Like a great many people here and around the world, we are saddened over the passing of Her Majesty The Queen.

During her long reign – the second longest reign of any monarch of a sovereign state – we were honoured to welcome Her Majesty to one of our colleges. And over the years, our colleges have been awarded Queen’s Anniversary Prizes, and colleagues and students were recognised in various Birthday and New Year honours lists.

Roy O’Shaughnessy, CEO of Capital City College Group said:

“It is with great sadness that we learned of the passing of Her Majesty The Queen and our deepest condolences go to the Royal Family.

“The Queen was a constant part of our lives for 70 years and her passing will affect our staff and students in different ways. We are offering support to those who may need it, for whatever reason, at this sad time.”

Visit to CANDI’s Centre for Applied Sciences

In 2011 The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh visited City and Islington College’s Centre for Applied Sciences. 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 saw some of the animals at the 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.

Queen’s Anniversary Prizes

Two of our colleges have been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education. These 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.

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

Westminster Kingsway College has been awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education – in 2015, for collaboration and innovation in the culinary arts.  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:

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

Our deepest condolences to the Royal Family. HM Queen Elizabeth II 1926 – 2022.

The College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) has teamed up with Building Heroes to offer free construction training to former members of the Armed Forces.

Since April, 22 ex-military personnel have completed a five-week course with the college in partnership with the charity and construction giant Regal London.

Building Heroes was established in 2014 and works with the education sector and employers to provide construction skills training and employment support for service leavers, veterans, reservists and their families.

CONEL is providing onsite training for a Construction Skills Level 1 Diploma an a Health and Safety Level 1 Diploma along with training to gain a CSCS card, which they need to be able to work on building sites.

Training is taking place at a Regal London construction site in Clarendon Road, Watford, where a new 25-floor residential development comprising 168 homes is being built.

The first two groups completed their training in May and July, with a third group expected to start in September.

Ade Jerry, 40, joined the Army in 2004 and served for 10 years but left on medical grounds, which included severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

“I wanted the opportunity to learn new skills and better myself in life. I received full support from the Building Heroes team, which really helped me in finding a new direction,” he said.

“The tutor was fantastic and provided me support in both the theoretical and practical side of the course. The academy provided me some experience working on site and a fresh perspective.

“Both Building Heroes and CONEL helped me with any difficulties I had and helped me create a different perspective within myself. It has left me feeling positive about the future.”

Ross Gordon, 21, left the Army after deciding it was not the right career for him. He turned to Building Heroes having gained some construction experience during his service, building the first NHS Nightingale Hospital during the pandemic.

He said: “The course content enabled me to practice different skills and work out what areas I liked/didn’t. It pushed me in the right direction. I couldn’t have asked for a better tutor and felt fully supported throughout the duration of the course.

“I enjoyed the variation of the course content and the extra extended projects. We were able to see other sites and get some perspective of all the trades we were learning about.”

Both Ade and Ross have both gained contract work with Regal London and are looking at other courses to advance their skills and careers.

Last month, to mark Armed Forces Week from 20-25 June, the most recent group won a Construct a Cake competition, set by Building Heroes, to make a cake out of building materials.

Gary Lee, Curriculum Manager for Construction, Plumbing and Electrical at CONEL, said: “Our Armed Forces do so much for our country, and we felt it only right that we give something back to those who have served in conflict or more recently assisted and provided support during the pandemic.

“Regardless of their starting point and the challenges they have faced, all the ex-services personnel who have signed up have all shared a military attitude and determination to achieve.”

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Construction courses at CONEL

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According to Building Heroes, 15,000 people leave the Armed Forces each year, with the percentage of working age veterans expected to increase from 37 per cent in 2016 to 44 per cent in 2028.

The Construction Industry Training board (CITB) has reported 217,000 new workers are needed in the construction industry by 2025 to meet the demand for new housing in the UK.

Brendan Williams, CEO and founder of Building Heroes, said: “Building Heroes is excited to be working with CONEL at our new Regal London onsite training academy in Watford. 

“The college’s flexibility in finding a way to support us and the quality of leadership and tuition has been exceptional, and we’ve received excellent feedback from our first cohort of learners. 

