Coleg y Cymoedd celebrates Oxbridge offers

Coleg y Cymoedd is celebrating a string of Oxbridge offers.

The college, which serves learners from across Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, has seen three learners secure offers from the University of Oxford.

Eighteen-year-old Seth Olner from Pontyclun, who is currently studying A levels in History, English Literature, and Government and Politics at Coleg y Cymoedd’s Nantgarw campus, is one of the learners to have been offered a place.

After achieving 5As in his History, English Lit, Law, French and Politics AS levels, and being predicted top grades in his current studies, Seth is on track to study Law at New College Oxford.

The talented learner set his sights on becoming a barrister three years ago, after being inspired by a court case he was following closely at the time. Soon after, Seth got involved in public speaking and joined the college’s debating team, which led him to win a place on the English Speaking Union debate academy – a week-long debating summer school for 14-18 year olds delivered by some of the best coaches and debaters in the world.

Wanting to best prepare himself for his dream career, Seth knew early on that he wanted to apply to top universities in the UK and became set on getting into Oxford. He also took part in the Sutton Trust Pathways to Law programme, joining skills workshops, receiving mentoring and attending a Law work placement. As someone keen to make a difference and help those in need, Seth’s hope is to specialise in human rights Law in the future.

He said: “For years I’ve wanted to be a barrister, and a very good barrister at that so that I can represent people in court and defend legal institutions. An Oxford Law degree is the best way to make sure I become as trained, qualified and skilled in the profession as I hope to be. The application process for Oxford was long and quite gruelling, but fun along the way and definitely worth the challenge. 

“Getting an offer is very, very exciting. I feel very lucky. I really hope to confirm my place later this year and can’t wait to make the most of it.”

Also celebrating an offer at Oxford is Grace Bennett, 17, from Ferndale, who is hoping to study Biochemistry at the prestigious university after completing her A levels in Chemistry, Biology and Maths. Getting a place at Oxford has long been a goal for Grace and her dream is to get the education she needs to move into a career helping to find cures for different types of cancer. Wanting to give herself the best shot at getting into Oxford, Grace took part in the University of Oxford’s UNIQ summer school, which helps prepare learners for the application process.

Grace said: “Studying at Oxford has been an aspiration of mine for many years. The quality of the education, teaching styles and facilities available are some of the many features that attracted me, and I believe I could reach my full potential there and go on to a career I love.

“I found the application process easy to follow, but very stressful. I had two interviews – the first was actually quite enjoyable and the interviewers were very friendly, instantly putting me at ease, but in my second interview, my nerves got the better of me which meant I was unable to answer some questions. I still got my offer though which is great.  It’s really exciting to be given this opportunity as so few people get it, especially people from my area.”

Jacob Armour, 18, from Porth is also looking forward to the possibility of becoming an Oxford undergraduate after receiving an offer to study Law at Brasenose College. With aspirations to one day travel the world whilst working in International Law, Jacob, who is currently studying A levels in Maths, Biology, History and Government & Politics, believes studying at Oxford will help him to fulfil his ambitions.

He said: “Initially, I didn’t think I’d have a chance attaining a place at Oxford, but I thought I may as well try since there is no harm in an attempt. What drew me to the university was the opportunity to be part of a likeminded community; to be around those who found learning and diving into a field of study as interesting as I did. Oxford is, of course, a prestigious institution, but I wanted to apply because of the kind of people I would meet, and the opportunities I would have from going there, not because of its name.”

Principal of Coleg y Cymoedd, Jonathan Morgan, said: “It’s always amazing news to see our learners achieving their full potential and we are committed to supporting them to achieve their goals whatever they may be. Seth, Grace and Jacob have worked incredibly hard and are very deserving of their offers. We wish them all the best for the rest of the academic year to secure their places. We have no doubt they will see every success.”

Apply for courses starting in September 2024, here: https://www.cymoedd.ac.uk

Coleg y Cymoedd scoops top award at the Welsh International Culinary Championships

Coleg y Cymoedd has scooped a string of top awards at a national culinary competition after impressing judges with the quality and skills of its learners.

