Former CANDI student ‘super happy’ after netting apprenticeship with global tech giant IBM

CANDI apprentice IBM

A computer savvy former City and Islington College (CANDI) student is excited about his future after gaining a place on a degree apprenticeship with global tech giant IBM.

Imtiyaz Rahman, 18, secured his place on the BSc (Hons) Digital and Technology Solutions apprenticeship after achieving D*D*D on an IT Level 3 Diploma last summer.

He spends four days working at IBM’s offices in Southwark and the one day studying at Northeastern University London, a hub of the university in Boston, Massachusetts.

Imtiyaz, from Westminster, revealed that his uncle and cousins had been a big influence on his decision to pursue an IT career at an early age.

“My interest stemmed from an initial desire to play computer games with them when I was about seven. My uncle knew how to build PCs and told me about the hardware and the key things I needed to know, and I began to get into it in more depth,” he said

Imtiyaz’s interest grew as he began to find out more about how computers work and the different components needed to build them, which enabled him to upgrade his own PC.

“I’m interested in many different aspects of IT. On the one hand I’m interested in the hardware side, but since I’ve been at IBM I’ve been shown some new aspects of software and cloud-based technology that I never knew about, which has also piqued my interest,” he said

“I’ve also learnt about AI and quantum computers, which are faster, more powerful and beyond any computers that most of us know today.”

Imtiyaz heard about the apprenticeship through his friends at CANDI. He also applied for another at Lloyds Bank, which although unsuccessful helped him better prepare for his application to IBM.

“I had my focus dead set on going to university and that was the way to my future career, but then my classmates started to tell me about degree apprenticeships,” he said.

“I didn’t expect to make it. With UCAS application you send off your application and personal statement, but with the degree apprenticeship I had to answer a lot more questions on why I want this role and why I am good at it as well as face-to-face interviews and a presentation.

“When I got the call to say I had got on the apprenticeship I was in the middle of class. I walked out of my lesson to take the call and they asked me about my results. There was this daunting silence and then they said I’d got the role, and I was super happy.”

Imtiyaz explained that the diploma at CANDI gave him a realistic expectation of what it would be like to work in IT and how it is applied in business, while also preparing him for degree level study.

“When I’m doing assignments for university, I’m using the same approach and research skills I learnt at college. The practical side on my course also meant I am now able to look at someone’s coding and have a general idea what it means,” he said.

“The teaching was rigorous and intense. It was great to have teachers who had passion for their subject and wanted to see their students grow as people and improve their skills.”

Imtiyaz explained that the degree apprenticeship was a great option because IBM cover his tuition fees and he is not just getting an education but a career.

“What I’ve learnt is that no one really knows what they want to do for the future and not to plan or have too many expectations because situations are always changing, so keep your options open,” he said.

“I am happy for the future because this is a potential career opportunity at a great company that’s well known within the industry, which will give me the skills and experience over the next three years that I might not have got at university.”

Find out more about Computing and IT courses and apply here.

Former CANDI Sports Science student scores career goal as Turkey football coach

A football coach for the Turkey national team has told how studying at City and Islington College (CANDI) helped kick off his career.

Emre Aydemir, 36, joined the Turkish Football Federation in 2020 as an assistant coach and educator where he has worked under head coach Stefan Kuntz and his predecessor Şenol Güneş.

He previously worked as an assistant coach and educator for Arsenal in the Community, the club’s community programme for young people, after completing an Access to Higher Education Diploma in Sports Science at CANDI in 2013.

Emre developed his coaching skills at the Gunners, studying for a Foundation Degree in Football Coaching while at the club and gaining his UEFA B licence with the English FA.

He later progressed to BSc (Hons) in Sport Psychology and Coaching and graduated in 2016, and more recently he attained his UEFA A licence with the Scottish FA.

Emre, who grew up in Istanbul, played professional football for Küçükçekmece before coming to England in 2010 where he played and coached at non-league White Hart Rapids in Haringey.

“I could not continue with my playing career as a professional footballer due to a foot injury,” said Emre, who has since moved back to Turkey.

“I ended my football career as top scorer in a league in north London I played in and decided to focus on my education. I’d always had passion for football, and as I had played football I thought I could continue as a coach.”

Emre is a fan of Turkish side Fenerbahçe but adopted Arsenal as his favourite team in England while he was living in London and attending CANDI.

