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Rhys and Corey shine with diamond tool firm

Both studying at Coleg Llandrillo, Rhys and Corey are gaining a cutting edge in precision engineering with Continental Diamond Tool

Coleg Llandrillo student Rhys Butler is gaining experience in the world of precision engineering with international firm Continental Diamond Tool.

Rhys studies Computer-Aided Design one afternoon per week at the college’s new £12m engineering centre in Rhyl, as part of his BTEC Level 3 Engineering course at Ysgol Glan Clwyd in St Asaph.

He also does a day’s work experience each week with Continental Diamond Tool (CDT), which supplies sophisticated parts for production machinery for Rolls-Royce and other aerospace companies in the UK.

Rhys wrote to CDT after reading a news article about the company, which has a base on the Tir Llwyd Industrial Estate in his home town of Kinmel Bay.

He said: “I saw the story about the company being under new American ownership and I was looking for work experience for my CV, so I emailed in an application and they came back to me straight away.

Pictures by Mandy Jones Photography

“They’ve given me an eight-week programme so I go in one day a week. I’m going through the different processes they do and they show me and explain how they work.”

CDT makes a range of highly specialised diamond tools for advanced manufacturing industries, including the aerospace, automotive, medical and semi-conductor sectors.

One of only two companies of its kind in the UK, it employs 40 skilled staff and is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.

Rhys added: “One Wednesday I was actually working on putting the diamonds into the tooling. It’s been a brilliant opportunity.

“I’ve always been interested in cars and how machines work. I’m doing engineering in sixth form and go to the Llandrillo College campus in Rhyl every Thursday, which is really helpful.”

Rhys often works with Corey Jones, a second-year apprentice who is studying the HNC in General Engineering at Coleg Llandrillo in Rhyl.

Corey, also from Kinmel Bay, previously completed his Level 3 Engineering with the college, and like Rhys took the work experience route to a place with CDT.

Corey said: “I did my A-levels at Eirias High School in Colwyn Bay and then did Level 3 Engineering at Coleg Llandrillo with work experience here, and they offered me an apprenticeship.

“They wanted me to get used to what’s involved so I worked here through my summer holidays and started my apprenticeship in Level 4 Engineering in the September.

“I knew there was a lot of maths in engineering and I’d always enjoyed that, and I like to challenge myself by learning about the different machines so I’m really enjoying it.

“I had tried a few places for work experience and Coleg Llandrillo suggested here, and it’s been brilliant.

“The people here are really great and very knowledgeable with lots of experience you can learn from. I work with someone who has experience on every machine and he’s a big help.

“We’re working for businesses like Rolls-Royce which is fantastic, so I want to do the best I can and really build a career here.”

Michaela Lawton, CDT Finance Manager, said: “We have been running an apprenticeship scheme here for a long time and historically it’s been successful, and two of our apprentices who moved on after a few years have actually come back to us.

“We have a very good relationship with Coleg Llandrillo and it really helps that they have a campus at Rhyl with a strong and well-equipped engineering department.

“What we do here is so unique and so niche that we expect our apprentices to learn the core skills in college to give them the platform to build on with the highly specialised work we do here.”

CDT has been boosted by a £1.6m investment from its American owners. The company has opened a second production unit on the Tir Llwyd Estate to house its new electro-plating operation, which has received support from Welsh Government.

More than 60 per cent of the company’s products are exported to 30 countries, with sales growing particularly strongly across Europe and Asia, as well as North America.

The company was founded originally as Consort Precision Diamond and in 2018 was bought and rebranded by Continental Diamond Tool, based in New Haven, Indiana.

Coleg Llandrillo’s new £13m Engineering Centre at the Rhyl campus opened in November 2023. It offers a world-class learning experience in cutting-edge engineering - from robotics and rapid prototyping to industrial-scale CNC machines.

The state-of-the-art facility, spanning three floors and 3000m², features a comprehensive range of highly specialised training equipment.

It houses a renewable energy technology training facility including an industrial-scale wind turbine servicing and maintenance hall, as part of a partnership with leading international energy company RWE.

The Rhyl Engineering Centre was officially opened by First Minister Mark Drakeford in February 2024.

Want to learn more about the exciting world of engineering with Grŵp Llandrillo Menai? Find out more about our courses here.