great that I’m being given the opportunity to teach both male and female learners. Being a woman in sport, I’m aware that I’m still in the minority, and Coleg y Cymoedd is giving me the opportunity to take centre stage in a male dominated sport and do my best to change that narrative. That’s a challenge in itself and I’m keen to live up to it.”

Having previously been a PE teacher at Morriston Comprehensive School for two years prior to her first rugby contract, Swansea girl Lowri has always had a love for teaching and mentoring the next generation of athletes.

Since opening last year, Coleg y Cymoedd’s state-of-the-art performance training facility in Nantgarw has become recognised as one of the best sporting academies in Wales and Lowri is looking forward to being a part of the team.

She added: “After attending the World Cup in 2022, I felt I had achieved my dream and done Elli proud. I was ready for my next adventure and had heard of Coleg y Cymoedd as it’s renowned for being a great sports academy. I knew it would be the perfect place to share my knowledge and experiences.

“Shaping the future generation of elite sports professionals is really important to me. I want to highlight to the learners at Coleg y Cymoedd the importance of dedication and passion to their sport, but also, show them that equal energy and enthusiasm should go into their academic studies too. Professional sports careers are much shorter than most so having something else you can enjoy and pursue afterwards is essential to being at peace with life after a professional sporting career.”

Lee Davies, Head of Sport at Coleg y Cymoedd, said: “Lowri is one of few who have represented Wales across four disciplines which is a huge feat. Welcoming Lowri to our sports faculty is amazing news for our academies in both rugby and netball, especially as they’re now enjoying the benefits of Nantgarw’s new sports centre. We know that Lowri will make an excellent role model for the learners here at Coleg y Cymoedd and we can’t wait to see her shape the future generation of elite athletes.”

Since it was established in 2012, Coleg y Cymoedd has made a name for itself as a leading provider of sports education in South Wales. A number of esteemed academies are delivered out of its Nantgarw campus including netball, football and a flagship Rugby Union academy, which is run in conjunction with the Cardiff Blues and has produced Welsh international players such as Dillon Lewis, Seb Davies, Shane Lewis-Hughes and Beth Huntely.


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

  • Associate
  • Associate
  • Associate
  • Associate
  • Associate
  • Associate
  • Associate
  • Associate
  • Associate
Link takes you to our YouTube page Link takes you to our Instagram page Accessibility
Staff / Student Access News and Blogs ALN