Former CANDI student ‘super happy’ after netting apprenticeship with global tech giant 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 WestKing Hospitality student named runner-up in UK Receptionist of the Year

A former Westminster Kingsway College hospitality student has been named runner-up in the AICR UK Receptionist of the Year competition.

Emily Gilson-Jones, 19, who works at the five-star Pan Pacific London hotel in the City, came second out of 10 finalists at a ceremony at Hotel Café Royal in Regent Street on 14 November.

She said: “It’s a huge shock to be named as one of the best receptionists in the UK, but one of the best achievements of my career so far.

“When they announced the second runner-up as the girl from Four Seasons, I thought I haven’t got a chance, but then they announced me as the first runner-up. Suddenly, they handed me a certificate and I was in tears. I’m still gobsmacked to be honest. It has only just started to sink in.”

Emily achieved a triple-starred Distinction in her Hospitality Level 3 Diploma at WestKing in 2021 and was one of two students to share the college’s Best Hospitality Student of the Year award that year.

She began her hospitality career working part-time in front and back of house roles at the Roslin Beach Hotel in her hometown of Southend-on-Sea while she was studying at college.

After finishing her diploma, Emily worked as a Private Events Waitress for The Connaught in Mayfair before joining Pan Pacific London as a Front Desk Agent in March this year.

“I loved my time at WestKing. Even when everything went online during the pandemic, we were still doing all our classes and working as a team and all of the college tutors supported us,” she said.

“By the time it came to the graduation ceremony I couldn’t believe it was over. I wanted to stay on for another two years and do it all again.”

Emily was among a group of students at WestKing who provided catering and hospitality for a schools’ event at 10 Downing Street to mark International Women’s Day just prior to lockdown.

“I remember thinking this is quite overwhelming but really cool, I’m 16 years old and I am having the opportunity to do this,” said Emily, who along with other students met then Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other political figures on the day.

“My connection at The Connaught was also through the college. If I hadn’t gone to WestKing I wouldn’t be where I am now, because if The Connaught wasn’t on my CV I wouldn’t have got the opportunity at Pan Pacific.

“I’m working at a five-star hotel, which wouldn’t have happened if I had just walked out of school with A Levels and then decided I wanted to work in hospitality. WestKing gave me my first real stepping stone on my hospitality journey. I wouldn’t change it.”

Emily learnt she was among the finalists in October following an interview with AICR UK committee members after she was nominated by Nicole Cechmann, Front of House Manager at Pan Pacific.

“The team I work alongside at Pan Pacific is one of the best teams I’ve ever worked in,” said Emily. 

“For a business to be successful you need to work as a team, and when you get on with the team you work with, it makes it so much easier.

“It’s also nice when guests are checking in and excited about their stay, and when they leave and they tell you their experience has lived up to or gone beyond their expectations. That is probably one of the most rewarding things. It’s the reason we work in the industry.”

The AICR (Amicale Internationale des Sous Directeurs et Chefs de Réception des Grand Hôtel) was founded by the receptionists of several hotels on the Côte d’Azur in France in 1964.

AICR UK was formed when the Association of Front Office Management (UK) joined the AICR in 1989, three years after the association was established in 1986.

Liane Bhalla, Lecturer in Hospitality, Food and Beverage and Supervision, said: “We are all super proud that Emily has finished as the first runner-up in the AICR Best Receptionist UK 2022.

“At college she showed huge potential. She was always bubbly and enthusiastic, going above and beyond what was required of her in her assignment and practical sessions in the training restaurants and happy to volunteer to take part in other events. She was clearly destined for a fantastic career in hospitality.”

Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts courses here.

Love Island star visits CONEL to raise awareness of eating disorders in new documentary

Love Island star Zara McDermott gave Creative Media and IT students an exclusive screening of her new documentary on eating disorders when she visited the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL).

The social media influencer, who appeared in the fourth series of the ITV2 dating show, shared her experience of making the film, which highlights the huge rise and impact of eating disorders among children and young people.

Zara, 25, acknowledged the impact social media has on young people and their body image, and shared how she had been trolled about her appearance after appearing on Love Island.

“When thousands of people are saying things about how you look it is hard not to believe that. My own fitness and health journey came from wanting to fit into that perfect body image,” she said.

“I’m in a good place now, but when I look back now and I think it’s sad that there is such pressure to look a certain way, and that is amplified so much when you come out of show like Love Island. It’s not natural to experience that. It affected how I feel about myself, and I am sure it would affect a lot of other people too unless they were extremely resilient.”

CONEL was one of five colleges chosen to get an advanced viewing of the documentary called Zara McDermott: Disordered Eating, ahead of it being broadcast on BBC Three and on BBC iPlayer.

