An accountant who trained at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) has revealed why she has consistently looked to the college when recruiting new employees.

Ela Rygala, 33, works as a Management Accountant at Serve Legal, a market leading provider of ID and compliance testing in the UK and Ireland, based at Millbank Tower in Westminster.

She started as a part-time Accounts Assistant, which later changed to the role of Accounts Data Assistant, while studying for her AAT Accounting qualifications from 2012-16.

Ela, who has a degree in accounting and finance from her native Poland, passed her AAT Accounting Diplomas at Levels 2-4 and was promoted to Management Accountant in 2020.

“I thought an AAT course would be perfect for me to adjust to how English tax law and regulations work and also get more confident in the English language,” said Ela, who also took GCSEs in Maths and English at CONEL and attained grades A* and B.

“Very quickly, I got to know CONEL was a good choice. What I really valued was that the teachers gave us room for self-development and to ask questions about how and why tasks are done in a particular way. They encouraged you to read at home and come prepared for lessons rather than assuming everything will be taught on the course.”

In 2017 Ela employed CONEL student Tia Esprit-Cooper part-time to enable her to complete her AAT qualifications at Levels 2-4, and last year she recruited Ronny Houillet who has recently completed a Level 2 Pre-apprenticeship at the college.

“I know from my own experience that CONEL has great tutors who are producing great accounting talent, so when it came to recruiting for our finance team my first suggestion to my manager was CONEL, to see if they can recommend a good student.”

Tia, 25, from Waltham Forest, initially trained in events management and hairdressing before finding her vocation in accounting. She now works full-time for Serve Legal and was promoted to Bookkeeper and Credit Control Manager last year.

“CONEL recommended me and another student for the role at Serve Legal and sent over my CV. I was invited to an interview and a trial day and they offered me the job,” she said.

“My previous paths had been quite creative and were more like hobbies, and I came to a point where I was looking for a career and something that had more longevity.

“I didn’t have any experience, but because I’d been recommended by the college there was a bit more comfortability there. It gave me confidence knowing they thought I was good enough to be put forward for this role.

“I did wonder whether I could see myself doing it long-term, but now I honestly can’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

Ronny, 24, from Enfield, who previously worked as a Data Analyst, has now opted to study for an AAT Accounting Level 3 Diploma while working part-time at the firm rather than an apprenticeship.

“I wanted to go to university to study economics but changed my mind and went straight into work but wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. I always wanted to do something with numbers and last year I made a plan to go down the accounting route,” he said.

“Accounting can open up a lot of opportunities and I’m excited about where it’s going to take me. There are a lot of skills I’ve been able to bring over from my previous experience, such as making numbers match, paying attention to detail and spotting errors. Every business needs an accountant, so you can work almost anywhere.”

Ela knew she wanted to work in accountancy from a young age and is quick to dispel the myth that it is quite a dry and uninspiring career.

She said: “I enjoy everything about accounting. It gives you a lot of satisfaction when all the reports and reconciliations are done and everything is balanced at the end of the month. Often we’ll look closely at clients’ margins, what is driving them and make recommendations to improve them.

“There are many different areas of accountancy from very broad skills like bookkeeping to more detailed auditing or focused project work. There is room for people with many talents in accountancy, even people who are not that good with numbers but have good analytical skills.

“It might be perceived as a bit dry but there is some charm in routine, and with the ways different companies operate there’s great potential to master different skills.

“I see nothing boring in my job. It can be difficult sometimes, but it is definitely far from boring.”

Apply now for Accounting courses and apprenticeships.

A student with autism at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) has shared his excitement at getting a place at university this September.

Chinwoke Edeh, 24, from Tottenham, has an offer to study a Foundation Degree in Media at Middlesex University when he completes his Creative Media Production Level 3 Diploma.

He said: “I’m really excited to be going to university and looking forward to the foundation course in media. It will give me even more independence and improve me as a person as well. I’m very proud of myself and happy with the progress I’m making towards my future career.”

Chinwoke experiences daily challenges with language and communication, literacy and numeracy, but has made huge progress and grown significantly in confidence since he started at CONEL in 2017.

“Sometimes when I’m asked to do things for the first time, I have to write it down step-by-step in order, so I get the hang of doing it. The college has really helped me complete the tasks to the best of my ability,” he said.

Chinwoke has completed Media diplomas at Levels 1-2, having previously been part of the college’s Supported Learning provision for young people with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND). During this time, he also studied English and maths courses to help him gain independence and work skills.

