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.”
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.
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.
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.