“We look forward to continuing this relationship and looking for innovative and exciting ways to extend this partnership.”

If you are a former member of the Armed Forces interested in how Building Heroes can help you get the skills for a career in construction, you can find out more here.

CONEL also runs Construction courses in brickwork, carpentry, plumbing and electrical installations at its centres in Tottenham and Enfield, and has partnered with leading industry employer Ardmore on the London Welding Academy in Enfield. Find out more and apply here.

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 helped me with any areas I needed to improve. They 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.

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.

A former hairdressing student at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) has recalled how cutting the new Doctor Whos’ hair led him to work in TV.

Rwandan-born Ncuti Gatwa, 29, was unveiled as the new Time Lord on 8 May and is also set to appear in a Barbie film out next year starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.

Silas Baiden, 36, cut Ncuti’s hair for the Netflix hit series Sex Education, six years after the pair had become friends when Silas was working for a BT call centre in Scotland.

Silas runs Ama Hair Salon in south Tottenham, which specialises in Afro-Caribbean hair, with his mum Ama who also trained at CONEL and started the business in 2001.

He said: “Ncuti is one of my best friends. We met at a party in Glasgow and I cut his hair when he moved to London and lived with me and my mum for a couple of years.

“When he got a part in Sex Education, he told me that they were looking for a barber. I was fresh out of college at the time and didn’t feel ready to work on a production, but I nervously went to the set, made some connections and they gave me the job.

“I remember having a bit of imposter syndrome, like I’m not supposed to, or don’t deserve to be here, but now I feel I’ve reached another level. In addition to barbering, I can do braids, cornrows and locks, which are still quite niche things in the TV industry.”

Silas also cut and styled hair on set and at the salon for other cast members including Asa Butterfield, Kedar Williams-Stirling, George Robinson, Chinenye Ezeudu, Jonny Amies and Olive Gray.

Silas has gone on to work on Halo, a TV series based on the video game of the same name, for Paramount+ as well as The Mosquito Coast for Apple TV+.

His other famous clients include actors Yasmin Finney, Clifford Samuels, Morgan Rees, Ariyon Bakare and Karla Chrome and singer Henry Dell.

Ama, 57, came to the UK from Ghana in 1990 with Silas when he was just four years old and initially struggled to find work.

She said: “I used to have my own boutique business in Ghana, so being unemployed was foreign to me. The only job I could get was in catering, but that wasn’t my passion.

“I did my own hair and my grandma’s and some friends back home. I always enjoyed the social aspect of the job and making people feel and look good.”

Ama enrolled on a hairdressing course at CONEL, then the College of North East London, in 1992, and worked in a couple of salons in Tottenham before opening her own.

“The teachers showed us how to become fully fledged hairdressers and made us believe in ourselves. They were very experienced and pushed us to be the best we could be,” she said.

“I did placements at Afro and European salons to gain experience with both textures. They didn’t train in Afro hair at the college at the time, but that has changed now, which is good to see.”

Ama has long been an advocate of natural hair, particularly among the Afro-Caribbean community, and has encouraged her clients not to use relaxers or other chemical treatments.

“The death of George Floyd in America and Black Lives Matter has given black people more confidence to be themselves because it is out there that we’re treated differently,” she said.

“We’ve woken up to accept who we are. I see it in young people and I tell them how lucky they are to be free to wear their hair the way they want to.”

When Silas was younger, he would often help his mum out washing clients’ hair at weekend to earn extra pocket money during which time he learnt to plait and blow dry.

“I’ve always unofficially been an employee of my mum. I used to watch the way she and the rest of her staff would transform people in a few hours and create some magic,” he said.

“Working with my mum is awesome. I’m proud that I’ve been able to continue the business and raise the salon’s profile with new ideas and clientele and put it on the map.”

Ama added: “Silas has made so many wonderful changes to the business and we have been able to grow and increase our turnover. We’re now busier than ever.”

You might not end up cutting Doctor Who’s hair or working for Netflix but now is the right time for you to start your career in hairdressing or barbering with CONEL.

With top-quality training salons in our Tottenham and Enfield sites and excellent tuition to help you gain a recognised qualification, a career in this rewarding industry is within your reach.

Apply now for our Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy courses.