“I’ve always been very creative, firstly with pictures and then I got interested how to use Adobe. I like it because you get to express yourself and bring out your ideas and personality,” he said.

“The teaching I have had at college has been excellent. The teachers were really supportive and helping me with any areas I need to improve and were always around when I needed them.”

Over the past two years Chinwoke has been supported by Additional Learning Support Assistant Sandra Fox, who is also neurodivergent with dyspraxia and dyslexia.

She said: “Since I’ve been working with Chinwoke, he’s excelled to the extent he is now at Level 3 and done amazingly well at college to get a place at university.

“He will still need help, but each year he’s been moving away from support and working more independently. To go from SEND to mainstream is incredible. It’s been a remarkable journey and I’m so proud of him, but most importantly he is proud of himself.”

Tamara Lesniewska, Curriculum Manager for Creative and Digital Media, was also in awe of Chinwoke’s accomplishments during his time at CONEL.

She said: “Chinwoke is a really wonderful student to teach. I’m immensely proud of him and the high standard and quality of work he has produced at college. What he has achieved from when he started to where he is now with a university offer, is nothing short of fantastic.”

CONEL is committed to providing adjustments to ensure that everyone can succeed with us.  If you, or your or your child,  has a learning disability, we will provide an exceptional learning experience, understand that your needs are unique andl provide support that is most appropriate for you.

Find out more about CONEL’s Supported Learning provision here and how to apply for Creative Media Production courses here.

To mark The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee we’ve trawled the Capital City College Group (CCCG) archives to uncover our many connections to Her Majesty at our colleges.

Here’s some royal highlights, memories and trivia from City and Islington College (CANDI), Westminster Kingsway College (WestKing) and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

The Queen visits CANDI’s Centre for Applied Sciences

Pictures courtesy of the Islington Tribune.

Her Majesty The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited the college’s Centre for Applied Sciences in 2011. During the visit the Queen unveiled two plaques marking the official opening of the college’s Animal Care Centre and an accreditation by the National Skills Academy Process Industries which recognised the college as a Centre of Excellence for Biotechnology. Her Majesty got up close to some of the animals at the care centre and was given a tour of the college’s forensics, optics and sports science provision, which included a mock crime scene being investigated by students.

In 2007, CANDI received theQueen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for creating Pathways to Employment and Higher Education in the Sciences, the only college at the time to have received this accolade twice. The college previously received the award for widening access and progression to higher education in 1994.

Royal seal of approval for WestKing

WestKing was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for collaboration and innovation in the culinary arts in 2015.

The awards are presented every two years to universities and colleges that have shown excellence in quality and innovation in providing real benefits to the world through education and training.

At the time, then Principal Andy Wilson said: “The award of the prize to Westminster Kingsway College is one of the greatest moments in the college’s long history. It is recognition of many staff, students and employers who have been involved with the college over the years.”

In 2016 a plaque commemorating the award was unveiled at the college’s Victoria Centre.

Queen’s New Year and Birthday Honours

Here are some of our staff and alumni who have been honoured by The Queen over the years:

  • Jamie Oliver – The celebrity chef and restauranteur trained at WestKing and made an MBE in 2003 for services to the hospitality industry.
  • Trevor Nelson – The DJ and radio presenter on BBC Radio 1Xtra and BBC Radio 2 who attended WestKing, was awarded an MBE in 2002.
  • Timothy Spall – The Bafta-nominated actor, known for his many screen roles including five Harry Potter films, attended WestKing and received an OBE in 2000.
  • Garth Crooks – The former Tottenham Hotspur striker and BBC football pundit studied at CONEL and was awarded an OBE in 1999.
  • Audley Harrison – The British former super-heavyweight boxer and Olympic gold medallist attended CONEL and was awarded an MBE in 2001 
  • Pablo Lloyd – The CEO of Visionnaires, a programme started within CCCG, to help aspiring entrepreneurs start new businesses, was made an OBE in 2019.

God Save The Queen

Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Lydon, better known by his stage name Johnny Rotten, and bassist Sid Vicious, real name John Ritchie, attended WestKing before finding fame with their anti-royal punk anthem God Save The Queen. Released during the Queen’s silver jubilee in 1977, the song was banned at the time by the BBC and several commercial radio stations.

