College of North East London (CONEL) students are achieving top awards in national competitions.

Stefan Angelov, has won the gold medal in the UK Skills Challenge 2007, supported by City & Guilds and held at Northumberland College in Ashington. He is 19 and only came from Bulgaria five years ago.

Stefan won the Hardware and Software Challenge, demonstrating his aptitude in computer maintenance and networking. He hopes to continue developing his skills at CONEL and to be among those gold medallists who will be chosen to represent the UK at the World Skills Challenge in Canada in 2009.

Learners now benefit from the latest technology since CONEL's networking suite has been extensively upgraded, with £30,000 invested in new facilities.

Satar Rahmani is the College's Course Team Leader for the BTEC National and City & Guilds IT Practitioners programmes. "Stefan acted as a technician on a voluntary basis two days a week to prepare for practical lessons in PC maintenance and networking," Satar says. His student's skill in these areas led to the gold medal. Satar was impressed by Stefan's attitude, "He acted like a professional rather than a beginner. He was always punctual, any task was done perfectly and he took great care with his duties."

Working with hardware rather than software appeals to Stefan "It's more like business than programming or coding - it's more managerial" he thinks. He enjoyed sorting through the transitional chaos to create the new suite: "It was a mess but I put my time into lining everything up, labelling things and organising it to make it work."

Both student and lecturer are proud of the high-tech suite that they have helped to assemble. People coming to the College from industry pay £1200 to take an industry-standard Cisco qualification. "For our learners aged 16 to 19 or those who receive benefit, it's all free" Satar says. "With BTEC National they can either go on to university, having completed Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) Level 1 and 2 here within two years. If they decide to go to industry, with two Cisco certificates they can immediately apply for good jobs as a certified CCNA technician or they can go into the computer gaming industry. Many BTEC National courses don't include CCNA  - either they don't have the instructor or they don't have the facility - but here at CONEL we have both" adds Satar. "Stefan winning the gold medal in this competition proves that the school of computing at CONEL is one of the best in the area of computer technical courses across the country."

Stefan agrees that only a couple of years study at CONEL can give learners excellent job opportunities. For the present, he hopes to pursue further qualifications at the College. "The courses I can do at CONEL will take me a long way and I may not have to go to university," he says. "I'm going to do Cisco Academy next year or Microsoft's A+, as both are necessary qualifications for work in ICT."

CONEL is a certified centre for A+, an international certificate for hardware and software technicians. Satar emphasises that the courses are not an easy option. "These are really hard units but even with a Level 2 A+ certificate, they do not need further training - they can immediately apply for a job."

Stefan's future looks bright but the journey has been tough. "I came to London at 15 with my parents and there have been some hard times for all of us, trying to adapt to this big city" he says. Stefan's success has been achieved with support, he says, modestly explaining that he's not a top student in terms of marks. He cites the help of his parents and friends, Satar, who has shared his significant experience with Stefan, and other CONEL staff who are immensely proud of his achievement in the UK Skills Challenge.

Meanwhile hairdressing student, Ingrid Richards, also picked up a gold medal during the UK Skills Challenge for Hairdressing. With fellow students, Lucia Durcatova and Kausar Sheikh, Ingrid competed against 22 other entrants, representing 12 London colleges.

Their tutor, Michelle Edwards, said, "All the students showed complete professionalism and the judges showed great interest in all their work. I thought Ingrid's work was fabulous and she showed such a passion" said Allen Wilson, one of the organisers of the event held at Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College.

The run of gongs for CONEL students continued with Grace Opeyokun's Bond Girl themed model winning first prize in the Fashion category at this year?s National Student Make-up Competition. Grace will travel to Düsseldorf in March 2008 to compete in the International Professional Make-up Competition. This was the second year that CONEL has taken first place in the Fashion category and Grace is the second learner to compete in the international competition.
Grace is a Level 2 Fashion and Photographic Make-up student at CONEL and her fellow students, Teneka Malcolm and Lai Hong, competed in the Fashion and Fantasy categories, gaining fourth and fifth place respectively.


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