He names José Mourinho, who has managed two of the Gunners’ biggest rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea and is now at Roma, among the coaches he admires.

“I like Mourinho because he has been successful with teams at different levels. He is also a very disciplined coach with very good communication skills with the players,” said Emre.

“He is someone who constantly applies new strategies and different models and does not give up on himself.”

When asked what skills and attributes are needed to be a good football coach, Emre listed leadership, management, communication, observation, passion, positiviity, patience, imagination, self-motivation and a desire to do better to reach your potential.

“Coaching keeps me focused all the time. It’s important to me to establish good relations with the players and understand them and have good organisation skills and pay attention to detail,” he said.

Emre recalled how he was able to implement what he had learnt at CANDI into his university studies and this, along with his training at Arsenal and the FA, gave him the skills he needed for his coaching career.

He has particularly fond memories of CANDI where he started his journey and often mentions the college when asked about his career or when speaking at conferences worldwide.

“When I first started CANDI, I had a lack of self-confidence and thought I wouldn’t be successful,” said Emre.

“My teachers supported and pushed me to do my best. They were so helpful and believed in me. The course gave me better insight into sports science, theoretically and scientifically, which I was able to implement into my university studies.

“CANDI taught me to dream, gave me direction and encouraged me to set achievable goals. It is still a very special place for me.”

CANDI offers Sports Science courses from Level 2-3, which cover anatomy, health and safety, sports psychology, nutrition, fitness and practical sport.

Find out more and apply here.

CANDI students celebrate A Level success as grades greatly surpass pre-COVID results

Students at City and Islington College (CANDI) celebrated A Level success as the college saw the number of students achieving top grades significantly exceed results prior to the COVID pandemic.

CANDI Sixth Form College saw 71 per cent of students attain A* to C grades – an 18 per cent increase on 2018-19 – with many going to Russell Group universities including Oxford and Cambridge.

Among this year’s top performing students were Isobel Rout, Keefe Choong, Amy Lay and Mohammed Yusuf, who all achieved three straight A*s in their exams.

Isobel, 18, who gained three A*s in Biology, Psychology and History, is heading to Oxford University to study Experimental Psychology.

She said: “I’m really happy. I couldn’t have done any better. The exams were quite stressful as there was a lot of content covered. I had a few nerves this morning, but I’m so relieved it’s now over.

“My teachers at CANDI were really supportive and would go beyond what was asked of them to make sure you understood their subjects.

“I’m looking forward to university. I want to get into neuroscience. It’s a very fast-moving field with finding treatment and prevention for conditions like Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

Keefe Choong and Amy Lay who both achieved three A*s in their A Levels.

Keefe, 18, secured a place at Warwick University to study Computer Science after gaining A*s in Maths, Further Maths and Computer Science.

He said: “I wasn’t too stressed this morning as I left the exams feeling confident because of all the preparation and past papers we did.

“Having a good relationship with your teachers is important and I had that at CANDI. The teachers were very helpful and easy to talk to. If I had any questions, I could go straight to them and they would explain it, especially in maths.”

“I’m happy all the hard work’s paid off and I can now enjoy my summer.”

Amy, 18, gained A*s in Photography, Textiles and Graphics, and is going to UAL: Central St Martins, to study a Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.

She said: “I wasn’t nervous. I thought whatever grades I get will be a reflection of how hard I worked, but I am amazed at my results. It’s been a really tricky year as my mum moved out and I was living with a flatmate, but I think that made me work harder.

“My family made a lot of sacrifices to allow me to stay in London, and that made putting studying first really easy and especially when it’s something you love.”

“My teachers were incredible. I have never known teachers who are as passionate as the teachers at CANDI. They will go out of their way for you. Even though they had a lot on and a hundred other students they always made time for you. I wouldn’t have done it without them.”

Students who studied vocational courses such as BTEC diplomas also celebrated their results with many of those taking Level 3 qualifications, equivalent to three A Levels, gaining distinctions.

CANDI has one of London’s largest choices of A Levels with more than 30 subjects available to study along with a wide range of vocational courses and apprenticeships.

Colleen Marshall, Vice Principal of CANDI, said: “Our students have shown admirable resilience in very challenging and unprecedented circumstances during the COVID crisis, to still achieve fantastic grades and gain places on degrees at some of the country’s best universities.

