AGRICULTURE is a fast-changing industry and with technology moving at a faster pace, then it pays to keep up with the latest tech.

That’s where Modern Apprenticeships come in. Many of the courses are designed to keep learners up to speed with what’s new and the best and the safest ways to use it.

In this feature we take a look at some case studies on what it has meant for those who’ve gone through the process:

Greig Lambie

Greig Lambie decided to do a Modern Apprenticeship in Land-Based Engineering (agricultural machinery) because he was interested in developing his skills in the industry.

“I’ve always been interested in the agricultural sector whether it was the farm and working with the animals or driving tractors from a young age,” he said. “When I left school I decided to go into tools because I like fixing things.”

The 20-year-old from Strathaven, South Lanarkshire, completed a three-year apprenticeship with Daniel Ross Engineering, in Lanark and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). He now works as part of a team of eight, carrying out various jobs on all types of machinery including Massey Ferguson, Valtra, Lely, Welger and Fleming agricultural machines.

Greig said the course at SRUC’s Oatridge campus has given him an excellent grounding for working in the ‘real’ agricultural world. “I was inspired to be the best I could possibly be, developing my knowledge and skills and being good at what I do,” he said.

“I would definitely recommend doing a Modern Apprenticeship because it allows you to get a basic grounding before you go into the workplace where you can be hands-on with all the jobs and put what you’ve learnt into practice.”

Being nominated for Lantra’s Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills (ALBAS) is his greatest achievement to date, together with being given a works van. He also plans to continue adding to his knowledge by attending various training courses.

“I want to have a great spread of knowledge so I am up-to-speed with the fast-moving technology world but also keep the mechanical skills of fixing machines,” he said. “I want to be the best at what I do.”

Lawrence Martin

Despite not coming from a farming background, Lawrence Martin always dreamt of working in agriculture.

He studied for an HNC in Agriculture SRUC before going on to do a Modern Apprenticeship with Carbeth Home Farm, in Balfron. Three years on, he is a finalist in this year’s Lantra Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills (ALBAS), which recognise and celebrate the achievements of trainees within Scotland’s rural sector.

The 30-year-old, who lives in Tillicoultry, said: “I feel so honoured and proud to be nominated. I am super excited to be going to the awards to meet the other finalists and think it’s an amazing thing for people who are really trying to excel and for the industry to be recognised.

“I really didn’t see myself in the same league as those who have been nominated in the past, so I’m very humbled by how far I’ve got.”

He attributed his success to the HNC course, which gave him the fundamentals to work on a farm, and the MA, which allowed him to put what he was learning into practice and gain first-hand experience, while also earning money. He added that being the only person in his class who wasn’t from a farming background, made him extra keen to keep up and excel from his position on the back foot.

His best memory of his time at SRUC was being selected to show an Angus cow at AgriScot 2017. While working as a Modern Apprentice at Carbeth Home Farm, he also visited France on an Erasmus exchange to learn about farming the French way.

He was nominated for the award by his mentor and employer Daye Tucker. “She has been amazingly generous and patient and has really made me feel part of the farm. I have experimented with a number of entrepreneurial ventures and have taken on more responsibility and management of the farm,” he said.

“Being able to give back and make life easier for her, showing her the result of her investment in my success, has motivated me more than anything.”

Apart from being nominated for the award, his biggest achievement to date is training own sheep dog, Tilly, from a puppy.

While he is still gaining experience in everything from moving sheep, drenching and tractor work, to the maintenance of equipment, accountancy and managing the farm’s online recording hub, his long-term ambition is to have his own farm and stock.

Lee McPherson

Photographer-turned-gardener Lee McPherson jumped at the opportunity to increase his horticultural knowledge when his employer, East Lothian Council, offered him the chance to do a course in parks, gardens and green space.

The 49-year-old started working as a gardener with the council nine years ago after giving up his job as a photographer in London to move to Edinburgh with his wife. “The photography was difficult, moving up and down to London, so I stopped,” he said. “I have always been interested in gardening, so I found a seasonal job with East Lothian Council for six months in 2011, and then got a full-time job the following year.”

He spent one day a week at SRUC’s Oatridge campus studying for the Scottish Vocational Qualification over two years while continuing to do his day job. His work involves planning, preparing and working

with a small team to maintain high amenity areas in Haddington and surrounding villages, as well as being responsible for other shrub beds, sports pitches, litter picking and grass cutting. In addition, he works with volunteers in Haddington to get ready for the various national bloom competitions.

He said his course at SRUC, led by lecturer George Gilchrist, had inspired and taught him a lot about how to look at planting in different ways. “The course has definitely opened my eyes to doing things differently and planning ahead.

“It has also shown me how to help colleagues better – how to explain what is needed when out and about. I am teaching them new techniques and ways of looking at our high amenity areas, and getting them to think about and suggest things rather than telling them everything.”

His greatest achievement to date was being asked to present a 20-minute talk about his work at a Grow Careers Day at the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Garden. However, being nominated for Lantra’s Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills (ALBAS) was ‘a massive surprise’.

“I would love to do more talks on my career and my work with East Lothian Council in the future,” he said. “I hope to keep working my way up the career ladder and there may also be an opportunity to become involved in a local community garden in Edinburgh.

“I once opened my garden to the public, so I aim to do that again at some point in the future. I am also looking into studying therapeutic gardening on a part-time basis, if I can find a course and I have the time, as I really believe that

being and working outside could be helping so many people with different problems and conditions.”

In the meantime, he is looking forward to representing East Lothian Council and SRUC at the ALBAS. “It proves that you should never be afraid of change, always challenge yourself and always ask questions. I can’t wait to see what the next nine years bring.”