John Poulter was paralysed in a work accident and spent 14 years in recovery. Here he tells his inspiring story about how the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL) gave him the chance to train as an electrician and run his own business.

John Poulter was 42 when his life changed forever.

The father of three was paralysed from the waist down when a forklift driver dropped a heavy pallet on his lower back when he was working as an HGV driver in August 2007.

John said: “I was dropping off a delivery. The forklift driver came out and the first two pallets came off without a problem. He then got a call on his mobile and while he was talking, he hit the tilt button and my life as I knew it ended.”

John’s recovery took 14 years, and he is now an electrician with his own business after training at the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

Prior to the accident, John, now 56, had worked as a butcher and served in the British Army in the Falklands, Northern Ireland, Germany, Korea and the first Gulf War.

He was by his own definition “a man mountain” who would spend every spare moment when he was not working at the gym.

He said: “I had heavy muscle build and was still disciplined after coming out of the Army and wanted to develop myself. At weekends I was weight training and free running up and down hills with air cylinders and kegs to build up my cardio and breaking all my personal bests.”

John was airlifted to the Royal Surrey County Hospital and then transferred to the Royal London Hospital where he underwent two operations and then to a spinal unit at Stoke Mandeville Hospital in Buckinghamshire over the next four weeks.

He then spent the next 18 months at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore and over the following 12 years continued to undergo surgery and rehabilitation at Stoke Mandeville.

“Those were the darkest days of my life,” said John.

“I was very angry and the most bitter, twisted individual you could come across. When I first got a wheelchair, I kept asking myself why am I sitting in it, why am I going through this, why me?”

John married his wife Adrienne a year before leaving the Army. They had two sons Craig and Perry and a daughter Becky who were teenagers at the time of the accident.

“I think the impact on them was more than it was on me,” he said.

“My wife has stuck by me through thick and thin. She was hard as nails and straight-faced on the outside but broken on the inside. She never let her appearance show her weakness and that’s what kept me going.”

Medical and psychiatric teams at Stoke Mandeville helped John to overcome his negativity and supported him throughout his recovery.

“My psychotherapist reprogrammed my way of thinking. It took two to three months to trust her and from there we moved forward all the time. Everything in my brain was saying what can I do? I had so much energy but nowhere to divert it,” he said.

In 2015, while John was living and still undergoing therapy in Buckinghamshire, his doctors asked him what he wanted to do next and suggested he go to college.

He began applying for electrical courses and was turned down by 44 colleges across the UK before being accepted and offered a place at CONEL.

He said: “I kept get red flagged all the time, college after college. Then CONEL took me on the assumption if I prove I can do it, they will put the building blocks in place for me. I told them if you tell or show me something, I’ll soak it up like a sponge and will achieve good results.”

John moved to Tottenham and went on to complete two Electrical Installations diplomas with Distinction at CONEL and became an advocate for diversity and inclusion at the college.

It was something of a homecoming for John who was born and grew up in nearby Enfield.

John said: “I can’t fault anything about CONEL. If it wasn’t for the college, I wouldn’t have moved forward. Everyone at CONEL treated me with dignity and has got my respect for the simple reason they opened one door, and every door after that has followed.”

Towards the end of his time at CONEL John launched his own business, JRP Electrical. He is currently studying for a Level 4 electrical qualification while also giving his time to help and inspire the next generation of electricians at the college.

He runs his business with Adrienne and son Perry, providing the tendering, design and contracting of electrical works for domestic and large developments. When visiting sites he uses ramps, chairlifts, cherry pickers and creepers to aid his mobility.

Earlier this year John met Mayor of London Sadiq Khan at the launch of the Mayor’s Academies Programme, a £44 million investment to provide free skills training to get people into work and boost the capital’s recovery from the COVID pandemic.

CONEL secured £250,000 to run a Green Academy Hub that is working with employers to create training opportunities in the construction and green industries.

“The only person that can tell an individual they can’t do something, is themselves,” he said.

“I don’t admit failure, I never have done. I’ve always given everything 100 per cent commitment and looked at my results and thought can I do better.

“You can and will overcome the challenges you will face. Keep pushing because you will get there in the end. Your best days are not behind you, they are yet to come.”

Find out more about our Construction courses and apprenticeships.

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