Actress and former WestKing student Kathy Burke, perhaps best known for her TV appearances on French and Saunders, and Harry Enfield and Chums, appeared briefly in the 1986 biopic Sid and Nancy about Sid Vicious’s turbulent relationship with his girlfriend Nancy Spungen. She has also played a queen on the big screen, portraying Mary Tudor in Elizabeth, starring Cate Blanchett in the title role.

Artist and fashion designer Tony Mott, who also attended WestKing, is also a punk historian famous for his Mott collection, an archive of UK punk rock and political ephemera that includes over 1,000 posters, flyers, and fanzines featuring bands including the Sex Pistols, The Slits and The Damned.

Many congratulations Your Majesty from everyone at CCCG.

A Women’s Network has been launched by Capital City College Group (CCCG) to promote equality and raise the profile of women across the Group.

The first meeting of the network, chaired by Hilary Moore, Assistant Principal at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London, featured a panel of inspiring women:

The panellists shared how they got to where they are today and discussed their experiences at work and how woman can support each other in the workplace and their advice to other women.

The Women’s Network was set up by CCCG’s Learning and Development Team, which hopes to establish similar groups to inspire colleagues and promote inclusivity.

The event combined an in-person event at Westminster Kingsway College’s Victoria Centre and a live stream on YouTube for those unable to attend.

Watch a recording of the live stream here: CCCG Women’s Network Launch – Panel Discussion

Molly Elliston, Group Learning and Development Business Partner, said: “At CCCG, we’re very proud that our Group Leadership Team is gender-balanced and represents our workforce. We believe is right and important to celebrate our women role models, and recognise we have many inspirational women leaders among our teachers, managers, support staff and students

“We started the Women’s Network in response to feedback from colleagues who told us that they would like more peer-to-peer support across the Group on issues that matter to them. We hope it will give colleagues more opportunities to share their experiences that will lead to an even more inclusive working environment. Our network chairs will also support us in making valuable contributions and important decisions relating to our equality, diversity and inclusion plans.

“We hope that the launch of the Women’s Network will be the first of many more sessions, which will bring us closer together and encourage others to start more networks to do the same.”  

Here are some memorable quotes from the chair and the panellists of the first meeting of the Women’s Network.

Hilary Moore

Chair and Assistant Principal at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London

I came from a background where my parents were the first generation going to university. When I was 11, I decided I was going to become a lawyer. When I went to sixth form college, the careers team, which were nowhere near the quality we have across CCCG, said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea, you might get the grades, but you’ve got no contacts and you’re a woman. Why don’t you become a legal secretary?” I went home and told my mum, who said, “Well I’m not having that,” and my father said, “How ridiculous,” in a very broad Yorkshire accent. I carried on and got a law degree and became a lawyer. It’s things like background and support that can make such a difference.

Sarah Veale CBE

Former Head of the Equality and Employment Rights at the TUC

Workplaces are often competitive. Women sometimes get into this mode of thinking I’ve got to be extra good and fit in better than everybody else in order to be in the same place as the men they’re competing with. It’s about building confidence and challenging the parameters you’re working in.

I’ve noticed that if men are in charge of an interviewing process, they tend to use words like assertive and dynamic. It’s all about power, but never valuing softer skills, like someone who can bring people together and who can explore situations and find solutions by working with other people. It’s a question of elevating the sorts of skills that women are often much better than men, which are valuable to the whole entity, and then owning and pushing them up towards the front.

Apinder Sidhu

Diversity and Inclusion Lead at the Education and Training Foundation

I was raised in an area of west London that is predominantly Asian where there is a culture about how you’re perceived as a woman. I left and went to university, but a lot of girls didn’t go and got married because that was the expectation. Luckily my father told us, “You need to do what you need to do, and we’ll talk about marriage later on.”

There’s a dichotomy of what it is like to be a woman growing up with the pressures of culture and community and wanting to listen to your inner voice and do what makes you happy. I’ve had that pressure growing up and going into leadership, looking at how other women did things and what resonates with me. Individuality is really important. It’s not always about being inspiring. When you are genuine and authentic people look up to you.

Emma Case

Founder of Women Beyond the Box, a platform supporting neurodivergent women

There is a quote that says, ‘You can’t be what you can’t see’ and I think that is so important. Representation matters, and we often take it for granted. I currently live in Lisbon, Portugal, and I’ve noticed on television there are very few women, and very few black and brown women. I just wonder what that does to young children because we don’t aspire beyond what we’re told we can be. It isn’t just the verbal, it’s the visual impact, and that is the challenge. It is about intervention and being intentional and making sure everybody sees and experiences something that they can relate to.

