May 2022 - Capital City College Group
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From royal visits to punk: Celebrating The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee at Capital City College Group

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 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.

Michelin-star restaurant owner praises WestKing’s ‘brilliant’ Young Chefs’ Academy

A Michelin-star chef and restaurant owner has heaped praise on Westminster Kingsway College after his teenage daughter took a course at the college’s Young Chefs’ Academy.

Adam Byatt, who owns Trinity restaurant in Clapham, south London, gave his overwhelming support to the academy, which runs cookery courses for 13 to 16-year-olds throughout the year.

In an email yo the college, Adam said: “I just wanted to drop you a note to say thank you for the brilliant Young Chefs’ Academy. My daughter Rosie has just completed and thoroughly enjoyed the course, which has also played a huge part in boosting her confidence.  

“It is incredibly encouraging to see so many young people keen to be a part of our industry. Thanks to you all for the great work you do.”

Adam and Rosie recently appeared in an article for The Observer on The Guardian website called Chips off the old block: the chefs teaching their kids to cook, where they shared their passion for cooking.

The article told how Adam, 47, told how he and Rosie, 13, regularly cook together with his wife and son Jack on Sundays, and Rosie also often cooks in the week and helps out at the restaurant.

Rosie’s highlight of the course was filleting a whole plaice, but she is yet to decide on her future and whether she will follow her dad into a career in the culinary sector.

On Rosie’s culinary skills, Adam told The Guardian: “She really opens up. Cooking can do that for people. It does for me. It’s a happy, comfortable place for Rosie. That’s why we’ve encouraged it, more than, ‘Go take the reins of the business.’”

WestKing’s Young Chefs’ Academy and Young Bakers’ Academy run courses throughout the year which are taught by our team of professional chef lecturers at the college’s Victoria Centre.

The courses have been the starting point for many of the college’s successful students who have progressed on to Professional Chef Diplomas and apprenticeships.

Are you aged 13-16 and want to find out more about cooking and baking? Maybe you’d like to be a chef or baker when you leave school?

Find out more about the Young Chefs’ Academy and Young Bakers’ Academy here.

Korea-bound students make traditional dalgona cookies seen in Squid Game

Students showed off their cookery skills when they got the chance to make traditional Korean dalgona cookies that featured in the hit Neflix series Squid Game.

The students from colleges across Capital City College Group (CCCG) joined in the team-building activity as part of their preparations ahead of their trip of a lifetime to Korea this June.

Dalgona is a type of honeycomb toffee made of sugar and baking soda, which has been part of Korean culture for more than 50 years.

Business student Joshua Phung, 19, said “I really enjoyed making the dalgona cookies. When I was watching the tutorial, it looked like it was going to be a walk in the park but it wasn’t as easy as I thought. It took a while to get it right, but it was worth it as they looked pretty and tasted great too.”

Thirty students will be embarking on the trip, which has been funded by the Turing Scheme and organised alongside Keimyung College University (KMCU), Kyungbuk College and JEI University.

During the 20-day trip students will take part in Korean language classes and embark on cultural visits while also gaining knowledge about the growth of smart technology and green sectors in the country and the skills they need for the modern workplace.

In February students visited the Korean Cultural Centre UK to learn more about the country and explore the centre’s archive of books and films and try on traditional clothing called hanbok.

Joshua added: “I’ve not had much experience of travelling abroad and I’m really looking forward to the trip and being able to learn and experience more about the Korean culture, which is quite similar to the Vietnamese culture of my parents. I can’t wait to see the scenic views of Seoul and Daegu.”

CCCG comprises City and Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London, and apprenticeship provider Capital City College Training.

Earlier this month Korean Ambassador to the UK Kim Gunn and delegates from the Korean Embassy joined CCCG CEO Roy O’Shaughnessy for lunch at Westminster Kingsway College.

The college, one of the top colleges in the UK for hospitality and culinary arts, was hosting a Korean Cuisine Menu Week in The Brasserie restaurant at its Victoria Centre, as part of its long-standing partnership with the Korean Cultural Centre UK.

The menu included kimchi pancakes, Korean dumplings, Korean fried chicken, beef bulgogi, samgye-tang, bibimbap and sweet pancakes with Korean rice wine ice cream.

Other guests who attended the lunch included Lee Seung-shin, Consul General at the Korean Embassy, and Dr Jungwoo Lee, Director of the Korean Cultural Centre UK.

Mr Gunn welcomed CCCG’s partnership with the Korean Embassy and said students visiting Korea will discover how it is growing in popularity and becoming a market leader on the world stage.