WATCH: Zara McDermott: Disordered Eating

On her transition from reality star to TV presenter, Zara said: “Making a film like this was a really valuable learning process. I lived and breathed it for as long as it took to make. I feel so much more confident in myself than when I was 21 on Love Island, when I was extremely shy bizarrely. Now I’m doing things like this that I’d never have been able to do a few years ago.”

Disordered eating covers a wide range of complex problems including undereating or overeating, excessive exercise, focusing more on appearance and anxiety around mealtimes.

The documentary takes an in-depth look at the impact of social media, as well as speaking with young people who are living with disordered eating and those in recovery.

Elfreda Boateng, 19, who is studying for a Creative Media Production Level 3 Diploma, admitted that she had previously struggled with how she looked because of social media.

She explained how she felt conflicted between having a fuller figure favoured in Afro-Caribbean culture and the slimmer ideal of other ethnicities that she often saw online.

“The film shone a light on a topic that people don’t really talk about. I went through the same as one of the girls in the documentary, which helped me come to terms more with what happened to me,” she said.

“When I was younger, I felt the pressure to conform to what I saw on social media and force myself into an ideal that I could not fit into. I was already quite slim, but I felt I needed to be slimmer but at the same time I was being told to gain weight, so I was in a binge and restrict cycle.

“Social media affects how you think people perceive you in society. A lot of the content is pushed for you to watch, and that is something I now try to separate myself from a lot.”

After the screening, students asked several questions about eating disorders and the making of the of the programme during a Q&A session with Zara and some of the production team.

Giving his advice to the group, BBC Commissioning Editor Max Gogarty said: “There is no one route in, and the truth is a lot of it is based on your ability to hustle, knock down doors and get your first foot into a production company or a studio, or find a director or someone you look up to or aspire to be in the industry. As soon as you get that first runner job, even if it is making cups of tea, you’re in, and once you’re in there’s a path you can climb.”

He told students that it can be tough making TV programmes, which often require long days of travelling and filming, and explained that 65 hours of footage was shot for the one-hour documentary.

Zara urged students to look at the name of production companies on the end credits and contact them for work experience at evenings and weekends as well as college holidays.

The screening also provided an opportunity to introduce students to the BBC Young Reporter scheme, which helps young people develop content ideas, share their stories and find out about broadcasting careers.

Tamara Lesniewska, Curriculum Manager for Creative and Digital Media,said: “Our students were excited to meet Zara and get a preview of her new documentary. It was a powerful and emotive film that resonated with many of the students who took their chance to ask her about the making of the programme, as well as advice on working in the media.”

Apply now for Creative and Digital Media courses here and IT and Computing courses here.

Young chef ‘humbled and proud’ to win Compass Group’s Apprentice of the Year

A “phenomenal” young chef from Westminster Kingsway College has been named Apprentice of the Year 2022 at Compass Group UK & Ireland’s Multicultural Apprenticeship Awards.

Dylan Patel, 25, who is undertaking a Chef de Partie Level 3 Apprenticeship at Compass Group’s head office in Chertsey, Surrey, won the award in the Retail, Hospitality and Tourism category.

The awards showcase the huge talent and hard work within multicultural communities that is made possible through the contribution and support of employers and education providers.

Dylan, from Hounslow, who started his culinary career on a Commis Chef Level 2 Apprenticeship, said: “I am so humbled and proud to being named the winner of this award.

“Taking on this apprenticeship has allowed me to follow my passion, balancing learning with practical work whilst getting paid. I love being part of the team here and learning from others around me.

“There is always something new to uncover and that’s what I enjoy most about being a chef and I hope to build my knowledge further, as I continue this exciting journey.”

Compass Group UK & Ireland is part of Compass Group, the largest contract catering company in the world employing 500,000 people and serving 5.5 billion meals to 55,000 clients each year.

Jonathan Foot, Head of Apprenticeships and Early Careers at Compass Group UK & Ireland, congratulated Dylan on his “wonderful achievement.”

He further praised Dylan’s “phenomenal efforts” as he has progressed in his career and described him as a great role model for anyone looking to start an apprenticeship.

Tom Damen, Chef Lecturer at WestKing, said: “Each week at college I see Dylan’s commitment to improving his culinary skills. Through his apprenticeship at Compass Group he has excelled to a new level of professionalism and confidence.

“I would like to congratulate him on wining Compass Group’s Apprentice of the Year, which is so well deserved. He is an outstanding young chef and destined to go far in the industry.”

Apply now for Hospitality and Culinary Arts apprenticeships here.

Queen Elizabeth II: 1926 – 2022

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.

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.