Byline: Tony Trainor
STUDENTS are being encouraged to consider a career in the land-based sector following substantial investment in new teaching facilities at Pencoed College.
The renowned college, near Bridgend, now offers a comprehensive portfolio of courses not only in agriculture, but across a range of rural industries, thanks to the upgrading of animal care facilities and the addition of a teaching block, and modern sports facilities.
Despite the successive BSE and foot-and-mouth crises, the college has maintained student numbers and has forged strong links with rural industries as the only agricultural college serving the former county of Glamorgan.
The college successfully merged with neighbouring Bridgend College in 2000 to offer students ``the best of both worlds''.
Pencoed's broader programme of study, supported by investment of pounds 3.5m since the merger, now aims to encourage school leavers to consider the many viable career paths to be found in rural industries and sport and leisure.
Assembly First Minister Rhodri Morgan praised the college's achievements when he officially opened the new teaching block, animal care centre and sports hall and fitness suite, during a tour of the campus and visit to Tregroes House, the original college building which is now the hub of a state-of-the-art learning campus.
The new teaching block was partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund after Bridgend College successfully applied for a pounds 932,400 share of the Objective One cash pool for 2000-2006. Situated on more than 500 acres of land, the college now boasts well-equipped workshops, classrooms and vast practical areas, offering courses ranging from foundation level to HNCs and HNDs.
Among the successful students of recent years is David John, who returned in January to take up the post of lecturer in agriculture.
He gained a BTec diploma in agriculture before stepping up to the college's HND course, finally completing his studies with a BSc honours degree in agriculture at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
To achieve his degree, Dav-id required only a one-year top-up course at the university, as the HND syllabus at Pencoed had given him a head start.
David said, ``Pencoed College provided me with a sound base, which has enabled me to pursue a successful career in agriculture. …