He said: “Korea is a very dynamic economy and is often used as a testbed for new products especially in electronics and technology. When you want to experience what is going to be realised in 10-20 years then the starting point is Korea.

“Korea is also expanding and building many other connections with other markets in Asia, so it will be very advantageous for UK students to study or partner with companies there. We are so far away, but it is now a globalised world and the possibilities are almost limitless.”

Mr Gunn added that every Korean would like to do business in English and the visit would give Korean students a chance to practice their language skills as the UK looks to Asia post-Brexit.

“It’s an opportunity for both the students in the UK and in Korea to encounter a different culture that will stimulate them and give them a broader perspective, which will be great for them,” he said.

“The students from the UK visiting and experiencing Korea will not regret it, I guarantee it.”

Apply now for courses and apprenticeships at CANDI, WestKing and CONEL.

Capital City College Group launches new Women’s Network

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.

Next stop happiness! All aboard for better mental health and wellbeing

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 by searching Student Support and Wellbeing on our college websites.

Disabled student rides bike for first time on work placement

A student born without her lower left leg has told of her joy at riding a bike for the first time on work experience while studying at City and Islington College.

Farheen Tasmia, 17, rode a hand-pedalled bike, trikes and other adapted cycles during her placement with Pedal Power at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium.

Pedal Power is a cycling club run for people of all ages with physical and learning disabilities at three locations across north London.

“I was excited to see how people who have the similar problems as me get on with their lives. It was so inspiring to see how they stay active despite being disabled,” said Farheen.

“Riding a bike for the first time felt really nice. It was something different that I’d never been able to experience. It gave me a sense of freedom and made me feel more confident. It made me think anything is possible.”

Farheen’s leg did not develop in the womb after her mum contracted chicken pox from her sister, a rare condition known as fetal varicella syndrome.

She said: “There were moments when I was younger when I felt uncomfortable because I knew I was different. It was hard and it would get to me, but most of the time I didn’t get upset because at the end of the day it’s who I am.”

Farheen, from Dagenham, started physiotherapy and got her first prosthetic leg when she was about 18 months old and still has regular physio check-ups today.

She said: “I used to see other children out riding their bikes in the summer and think it was unfair that I couldn’t do it. I did try a few times but ended up falling off as I didn’t have the power in my leg to push down on the pedal.”

Farheen undertook work experience with Pedal Power while completing a Forensic Science Level 3 Diploma at the college’s Centre for Applied Sciences in Angel.

Pedal Power was set up by Jo Roach in 2004 after looking for a cycling club for her daughter who has a learning disability. It began with just two members and now 50-100 cyclists attend each session.

Jo received a British Empire Medal from the Queen for her work running the club, which is supported by Islington, Hackney and Haringey councils.

Jo said: “Farheen was one of the first students we’ve had on placement from the college. She got to see people with many disabilities and had no idea there were so many types of cycles out there.

“It never ceases to amaze me when you see people ride a bike for the first time. It’s always a thrill and just goes to show, if you have the right equipment, anyone can cycle.”

Apply now for courses at CANDI.

‘Cutting the new Doctor Who’s hair led to my break as a TV hairstylist’

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.

Global magazine ranks WestKing one of the top five culinary schools in the world

Westminster Kingsway College has been named one of the best culinary schools in the world by high-profile global business magazine CEOWorld.

The college’s superb reputation is highlighted in an article on the publication’s website by Sophie Ireland, Senior Vice President for News and Editorial Director.

It rates WestKing as one of the top five schools in the world to gain the skills and technical expertise needed to become a chef.

The college was recognised alongside other illustrious institutions, namely the Culinary Institute of America in the United States, Le Cordon Bleu in France, Apicius in Italy and the Business and Hotel Management School, Switzerland.

The article read: “Sitting in the heart of London, you are exposed to the best of the world’s culture right at your college campus. Westminster Kingsway College is one of the most diverse and dynamic colleges on this list.

“This title is claimed on the back of the diversity of the courses that it offers. It matters not if you are a young person … or a professional looking to brush up your skills or someone who is looking to reorient his or her career, you can find a course that suits your needs here at Westminster Kingsway College.

“A list of notable alumni also enables you to find professional footing once you graduate from the college.”

Read the full article here: Top 5 Culinary Schools In the World

WestKing runs full-time hospitality and culinary courses from Level 1-3 as well as hospitality apprenticeships with top industry employers.

Spaces for next year are filling up fast with more than 100 offers already made to prospective students looking to study courses or take apprenticeships at the college this September.

Lidia Pozzuto, 20, who completed a Professional Chef Level 3 Diploma last year, is now working as a pastry commis chef at The Ritz London.