The college has won 19 awards at this year’s Welsh International Culinary Championships – one of the most prestigious hospitality skills events in Wales – including being crowned the country’s ‘Best College’ in recognition of outstanding achievement from the panel of judges.

Organised by the Culinary Association Wales, a partnership of professional chefs and caterers, with the aim of raising the culinary profile of Wales, the Welsh International Culinary Championships provides aspiring chefs and hospitality professionals from across the country with the opportunity to showcase their skills to a board of experts in the industry. 11 Coleg y Cymoedd learners took home awards after the intense competition which took place over three days at the ICC, Newport.

Learners competed in a variety of individual classes such as butchery, Mixology, and knife skills as well as cooking challenges including categories for creating dishes with Welsh produce like beef and lamb. Competitors were awarded gold, silver, or bronze accolades after being assessed on areas including hygiene, taste, flavour, and technical skill shown.

Emily Sellars, a Level 2 Professional Cookery learner at Cymoedd, took home a gold and best in class award for the college for the Welsh Venison Class, alongside a Best in Class and silver award for the Welsh Beef caegory as well as a bronze in the Riso Gallo Risotto challenge.

She said: “I feel surprised, proud and very grateful. I love taking part in competitions like the Welsh International Culinary Championships because I love the adrenaline and the challenges they present. I love being able to bring back medals for myself and my college, as it rewards all of the support that they have given me.”

A mix of Coleg y Cymoedd learners, from those studying Level 1 professional cookery to those on Level 3 courses also scooped awards, with Keziah Elliot (Level 1) and Corey Evans (Level 3), both awarded silver medals for the risotto class, and Dylan Coleman (Level 3), Sahara Swattridge (Level 3), Kayla Thomas (Level 1) and Owen Hillier (Level 1) taking home a bronze in the same category.

Ellie McGuinness and Alysha Nash, both Level 1, were awarded silver in Mixology; Glody Joseph (Level 2), a silver in both the Omelette and Welsh Lamb classes; and Jess Ellis (Level 1), two bronze medals in Modern Cold Desserts and Knife Skills.

Kevin Hall, Catering Lecturer at Coleg y Cymoedd said: “It’s been great to see so many learners across a variety of different levels showcasing their talent and dedication to cookery at the 2024 competition. This year, we saw more Level 1 learners compete than we have before and seeing them perform so well so early in their studies, on par with some of our more experienced chefs, is wonderful to see. All who competed have done themselves and the college proud.”

Discover Catering courses at the best college in Wales, here: https://www.cymoedd.ac.uk/courses/catering-and-hospitality

Coleg y Cymoedd are first in Wales to revolutionise learner experience with SMART AI Assistance

Coleg y Cymoedd are the first Further Education college in Wales to use a SMART AI Recruitment Assistant.

Launched in November 2023, the AI Assistant sits on the college website and uses artificial intelligence (AI) technology to empower potential learners and parents by providing them with comprehensive information about course options and campus details.

With the rise of AI and demand to access information at the click of a button, whatever time of day, Coleg y Cymoedd were looking to introduce an AI recruitment assistant to seamlessly integrate into the college’s website to enhance user experience.

AI developers ICS.AI were the obvious choice in partner for their success as the creators of the first Human Parity Performance AI, increasing user satisfaction of institutions such as Durham University, HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate and Southampton City Council, beyond that of their existing call centres or help desks.

ICS.AI’s AI Assistants have been helping universities increase learner engagement and facilitate remote learning by providing an interactive and engaging AI-driven platform for both learners and staff for over five years.

Instead of the traditional ‘chatbot’, where basic answers are given to a select number of generic questions, the AI Assistant Learner Recruitment platform houses a pre-built further education organisational language model containing over 400 relevant topics and questions. It is designed to offer an immersive, conversational user experience.

This involves capturing enquiries from prospective learners, registering attendees on virtual open days, and connecting learners to up-to-date resources in real-time.