Fathia Abiola-Ajishafe

A-Level student and member of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee at City and Islington College

Being a black girl from a less well-off area in London makes me feel like I’m not going to have as many opportunities or experiences as someone who grew up in a richer area. But what I do know is that no matter what or where you come from, you can do it. We may not have as many resources or experiences, but there is always a way to get somewhere. That’s what really keeps me going.

Students jumped on board a big yellow American school bus during a week of activities to improve their mental health and wellbeing ahead of their exams.

The bus from the Zen Project arrived at Westminster Kingsway College, as colleges across Capital City College Group marked Mental Health Awareness Week from 9-15 May.

According to the charity Mental Health UK, which is behind the annual awareness week, one in four people in the UK has experienced a mental health problem.

The Zen Project has converted the bus into a mobile studio where students could participate in breathing and meditation exercises and other relaxation techniques.

WestKing student Muhaned Nouman, 21, said: “The exams are now very near and I’m starting to feel a bit anxious. You study for the whole year and you’re scared that it could all be written-off in one paper and you won’t get the grades you deserve.

“Today has been really good at helping us all get away from that pressure. The breathing exercises on the bus made me feel very relaxed and have taken some of my worries away. My mind is a lot clearer and focused. I feel a lot more positive now.”

Students also took part in ‘Talk and Chill’ sessions, that included therapeutic workshops hosted by qualified psychotherapists and tips for managing exam stress.

Other workshops were run by Catch22, which provides practical and emotional support to young people and their families, and online mental health company Kooth.

WestKing music students performed live at the event, which also provided students with information about support available at the college.

City and Islington College (CANDI) ran sessions, around this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week theme of loneliness and the college held workshops for their students on exam stress, social anxiety and emotional resilience.

Students also took part in mindfulness activities including kindness rock making, and writing and designing colourful messages, which were then tied to trees to inspire their peers.

There was also a ‘Chat and Chillax’, ‘OK 2 Talk’, motivation, creative, meditation and safe space drop-in session and various physical activities including football, canoeing, box-fit and yoga.

CANDI student Rebecca Lynch, 16, recalled how her mental health had deteriorated during lockdown, making her feel alone and unable to share how she was feeling with family and friends.

She said: “I felt down and not in good place. I couldn’t even go out to clear my head. I was also home-schooled and didn’t have many friends and often felt left out because they all went to the same school.

“I’ve got exams coming up but I’m not stressing out as I used to, because at the end of the day they don’t define who you are as a person. Failing an exam is not the end of your life, you can always come back from that. I’m not saying it doesn’t matter, it’s just not as big a deal as it’s made out to be.

“The college has facilities to help you. Whether you use them or not, they’re always there. I feel they really do put students first and that mental health is top priority over academic success.”

Students at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) took part in mental health workshops at the college run by Barnet, Enfield and Haringey Mental Health NHS Trust.

The college regularly runs these workshops, with more than 300 students participating so far this year.

CONEL student Cameron Barrall, 16, said: “Growing up it’s not seen as normal for boys and men to open up about their feelings and suffer in silence, and when you do people are like ‘Get over it, get a grip, cheer up,’ but saying things like that just makes it worse.

“If I’m struggling with something, I just go out and want to be by myself and don’t feel like I need anyone around me, but sometimes that is more difficult and it can help to talk to a family member or someone close to you who you can trust.”

I started my own mindfulness business after battling depression’

CONEL student Amaya Agdomar, 45, started her own business Sacr3d Butt3rfly after facing her own mental health battle with anxiety and depression. She organises mindfulness walks and activities in Epping Forest to lift people’s spirits through an appreciation of nature. The threes in Sacr3d Butt3rfly refer to mind, body and spirit.

“There were times when if the NHS hadn’t been there I would found life very difficult. They helped me through and because of that I wanted to start a business helping people who’ve been in my situation in a place with people who care. I was going into Epping Forest myself and feeling all the benefits that have helped with my recovery.”

Nearly 300 students at CONEL have also taken part in Soft Skills For Wellbeing workshops run by the Barrier Breakers Foundation, a charity which helps disadvantaged young people develop skills to reach their potential and enrich their lives.

This week the college also hosted a stand providing information on mental health services available across Haringey, run by Haringey Council, Haringey Mind and the NHS.

All CCCG colleges have trained and dedicated staff and resources to provide information, advice and guidance to support students with a wide range of mental health issues.

Find out more about Student Support and Wellbeing.

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