She said: “I chose to study at WestKing because I felt the chef diploma was the best fit for me and would give me a good all-round understanding and skillset compared to courses at other colleges.

“I learnt a lot during the course. It definitely helps you to solidify the basics to work in the industry and gives you various opportunities to gain work experience.”

“I got into The Ritz after one of my lecturers was told about possible positions by a former student who worked there. I’ve really improved my skills since I’ve been there and its very fulfilling seeing the high standard of food we produce every day.

“What I love most about working in the culinary sector is that there are so many pathways to go down and you’re constantly learning. There’s always new skills and techniques to develop.

“I want to keep on improving and continue working my way up in the industry.”

WestKing is part of Capital City College Group (CCCG), which also comprises City and Islington College and the College of Haringey Enfield and North East London and apprenticeship provider Capital City College Training.

The college’s Victoria Centre is home to the School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts and two award-winning training restaurants, The Brasserie and The Escoffier, collectively known as The Vincent Rooms.

WestKing’s high-profile hospitality and culinary arts alumni include Jamie Oliver, Ainsley Harriott, Antony Worral Thompson, Sophie Wright and Ben Murphy.

Gary Hunter, Deputy Executive Principal of CCCG, himself a trained chef and chocolatier, said: “To be mentioned in the top five culinary arts schools by such a highly respected publication is incredible. It’s even more astonishing when you consider all the other institutions are all privately funded with access to better financial resources and would be right up there on my list too.

“WestKing is certainly punching above its weight, which is down to the huge dedication of our teachers, staff and employer partners who every day inspire and motivate our students and apprentices, who in turn continue to astound us with their talent, ability and commitment to be the best they can be.”

Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts hospitality courses and culinary apprenticeships.

‘The only person that can tell an individual they can’t do something is themselves’

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.”

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Music student spotted on Instagram releases first professionally recorded song

An aspiring singer from Westminster Kingsway College has released her first professionally recorded song after being spotted by a music producer on Instagram.

Music student Elizabeth Azuero, 22, who is originally from Ecuador, co-wrote and recorded the track No Te Confundas, meaning Don’t Get Confused, in Spanish under her stage name Eli-Beth.

She was contacted by a Colombian music producer called Kenny Beach in December and recorded the song at Hazey Studios near her home in Southwark earlier this year.

Elizabeth said: “I received a notification on my phone that someone wanted to send me a message. He told me he was a producer and was looking for female singers and that he had been checking out my music on Instagram and he liked it.

“He showed me the lyrics and a demo of the song. I really connected with the chorus but wasn’t sure about some of the other lyrics. I said give me a day and I will give you some other lyrics, and that became the final song.

“It’s about a woman who gave a man a chance and enjoyed a night with him and he wants more, but she now realises it was a mistake and doesn’t want him to keep calling her.

“We both had our own expectations for the song. From the top he was saying how much he liked my voice and was excited to be working with me on this project.”

Elizabeth moved to Spain with her family when she was six months old. She spent her most of her childhood years growing up in Parla, near Madrid, before moving to the UK aged 16.

She started writing songs when she was 11. She discovered she could sing in her mid-teens and recorded her first song at 20. Her style has been inspired by her love of RnB, hip hop and soul.

“For me, the best way to write a song is to imagine a scenario in my head and put myself in that situation, said Elizabeth.

“Around every person there is life. Some situations you can experience though your friends and family, such as separation or divorce, without living it yourself.”

Elizabeth’s music has been heard online by people in UK and around the world including the United States and across Latin America.

She lists Adele, Dua Lipa and Ed Sheeran among her favourite artistes who have influenced her, along with Latin American singers Karol G and Selena Quintanilla.

“Selena was one of the best Mexican-American artistes from the late 80s and early 90s in my opinion,” said Elizabeth.

“She started her own clothing brand and did so much in less time than other musicians. She made so many songs in different genres with many people and was very influential.”

Elizabeth is in the first year of studying for a Music Level 3 Diploma having previously completed a Music Level 2 Diploma at the college.

She said: “I was looking for a college where I could not only perform as a singer but also learn about music production. The course has covered a lot of topics I am interested in about the music industry, production, performances and management.

“I‘ve learnt a lot. When you like a lesson, it is because the teacher knows how to get your attention and capture your interest. At WestKing they are very supportive and have always been there for us if we’ve needed anything or help with our assignments.

“Performing is one of the best feelings. Even if I’m nervous, I really enjoy it. I know I need to work more because I’m just starting, but I want to be successful in music. It would be a dream come true.”

No Te Confundas is available on apps including Spotify, Deezer, Apple Music, Tidal and YouTube.

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Queen's Award for Enterprise