All four finalists from the Borders and Berwickshire were winners at this year’s Lantra Scotland Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards.
The awards took place last night (Thursday, March 3), at a glittering ceremony and gala dinner at the DoubleTree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro Hotel near Stirling.
Andrew Dixon, aged 18 from Duns in Berwickshire, won the Agriculture category and was one of six Council for Awards of Royal Agricultural Societies (CARAS) winners.
Lewis Mathison, aged 17 from Melrose, was also a CARAS winner, while Ciara Whitson, aged 18, from Selkirk, won Equine Learner of the Year and Eyemouth High School won the Urban Schools Award for the second year running.
CARAS awards were presented by the organisation’s national chairman Keith Redpath while industry accolades were presented to the Borders winners by keynote speaker and former Lantra Learner of the Year, Finulla McCloskey. The Urban Schools award was presented by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS) Chief Executive Stephen Hutt.
Andrew is doing a Modern Apprenticeship SVQ Level 3 in Mixed Farming at the family farm and Borders College. He also won the Best Practical Student for Agriculture at Borders College last year and was nominated for the Junior Young Farmer of the Year Award. Andrew has his own contracting business helping local farmers and plans to establish a successful cattle herd.
Andrew said: “It’s great to win the Agriculture Learner of the Year Award. Having been brought up on a family farm, farming is well and truly in my blood, but I’m sure tonight’s award will give me the confidence to go on and succeed. I’d like to thank Andrew Johnson from Borders College as well as my dad and uncle for all their support over the years and I hope to make a success of the farm myself.”
Ciara is doing SVQ Levels 1, 2 and 3 in Horse Care at Monksford Estate and Borders College. She works with Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA), has completed 100 hours volunteering and gained four Saltire award certificates. In the future, Ciara wants to run her own livery and deliver dressage training programmes.
Ciara said: ”I can’t believe I have won this award, thank you Lantra Scotland! It is a great honour and I’m sure I’ll remember it for years to come. Alison Robertson, my tutor at Borders College, has been a big influence on my career and I could not have done this without her, or the support of my Granny and Dad, my employers Mr and Mrs Rooney and also Kate Thorne for all the advice she has given me throughout the years. Thank you!”
Lewis is doing a Modern Apprenticeship SVQ Level 2 in Agriculture at Springhall Farm and Borders College. Although he has no agriculture background, his lecturers believe that he is a great example of how someone can flourish in the industry by having the right attitude and willingness to learn. Apart from his interest in agriculture, Lewis is also a member of the Hawick Scout Pipe Band and regularly takes part in events at the weekend. He is also currently undertaking his Adult Training to become a Scout Leader.
Lewis said: “I’m delighted to be one of the winners. Thank you to Lantra Scotland, CARAS, my tutors at Borders College and Kevin Stewart my employer at Springhall Farm in Kelso.”
Eyemouth High School has an area set aside for outdoor education, enabling it to offer a range of land-based courses, including units in horticulture. It is also used for experiments into plant growth and biodiversity. Over 350 pupils, plus partnership primary schools and younger children, use the facility. Next year, Eyemouth is looking to improve the range of units and courses on offer, as well as working more closely with local businesses.
Caroline Lathe from Eyemouth High School said: “To win the Urban Schools award for the second year running is a real honour. It’s great to be recognised for the work we do in developing our outdoor education programme and our pupils’ land-based skills. Thanks to RHASS and Lantra Scotland for this award and to all the students and teachers who take part in our rural skills programme. We look forward to continuing the good work.”
Organised by Lantra Scotland, the sector skills council for the land-based, aquaculture and environmental industries, the Learner of the Year Awards are vital for recognising the efforts of trainees, Modern Apprentices, students, pupils, teachers, tutors, training providers and schools involved in the rural industries. The awards also play an important role in encouraging employers to invest in skills for the future, a vital prerequisite to a healthy, vibrant rural sector.
As an indication of how the talent pool is growing, this year’s nominations came in from across Scotland, from Shetland to the Borders.
The categories for the 2016 awards included the overall winner and runner-up for Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year, the prestigious CARAS Awards, the Modern Apprentice of the Year, the Higher Education Award, the Rural and Urban Secondary Schools Award, Jeans’ Jam Award and industry accolades of trees and timber, agriculture, aquaculture, equine, horticulture, game and wildlife, land-based engineering, fisheries management and environmental conservation.
This year’s ceremony was attended by some of the sector’s leading figures and was hosted by Jim McLaren, former NFU Scotland president and current chairman of Quality Meat Scotland.
Chair of the independent panel of judges, Ray Jones, said: “Every year the judges are inspired by the enthusiasm, vitality and determination to succeed from our candidates. These young people are going into tough employment markets and winning or even being short-listed for the Lantra Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards assists that future foothold into a long-term job.”
This year’s awards were generously supported by Buccleuch, Skills Development Scotland, Dawnfresh, Forestry Commission Scotland, Marine Harvest, Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, Scottish Salmon Company, SRUC, Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, Scottish Qualifications Authority, CARAS, Easterton Stables, Elspeth Watson, George Linton Memorial Trust, National Farmers Union Scotland and RHASS.
To find out more about the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards 2016, visit www.lantra.co.uk/scotland/land-based-and-aquaculture-learner-year call 01738 646762 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.