“I would like to say a big thank you to our teachers who have been resolute in ensuring the success of each and every student, and all our support staff who often go unmentioned but whose work is invaluable to the college.”

Kurt Hintz, Executive Principal of Capital City College Group, which includes CANDI, said: “I would like to congratulate all our A Level students on an excellent set of results this year.

“Their studies were hugely impacted by the COVID pandemic, and it is a tribute to their hard work and resilience that they have achieved the grades they deserve and are now set to progress on to the universities, employers and apprenticeships they planned for.

“I would also like to thank our teachers and support staff for their dedication and relentless support to students, in what has been the most challenging period to be a teacher in living memory.

“I wish all our students collecting their results today the very best for the future.”

Places are still available at CANDI this September. Find out more about our courses and apprenticeships here and enrol today.

Black History Month – ‘We still have a long way to go to bridge the equality gap’

To mark Black History Month this October, Isatu Taylor, Curriculum Leader for Visual Arts, shares her experiences of life as a black person and what can be done to eradicate racism in society and make colleges more inclusive.

Tell us about your background.

I was born in Portland, Jamaica, and moved to the UK with my sister when I was 14. My mum lived in London as a child and went on to study a degree in Slavonic Studies. She later burnt her British passport in protest at how black students were being treated and came back to Jamaica before returning to England.

Is Black History Month important to you?

It’s sad indictment that we need Black History Month, but I’ll take a month when blackness is on the agenda than not at all. I’ve had people ask why we don’t have a white history month, and I tell them every month is white history month. If you grow up in schools in England you learn European history, and obviously that’s important, but as a black child I didn’t learn anything about black history. Part of the way we unlock our differences is by showing that we’ve all faced atrocities and had moments in history where we’ve done each other great disservice. Black History Month should not just be talking about the issues, but about identifying the challenges to make sure history doesn’t keep repeating itself. We need to get past the ‘here we go again’ mentality and token gestures.

What was it like for you growing up as a black person?

I remember walking into my first classroom in London and everybody appeared to be blond. It was very different in terms of people’s mannerisms, expectations and how children viewed education. People had expectations of what I would be like, asking if smoked weed or if I had seen anybody killed. It wasn’t said in a malicious way, more out of ignorance from all ethnicities, not just white students. I was lucky to be living in London because it was so multicultural. I spent the first few years near King’s Cross where there was a big Bengali community. I connected with the food and culture as it was similar to the Caribbean.

Tell us about a time when you have experienced racism.

My worst experience of racism happened when I had part-time job when I was 16 in McDonald’s. There was large group of men and there had been a mix-up with their order and they thought it would be funny to pour a chocolate milkshake over us and make racially abusive comments. It was a bit frightening, but I manly felt that these guys were idiots. I was brought up to see people as people and think it’s very important that you don’t allow the actions of a few to shape your perspective.

How much has society changed in its attitudes to race since you were younger?

Unfortunately, racism still exists. A look, comment or just a feeling can make you uncomfortable. Racial profiling and stereotyping are still a problematic issue. Groups of black boys are often more animated than their white counterparts and wrongly perceived as more aggressive. More needs to be done to educate people in positions of authority to make them more aware of how these differences manifest themselves and how organisations can be more culturally sensitive. Most of our politicians are white and of a certain class and too many policies are driven by their experiences. We’ve made positive progress but still have a long way to go to bridge the equality gap.

Who are your black heroes and role models and why?

I’d have to say my mum. My son calls her a doctor because he says she knows everything. When she eventually leaves us, I can only hope to have a fraction of her knowledge and wisdom. She raised five children and at one point was also holding down two jobs and doing her master’s degree. She believes in hard work and is a great supporter of what I do. I always admire people who do positive things but always reserve hero status for those I know.

What can be done to stop racism in our society?

Representation is so important. We need more black teachers, especially in primary school, to reflect the pupils in the classroom. Often, if you are a black child, you can go through your whole educational experience without ever being taught by a black person. There is so much research on unconscious bias where people identify and favour with people who have shared experiences. If we’re able to educate people and offer students of all backgrounds the opportunity to be taught by someone of colour, then it will change their perspective. They are not just seeing black people in stereotypical roles, but as people in society.

How do you incorporate black culture into your teaching?