Whatever a user’s query, AI Assistants intelligently route users to the best solution. The function is accessible 24/7, in multiple languages and with over 90% accuracy. What’s most impressive, is that the AI Assistant will continue to improve and gain knowledge as they interact with other AI Assistants in the education sector.

Also, to comply with the Welsh Language Act, it was vital to Coleg y Cymoedd that language recognition and translation was curated in both English and Welsh. The ICS.AI SMART: AI platform supports over 100 languages to enable recognition and translation through curated knowledgebases.

Rory Meredith, Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation at the college commented, “The purpose of the assistant is to improve the learner recruitment journey for Cymoedd. We selected ICS.AI based on their trusted experience in the education sector and the innovation offered through a conversational AI experience, leveraging their SMART: AI platform and pre-built further education organisational language model”.

Following an internal competition run amongst staff and learners, Coleg y Cymoedd decided to name its AI assistant A.R.N.Y. The most popular entry and suggested by more than one person, the handle is an acronym for the college’s four Valley’s based campuses: Aberdare, Rhondda, Nantgarw, Ystrad Mynach.

Since A.R.N.Y.’s debut late last year, the college’s website has been able to resolve over 90% of its users’ queries, and, for the first time, with a staggering 40% of questions answered outside of college opening hours. The accessibility of the AI Assistant means the college can connect with potential learners more and get an answer quicker than ever before.

ICS.AI spoke of the partnership, “As the educational landscape rapidly evolves with the advent of generative AI, institutions face a crucial decision; when and how to integrate AI into their teaching and learning processes. Coleg y Cymoedd have been the perfect partner and have a deep willing for collaboration and innovation.”

“As part of Coleg y Cymoedd’s wider AI transformation, we’re also working together on a pilot evaluation project utilising generative AI to enhance the teaching and learning experience, which has successfully been granted funding via the Welsh Government.”

You can chat with A.R.N.Y. for yourself, here: www.cymoedd.ac.uk

You can find out more about ICS.AI’s pilot evaluation project, here

You can also download a webinar given by Rory Meredith, Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation at Coleg y Cymoedd which gives an insight into the college’s evaluation process, here 

Coleg y Cymoedd Multi-Trade learners join volunteers fighting to save welfare hall at heart of the local community

Constructed during the inter-war period, Cefn Fforest Miners’ Institute stood as a meeting and recreational venue for miners and their families at the height of the industrial period, but fell into decline with the end of South Wales’ coal industry.

Having since served as a community hall, rugby, and boxing club, the building was abandoned just before the Covid pandemic, leaving locals disheartened as their central hub wasted away.

Now, Level 1 Multi-Trade students from Coleg y Cymoedd’s Ystrad Mynach campus, have joined Friends of Cefn Fforest Miners’ Institute volunteers who are set to restore the hall to act as a community centre and IT suite for those without facilities at home.

Led by their Plastering Lecturer, Terrence Watkins, the ten students will be spending one day a week at the Institute for the rest of the academic year, supporting renovation efforts by rendering, plastering, and labouring on the ongoing works.

The opportunity comes after Cefn Fforest local, Terrence, followed the volunteers’ journey on social media after he enjoyed using the Institute in his youth, and began spending some of his own spare time plastering it, and impressively, helped restore and plaster some of the arched ceiling of the main hall himself.

He shared this with his students who were eager to also give back to the local community, as well as experience work on a live building site for themselves. The relevant checks were made to allow them to start work at the Institute in December.

Terrence explained, “This is an invaluable opportunity for the learners to understand what it’s like to work on a real construction site. In the workshop, they are used to plastering a wall for it to just be taken down at the end of the day.”

“By helping with this project, they’ll always have a stake in the Institute, and will be able to see their work progress over time. A year from now they can look back at all they’ve contributed and be impressed by the difference they’ve made.”

The learners’ support has been greatly appreciated by Friends of Cefn Fforest Miners’ Institute, especially as their labour knocking through space for new windows in their second week on site allowed the glass to be fitted the very same day.

