30 students from Coleg y Cymoedd are benefitting from a new online support programme designed to bolster their applications to jobs and Welsh universities.
Level 3 Health and Social Care learners from the Aberdare, Nantgarw, and Ystrad Mynach campuses are participating in the year-long Reaching Wider Project, where they receive 1:1 online mentoring from undergraduates studying in Wales.
Established following a recommendation by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) last year, the project aims to ‘expand [the] horizons, and grow the confidence, skills and aspirations’ of learners in Welsh FE institutions, who have been found to be underrepresented amongst university applicants.
Ultimately, the project hopes to present equal opportunities to learners aged 16-19 who live and study in communities identified as a priority by the HEFCW.
The Project’s six areas of focus aim to:
Through the securely monitored Brightside Online Mentoring Platform, the learners chose their mentors from a list of trained volunteers who are taking part in the mentoring scheme through their university.
Izzy Reynolds, Project Officer for the North and Mid Wales Reaching Wider Partnership, explained: “The project is a great opportunity for learners to access 1:1 support from undergraduate mentors who are also studying at institutions in Wales. The mentors have been able to guide learners through the process of deciding what their options are, and how to go about making their goals become a reality.”
The Project’s benefits have already been felt by Coleg y Cymoedd learners, who are preparing to make applications to employment or study University degrees next September.
Commenting on the experience so far, Ystrad Mynach learner, Kayleigh-Marie Phillips, said: “I have really enjoyed being able to ask questions to someone who has experienced university and the application process first hand.”
“Their replies are always full of information, including opinions on different universities and advice on how to best balance your work and your personal life.”
A learner from Nantgarw added: “I have found that I always have a quick response from my mentor. She regularly sends messages to check in. We have discussed options for university and she has sent links to anxiety support and understanding the UCAS point system. She’s pointed me in the direction of support for work placements and has shared very honest accounts of her own experiences too.”
The mentoring sessions will run up until 5th June 2023, when the scheme will be reviewed and rolled out to the next set of students in September.
UCAS, Careers Support Administrative Co-ordinator for Coleg y Cymoedd, Samantha Hobby, hopes that more learners can benefit from the scheme in the years to come: “This fantastic programme has really raised the aspirations of our students who are looking to apply to university. Sometimes they’re the first in their family to apply, and the application process can be very daunting.”
“We’re really hoping it will be extended so that more students can experience this. We have found they appreciate the opportunity to have frank discussions with their peers and get insider information on university life. As the mentors are still undergraduates, they can easily recall what they wish they knew when applying for university, and are able to share this with a new set of applicants so that they get the head’s up.”
To find out more about Coleg y Cymoedd’s Futures provision, visit: Futures Team – Coleg y Cymoedd
Rhondda Cynon Taff
Heol y Coleg
Rhondda Cynon Taff