Growing up in the Caribbean I have had a very different experience to a lot of my students. I do reflect on my experiences, but don’t necessarily set about focusing on blackness. Instead, I set an example of promoting tolerance, love, acceptance and understanding. I’ve also discovered cultural similarities from my travels in Asia and talking to my students. By celebrating our differences and also recognising that we have more in common than we do not, our classrooms can be much more inclusive.

How can the further education sector become more racially inclusive?

BAME history and culture need to be much higher up the agenda. Colleges need to commit to planning innovative and meaningful ways to better integrate and put this at the heart of the curriculum. This should include more staff and student training, mentoring and support on diversity issues, and celebrating different cultural groups through workshops, networking and partnership work. In terms of teaching and staffing, FE is in much better shape in terms of diversity than other areas of education but more needs to be done in terms of leadership, how and where staff are recruited and internal progression. The sector has an abundance of teachers from different ethnicities, and we need more of them promoted to senior management roles.

Former City and Islington College student gives school pupils a sporting chance during pandemic

A former student at City and Islington College has been boosting children’s mental health through sport during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ross McCarthy, 24, has worked as a Sports Coach with Badu Sports since achieving triple distinction on a Sports Science diploma at the college in 2015.

He returned to education part time in September 2019 and is studying for a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies at London Metropolitan University.

Badu Sports works with schools and the community to provide physical education and mentoring to improve children’s skills and support their development.

Ross provides sports coaching and mentoring for children at St Matthias Church of England Primary School in Stoke Newington, five days a week.

He explained how COVID-19 had affected the children and how his work with Badu Sports had helped them during the crisis to develop physically and in the classroom.

He said: “Lockdown had a huge impact on the children. They were tired and their concentration was low because they had not been able to go out and be active.

“Taking part in sport and exercise has really helped them. Within three weeks the teachers told me they were more alert in lessons and their work had improved.

“I’ve tried to be a rock for them during the pandemic as they slowly get back to their usual routine again. Everyone at the school is working hard to get them back to the level they were at or even better.”

Ross has also undertaken courses in football coaching and fitness instructing, and in his spare time he plays football for the Badu Sports team and goes to the gym regularly.

He said: “Keeping your mind and body active is good for mental health. It makes you happy and is a good stress reliever. It gives you a freedom to forget about your worries. There is no better feeling.”

Ross, who is from Hackney, is studying his degree part-time to enable him to continue working with Badu Sports and fulfil his aspiration to become a teacher.

“The course at CANDI was amazing and I enjoyed every minute of it. Every module was exciting, and it made me love sport so much more,” said Ross.

“I’ve recommended it to so many people and hope to come back one day to see my old teachers, who all wanted their students to do their best.

“One of them said I would be a teacher one day and I laughed, but how right he was.”

Badu Sports provides sport and mentoring to 22,000 young people aged three to 19 in Hackney, Islington Haringey and Tower Hamlets.

Click here to apply for our Sports Science courses.

Want to be a Winner? Former Arsenal Chief Shares Top Tips for Success

Former Arsenal vice-chairman David Dein MBE recently inspired students at City and Islington College (CANDI) to achieve their life goals by sharing the secrets of his success.

In a live online chat arranged with the charity Speakers for Schools, he urged them to show values of hard work, vision and courage during their studies and future careers.

During his 24-year tenure at the club, the Gunners won 18 trophies including five league titles, five FA Cups, two League Cups and the UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup. David was also instrumental in the formation of the Premier League. He was also a former vice-chairman of the Football Association and served on numerous UEFA and FIFA committees.

He said: “Every successful person I’ve ever met in my life over the years, Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Alan Sugar, they’ve all had the same three qualities: hard work – you will not get anywhere in life unless you’re prepared to work hard; vision – you’ve got to know where you want to get to in life; and courage – you have got to have the determination to get there.”

David recalled how he grew up watching Arsenal with his uncle on the North Bank at Highbury and would play football three times a week as a teenager. After buying his first share in the club he later sent a handwritten letter with a blank cheque to the board to subscribe for more. He would eventually own a 42 per cent share of the club.

“I knew they would have to answer me, and they did. They invited me to an interview and from there I got onto the board and the rest is history. I live by the motto of the turtle, which is you don’t get anywhere unless you stick your neck out,” he said.

