We’re proud to be an Armed-Forces-friendly workplace.
As silver award holders for the Defence Employer Recognition Scheme, we welcome job applications from veterans, Reservists, and those with military-serving relatives. These staff members immediately benefit from membership in our Armed Forces Network, plus an extra 10 days of paid leave per year.
In a bid to shine a light on our current employees benefiting from the scheme, we asked Employer Engagement Officer, and Royal Air Force veteran, Paul Rees, to share his experience of working for Coleg y Cymoedd.
Tell us about how you joined the British Armed Forces
After leaving school at the tender age of 18, I had a few years of not really knowing what I wanted to do. Joining the police force was something I aspired to, but due to a minimum height requirement -which I didn’t reach, no matter how much stretching I did – there was no chance for me there.
On a shopping trip to Cardiff with my mam, I walked past the career’s office for the Army, Navy, and RAF, and decided to join the Royal Air Force. Talk about impulsiveness! I signed up for six years in 1990 – just in time for the First Gulf War.
How did you find your time in the Royal Air Force?
My 6 years in the RAF were exceptional. I travelled all around the world and gained qualifications whilst doing so. Like all good things, however, it had to come to an end in 1996, when my job – the one I was doing in uniform – was civilianised.
What was it like to leave the military?
My experience of leaving the Royal Air Force was not great. The worst thing was that I had become institutionalised… everything was done for me.
Before, I knew that my room and food would automatically come out of my pay… I had medical and dental on base, and what money I had left was mine to do with what I wanted. When I left the ‘military bubble’, I had no job and no money. Then, after six years of independence, I returned to live back home with my family.
You are supposed to go on a resettlement course, which would have helped me gain skills to help cope with the transfer back to the real world, but the only course I was offered was in Computer Maintenance, something I had no real interest in. I left with a computer that I had built, and no real prospects of getting a job in that industry.
How did you come to work for Coleg y Cymoedd?
Like everyone in the Upper Rhondda in the mid-90s, I had my time in Griffin Windows, following on from one month claiming benefits, until I started a sales job in Trustmark Stationery in Talbot Green.
I found sales easy, and soon became a Sales Rep. Sales would be my life for the next 14 years. I took on various managerial positions working with local independent companies, to multinational companies like Asda and Focus.
Whilst at Focus, I began to realise I was not getting any younger, and my role was due to be made part-time. Coleg Morgannwg were looking for part-time exam invigilators, so I applied for weekly roles on various campuses, and soon realised that I could do this type of work.
And you weren’t just an employee, but a student here, too?
Yes. It was at this point that I enrolled onto an Access to Humanities Course to become a Social Worker. However, I was being taught English Literature by Lesley Roberts who ignited a passion for Shakespeare in me. From this, I soon decided to gain a degree to teach at the college.
In the meantime, another role had been made available within the college which suited my skillset, so I applied to become an Employer Engagement Officer (EEO) as part of the European Funding Project. This is what I still do today.
Whilst in post, I’ve had the opportunity to undertake a PGCE through the college and gain my teaching degree.
Describe your experience working for Coleg y Cymoedd
The support offered by the college was invaluable in achieving my teaching degree. I used it to continue my progression, and gained an Assessor Qualification, which I used to teach as part of my continuing education development to benefit the college.
…and as a member of the Armed Forces?
I would say that both myself and the college has benefited from me being a member of the Armed Forces.
In my time here, I have used transferable skills from my RAF experiences to benefit both students and staff.
Coleg y Cymoedd has given me the support and confidence to pursue other sides of my job role and have resulted in me becoming an Armed Forces Champion, to encourage other members of the Military Family to share their experiences.
We’ve developed a network where we can not only support each other, but help recruit other service personnel. They may not have considered the FE college an environment as rewarding and accessible as it really is.
We hope to see the college Armed Forces Network grow and to increase our provisions for armed forces veterans and Reservists as part of our DERS award in the future.
Discover workplace benefits through our current job vacancies: https://www.cymoedd.ac.uk/about/careers/
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Heol y Coleg
Rhondda Cynon Taff