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Lantra Scotland reveal finalists for Learner of the Year Awards

Rising stars of agriculture, Alison Ritch, Andrew Dixon, Lewis Mathison and Sophie Ward, have been short-listed for Lantra Scotland’s prestigious Learner of the Year Awards.


Alison Ritch image courtesy of Ken Amer, Orkney Photographic

Rising stars of agriculture, Alison Ritch, Andrew Dixon, Lewis Mathison and Sophie Ward, have been short-listed for Lantra Scotland’s prestigious Learner of the Year Awards.

These much-coveted accolades will be presented to the winners at the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards ceremony, on Thursday 3rd March 2016 at the Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro Hotel.

Alison, aged 31 from Stromness on Orkney, has recently finished a Modern Apprenticeship SVQ Level 3 in Livestock Production and Agriculture at family run Kierfiold Farm and Orkney College UHI. Alison previously worked for a local accountancy firm, but decided to leave at the age of 28 to help run and eventually take over the family farm.

Andrew, aged 18 from Duns in Berwickshire, is doing a Modern Apprenticeship SVQ Level 3 in Mixed Farming at his family farm and Borders College. Andrew has plans to modernise the family business and establish a profitable cattle herd. He won the Best Practical Student for agriculture at college last year, due to his commitment and hard work.

17-year-old 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.

Sophie, 27 from Arbroath, recently completed a Higher National Diploma (HND) in Agriculture at SRUC Ayr. She graduated in June 2015 with Distinction and was voted the best first year agriculture student across all SRUC campuses for one of her graded unit projects. She is currently working as a Procurement Assistant for Bill Longair Farmcare Trading Ltd in Carnoustie, where she is building her knowledge of buying and selling potatoes and helping expand the company’s grower group. She hopes in time to secure a managerial position in the procurement department.

Land-based Service Engineers Steen Durno and Michael Rolfe have been short-listed as finalists too.

Steen, aged 19 from Buckie in Moray, has completed a Modern Apprenticeship SVQ Level 3 in Land Based Service Engineering with Mark Garrick Ltd and SRUC Oatridge. He is now working full-time at the firm, focusing on the service and repair of Deutz-Fahr tractors. Steen was runner up 3rd year Apprentice at Skills Development Scotland’s Modern Apprenticeship Awards in 2015.

Michael, aged 19 from Braehead in Lanark, is studying for an extended Diploma in Land Based Engineering at SRUC Barony while working as an Apprentice Agricultural Engineer at Ross of Lanark. He recently went to Germany to train on the Krone BigX forage harvester at the Krone training centre in Spelle, where he attended an advanced hydraulics and electrics course. Michael’s ambition is to become an Area Service Manager for a major tractor manufacturer.

Organised by Lantra Scotland, the sector skills council for the land-based, aquaculture and environmental industries, the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards recognise and reward Scotland’s most talented trainees from across Scotland’s rural sector, as well as helping encourage employers to invest in skills for the future.

There are a total of 15 categories, including the prestigious CARAS Awards, Modern Apprentice of the Year, Urban and Rural Schools, Higher Education and School Pupil. There are also eight industry accolades covering agriculture, aquaculture, equine, horticulture, game and wildlife, trees and timber, land-based engineering, fisheries management and environmental conservation industries.

The highlight of the ceremony will be the announcement of the Overall Winner and Runner-up for Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year. This award recognises the person who has demonstrated an extraordinary willingness to learn and dedication to their chosen profession. Last year’s winner was Callum Low, a talented young Game & Wildlife trainee from Arbroath.

The Modern Apprentice of the Year and the winners of the prestigious CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies) awards will be announced on the night. CARAS was established by the UK’s four national agricultural societies, including the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland. The objective is to recognise, through an awards scheme, distinguished achievements in agriculture and related land-based industries.

Jean’s Jam Award, donated by training instructor Elspeth Watson in memory of her friend, Jean Costello, will also be featured, recognising an inspiring mentor, teacher or trainer.

This year’s judging panel of influential figures from across the land-based and aquaculture sectors consists of Ray Jones, former Chairman of Scotland Food & Drink, agriculture and rural affairs journalist Erika Hay, Keith Paterson of Forestry Commission Scotland, farmer Keith Redpath, Lisa Connell of The Scottish Salmon Company and Rebecca Dawes of the Scottish Association of Young Farmers Clubs.

Kevin Patrick, Director of Lantra Scotland comments:

“We are delighted to announce our finalists for the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards 2016 and are extremely grateful to the independent panel of judges for all their hard work. These awards continue to play an important role in communicating and celebrating the value of gaining qualifications, developing skills and improving standards. We have also received nominations from more employers and training providers this year, which suggests they are increasingly aware how important it is to support and celebrate new talent. All of our nominees, whether selected as finalists or not, should be extremely proud of their work and I really look forward to celebrating their achievements in Dunblane on Thursday 3rd March”.

Ray Jones, Chairman Scotland chair of the judges, comments:

’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 a shortlisting on the Lantra land-based and Aquaculture learner of the year awards assists that future foothold into a long term job’.

Tickets for the evening are available from Lantra on 01738 646762 or Opportunities are still available for companies or organisations interested in supporting Lantra’s awards. Lantra Scotland is at and on Twitter and Facebook as @LantraScotland.

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