What started as a few boys playing around with bikes due to covid restrictions has turned out to be a catalyst for Coleg y Cymoedd in Nantgarw.
- What is the story?
Back in September 2020, Vocational Access students at Coleg y Cymoedd, Nantgarw (16–19-year-olds) finally returned to face-to-face learning, but the Duke of Edinburgh Award students were still not allowed to go on any trips or visits whilst trying to gain their ‘Voluntary’ and ‘Skill’ units from the award. The scheme’s leader, Val Smith had a conversation with some of the young lads and it became clear that they had a real passion for bikes. So, she and her learning support Andy Robinson, set the wheels in motion and asked the college for a small area where they could set up a maintenance space. This turned out to be under a stairwell! Both Val and Andy undertook a basic bike maintenance course themselves too.
- What happened next?
A ‘cycle to work’ scheme had been in operation at the college for a few years but now the group publicised that staff or students could bring in their bikes for a wash, check- up or a basic service. This helped fulfil the requirements of the two DofE units. There were five boys regularly doing bike maintenance, and as it was proving to be successful, the college gave £200 to buy more of the necessary tools.
- How it developed…
Momentum grew and soon there were five classes of Duke of Edinburgh students keen to be a part of the project. Around three bikes a week were coming in for work to be done on them.Senior management at the college acknowledged its success and gave permission for constructing a fully equipped bike recycling, repair, and maintenance workshop on site.
Shortly afterwards, Renew Wales got involved and offered mentoring from Andrew Burns of Cycle Training Wales. He trained Andy and the students to be able to undertake basic bike maintenance, suggested ideas for the workshop layout and gave general health and safety tips- the sessions were hugely popular. The students gained valuable life skills, grew in confidence and in so many other ways too. Andy is now employed by the college as the Job Coach for the bike maintenance group as he left his learner support role to take charge of this project.
- Moving forward
There is an intention to set up a social enterprise to run the project and actions to do this are in the pipeline. Coleg y Cymoedd’s other campuses are looking at this project with interest as it could spark similar developments on other sites.
Val Smith says,
“The project has had an impact on the college – the training and the purpose-built workshop helped it make other decisions about a greener future. We are getting more engaged with the local community and well-established groups such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to increase knowledge. We also liaise with RCT council and have set up a litter picking hub where students litter pick, tie bags and then contact the council to pick bags up. Our students help manage the ancient woodlands, they have built a community pond, counted newts in pond dipping activities and planted trees. As a college we are looking to keep working on our green credentials and it all started with the involvement of the Duke of Edinburgh award.”