Looking back at his education he was pleased that he’d listened to his A Level French teacher, as in later life he ended up working with Arsenal’s French manager Arsene Wenger and players including Thierry Henry, Emmanuel Petit, Patrick Viera, Robert Pires and Nicolas Anelka.

He said: “I would’ve loved to have been a professional footballer but very, very few people get to the top and can do it. I’m very pleased that I enjoyed school and very pleased I listened to my teachers. This is a message to all the students – your teachers are there to help you. This is your moment in time to accumulate as much knowledge as you can. It will be the launching pad for your careers, so really take it seriously. Don’t waste this moment, it’s a golden moment of your lives.”

David revealed that when he joined Arsenal in 1983 the club’s turnover was £1.5 million but through his involvement and realisation of the Premier League it was now £450 million. He explained he disliked the words ‘if’ and ‘maybe’ and urged students to be decision-makers. He also told them never be frightened of a challenge and see any problem as an opportunity.

David said: “No matter how successful anyone is today, don’t think they haven’t had reversals. Everybody does. Nothing goes in a straight line. There will always be times when there’s a dip, but in a way that’s nature’s way of saying you’ve got to work harder, think of what you did wrong and go again. Don’t turn your back on it, take it head on. Bring people in with you. It’s very rare anyone can do anything by themselves. If you’re building up an organisation you need people around you and to work as a team. I’ve always tried to assemble a winning team, that’s been my ethos.”

David told students to always look at “going up another rung of the ladder” by thinking about what they can achieve each day and how they are going to make their life better each year. He concluded by giving students his six tips for job and university interviews – be punctual, look smart, make eye contact, give a firm handshake, smile and ask questions.

Click here to find out more about Student Life at CANDI.

English Literature Student wins Coveted Writing Prize

A City and Islington English Literature student has scooped the Orwell Youth Prize for her ‘powerful’ and ‘well-balanced’ article on knife crime.

Jessica Tunks, 17, who is studying A Levels at City and Islington College, drew on her own personal experience and shared her thoughts on knife crime in her winning piece called Knifepoint. She was one of seven winners, chosen from 1,200 written compositions by young writers from across the UK, who took part in the competition run by The Orwell Foundation.

Jessica, from Walthamstow, east London, said: “I’m studying Orwell’s novel 1984 in my English Literature course. I’m really honoured to have been one of the winners of a prize in his name. I never expected this to happen, so I’m glad I chose to take the chance and enter. 

 “The issue I wrote about is really important to me and I’m glad that my thoughts on it will get a wider audience. I’m really grateful to have had the opportunity to write the piece in the first place, especially considering all the support I had with my writing.”

Read Jessica’s winning article Knifepoint and more about her inspiration for it here.

Jessica attended a Writing Wrongs Project, a series of workshops run over four weeks to help students prepare for the Orwell Youth Prize, where they were asked to submit an article.

She was chosen as the winner by investigative reporter Rebecca Omonira-Oyekanmi for her article Pencils, Parties and Prison Sentences, focusing on young offenders, school expulsions and prisons.

The seven winning entries in the Orwell Youth Prize included short stories, journalistic essays and poetry, and were judged by writer Kerry Hudson and poet Kayo Chingonyi – read about the competition here

On Jessica’s entry, Kayo said: “This is a well-balanced piece written with emotion, structure, and backed by research which includes speaking to those directly affected by the themes under discussion. There is an overall sense of someone writing with an affinity for what they write about which lends the piece a moral authority that, coupled with the technical assurance evidenced across the piece as a whole, made Knifepoint stand out.”

The article was also praised by Rachel Sylvester, a political columnist for The Times, who helped shortlist the entries.

She said: “This is such a powerful piece about knife crime, written from personal experience. The author describes brilliantly the problems in the system and vividly sets out how early trauma can lead to the behaviour that triggers exclusion.”

The Orwell Youth Prize is a political writing competition for 12-18s and aims to give young people an opportunity to discuss and communicate their own ideas and thoughts on society today, and stems from George Orwell’s own political motivation for writing.

Walthamstow MP Stella Creasy also commended Jessica’s article, and said: “To write with such passion about knife crime and its impact is to be a voice that makes a difference; someone who isn’t beaten by injustice but is using their platform to call for us all to address it. In doing so, this essay embodies the relationship Orwell described so powerfully between independence of mind and changing the world.”

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