From education to employment

Work experience opportunities ‘pop up’ for Welsh students

The opportunity to gain experience in a workplace environment and to develop a range of vocational skills has ‘popped up’ for students at one Welsh college.

Coleg y Cymoedd in South Wales has invested in four state-of-the-art pop up shops that have been placed at key points on campus.

The shops – which include a bike repair store, gift shop and eatery – are designed to help students learn new skills, in areas such as money management and customer services, as well as developing practical skills in bike maintenance, woodwork and construction.

Coleg y Cymoedd is one of Wales’ largest colleges, with campuses in Aberdare, Nantgarw, Rhondda (Llwynypia) and Ystrad Mynach. It offers a wide range of full and part time courses, from entry to degree level. This includes vocational access courses for lower attainers and students with additional educational needs, who were the inspiration for the new pop up shops.

Al Lewis, head of school for vocational access, explains: “We are really keen to help our students develop the vital skills they need to go out into the world. Skills that will help them in their working lives but also their personal lives.

“By using pop up shops, we have been able to create a diverse range of work experience opportunities on campus, using space we had available on our main ‘street’ concourse and within outdoor areas.

“Each shop really looks the part and has been designed to fit in with the existing surroundings and college branding. They look really professional and will have lasting benefits for the students using them, who might otherwise have limited opportunities to learn and practice these types of skills.”

The bike repair shop is planned to operate as a social enterprise, with college students and staff able to bring their bikes along to be repaired for a small charge. The shop will also be taking in donations of bikes from the public that will be repaired, serviced, and sold on.

Working in small groups, students will take turns to manage the running of the shop alongside college staff. In addition, the bike shop has been fitted out to operate as a workshop, where students can develop basic DIY, maintenance and woodworking skills.

The new catering outlet, complete with fridges and hotplates, will be used by students on a range of different courses, to sell their culinary creations. In addition, a new gift shop will stock and sell items produced by the students, such as woodwork products, hanging baskets and seasonal craft items. It joins a similar shop, which was installed on campus last year.

Rapid Retail MD Nick Daffern, who designed, built and supplied the pop ups, commented: “We have absolutely loved working with the team at Coleg y Cymoedd on this innovative project and look forward to hearing how the students get on.”

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