Member of the Friends of group, Dean Jones, thanked the learners for their time: “We’re so happy with the help they’ve given us – it’s been a massive boost to the ongoing works here and there’s no way we could have done it without them.”

Dean and his partners have been trying to save the Institute for just over five years, holding raffles and fundraisers, before becoming more successful with grants in recent months. He said: “We’ve been blown away by the support we’ve received from local firms and volunteers. This is a real community project and we can’t wait to be able to give it back to the community, fully refurbished, so that it can thrive once again.”

“We’re really grateful for Coleg y Cymoedd’s students’ support. They are a credit to the college and work so fast!”

To support Friends of Cefn Fforest Miners’ Institute restoration journey, visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/359414628038189

Lois’ dream role allows her to speak her students’ language in more ways than one

Trainee teacher, Lois, is making Welsh language accessible to all her students through her pioneering role as a Welsh Facilitator in Health and Social Care.

Lois Moremon from Caerphilly started delivering Health and Social Care lessons as part of her PGCE work placement with Coleg y Cymoedd, but quickly impressed tutors enough to take on a new Welsh Facilitator role, to promote bilingual teaching and learning within the department.

With dreams of helping local teenagers access opportunities to succeed in life, Lois enrolled on Coleg y Cymoedd’s Foundation Degree in Education and Development and took jobs as a Teaching Assistant at a Welsh-medium school and then at a children’s care home.

Quickly building rapport with the young people she worked with, Lois and her colleagues were devastated when the care home was closed and they were made redundant.

By then, Lois had already completed the college’s two-year ‘degree top-up’, so saw this as the ‘push’ she needed to enrol on the PcET course to become a certified teacher, teaching through the medium of Welsh.

Lois first approached the college’s Welsh Language Team to ask if they could facilitate her course’s teaching placement. By happy coincidence, they had secured a development grant from the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol to increase its bilingual offering in the Welsh Government’s priority areas – one of which was Health and Social Care – and Lois was the perfect choice.

As part of its Strategy to develop bilingual provision, Coleg y Cymoedd has appointed a Welsh Facilitator in each of the priority areas to support tutors’ bilingual delivery and Welsh-speaking learners with learning and submitting their work in Welsh.

The ethos of the Strategy is to create positive experiences in Welsh for learners and for them to develop their Welsh language skills, especially in the context of their vocational course.

Now, a year and a half into her position, Lois said: “My job as a Facilitator fits perfectly with my placement. It means I’m able to support students in more ways than one.”

“When I’m teaching, I’m able to offer a first-hand account of the processes and legislations in the world of Care, and then I can continue building positive relationships with students by also going into their tutorials to encourage their use of the Welsh language.”

“They quickly got used to seeing my face and I welcomed their interactions. I pride myself on being open and approachable, and happily and honestly answer any questions they have about working in the Care sector.”

“As a Facilitator, it’s like having double the opportunity to make an impact on students’ lives. I am giving them the tools to learn everything bilingually. I’m helping those who have only a basic understanding of Welsh by running through sentence structures, translating key words and practicing role-play scenarios, whilst also helping fluent Welsh speakers stretch themselves and their vocabulary, using words that they haven’t since they attended Welsh-medium school.”

Just six months away from qualifying as a teacher, Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol has recognised Lois’ impact in their annual report, as the level of Welsh language used across the college’s Health and Social Care classes has increased dramatically since she was appointed. Her methods of employer engagement and her delivery model has been noted as good practice.

“Since I started in 2022, 100% of my students have improved their Welsh-language skills. I’m helping tutors make their course content bilingual, and am on hand in lessons to support them if they’re asked a question and are unsure of the correct Welsh phrase.”

“Whenever I teach, I deliver everything bilingually. The course has come so far from when it was English only a year ago and it would be great if this was rolled out across the board.”

Find out more about Coleg y Cymoedd’s Welsh language provision, here: https://www.cymoedd.ac.uk/learner-support/welsh-language/

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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