SCOTLAND'S top land-based trainees and Modern Apprentices were celebrated last week at Lantra Scotland’s 17th Learner of the Year Awards.

More than 250 guests, including finalists and their families, event supporters, employers, training providers and industry leaders, gathered at the Dunblane Hydro to take part in Lantra’s largest awards’ ceremony yet, where the host and main speaker for the evening was well-known Perthshire farmer and stand-up comedian, Jim Smith.

Highlight of the evening was the announcement of the Overall Winner, an honour shared by two people for the first time – Modern Apprentices Amy Park and Janis Brivkalns. Amy won the agriculture industry category and was one of four CARAS award winners. Janis won the aquaculture category as well as the Modern Apprentice of the Year, rounding off a very successful evening for them both.

Amy, aged 19 from Hawick, has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Mixed Farming on her family’s farm through Borders College. She has always had an interest in livestock farming and her father and grandfather are both well-known for breeding top quality Texel and Suffolk sheep. She hopes to eventually take over the tenancy of the farm and continue in her family’s footsteps.

Amy said: “I’m absolutely delighted to win three awards tonight! This has come off the back of a lot of hard work, early mornings and dedication to my job and I’d like to thank my dad for all his support and my tutors at Borders College who have all been inspirational to me.”

Amy’s nominator, Andrew Johnson from Borders College, said: “These awards are richly deserved. Amy is a very driven young woman who is not afraid of hard work. She was the only female in both the NC class and her Modern Apprentice year, but this did not deter her. She has gone on to show everyone what tremendous potential she brings to the agriculture industry, so we’re delighted to see her win tonight!"

Land-based Engineering winner Don Martin has done an NC in Agricultural Engineering with SRUC, while working as an Apprentice Technician for HRN Tractors in Balbeggie. Don chose to make a career change at an age where other people might have baulked at the challenge.

Don said: “I’m really pleased to win this award, as it’s an honour to be recognised by Lantra Scotland, my employers and tutors at SRUC. I have been told that in this job the learning never stops. I am looking forward to continuing the learning process throughout my career!”

One of the four CARAS Award winners, Erica Taylor, has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Agriculture with JG Orr Ltd through SRUC. She works at Milton of Blebo, a large-scale mixed farm in Fife.

Erica said: “I’m really happy to get this award. I’ve been working in farming for less than two years so to win something is a real bonus. Thank you to Lantra Scotland, SRUC, my employer and nominator James Orr and the rest of our team.”

Agriculture runner-up Louise Main has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Agriculture at Crochmore Farm through SRUC and now works at Drum Farm. After achieving a ‘Dumfries and Galloway Employability Award’ at school, she applied for an apprenticeship through SRUC, where she thrived.

William Muir, Land-based Engineering Learner runner-up, has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Land-based Engineering with Kerr Farm Engineering through SRUC. He arrived at Oatridge immersed in farming and machinery and has demonstrated great knowledge throughout his training.

Higher Education award runner-up was 21-year-old Isla Campbell from Strathpeffer in Ross-shire. Isla is doing a BSc in Forest Management with Arboriculture and Urban Forestry through The Scottish School of Forestry at Inverness College UHI.

The Secondary Schools Award, which is supported by the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland in recognition of schools with exceptional standards in rural skills training, was won by Lockerbie Academy, with runners-up being Nairn Academy.

The Jean’s Jam Award, which is for the most inspiring mentor or trainer in Scotland, went to Morag Higgins from Ross Dhu Equestrian. The prize was donated by training instructor Elspeth Watson in memory of her friend Jean Costello.

The Tam Tod Trophy went to Environmental Conservation apprentice Toni Lamont of the North Ayrshire Ranger Service. This award is made in association with Countryside Learning Scotland to an outstanding young learner and was created in memory of the late Tam Tod, described as a well-loved gamekeeper, ghillie and lifelong friend of the countryside.

The full Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards 2019, winners and runners-up list was as follows:

• Overall Winners of the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year – Amy Park and Janis Brivkalns.

• Modern Apprentice of the Year – Janis Brivkalns.

• Agriculture Learner of the Year – Amy Park; runner-up – Louise Main.

• Animal Care Learner of the Year – Lauren Attwood; runner-up – Stuart Hynds.

• Aquaculture Learner of the Year – Janis Brivkalns; runner-up – Billy Welsh.

• Environmental Conservation Learner of the Year – Luke Taylor; runner-up – Ceara Marie Law.

• Equine Learner of the Year – Aimee MacRae: runner-up – Lauryn Penman.

• Game and Wildlife Learner of the Year – Cameron MacLean; runner-up – Andy Oldham.

• Horticulture Learner of the Year – Tyler Tovey; joint runner-up: Calum Melrose and Ross Yuile.

• Land-based Engineering Learner of the Year – Don Martin; runner-up – William Muir.

• Trees and Timber Learner of the Year – Kyle Baker; runner-up – Jack Burton.

• Higher Education Learner of the Year – Andrew Richardson; runner-up – Isla Campbell.

• Secondary Schools Award – Lockerbie Academy; runner-up – Nairn Academy.

• School Pupil Award – Chloe Reid.

• CARAS Award Winners – Amy Park, Erica Taylor, Harry Hamlin-Wright and Isla Campbell.

• Jean’s Jam Award – Morag Higgins.

• Tam Tod Trophy – Toni Lamont.

Lantra Scotland director Liz Barron-Majerik said the annual awards were key to recognising and celebrating the achievements of trainees within Scotland’s rural sector, as well as encouraging employers to invest in the next generation of talent: “Our awards highlight the incredible individuals who work within Scotland’s land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries as well as the many rewarding careers available.

“I know our judges were very impressed again with the quality of the nominations, but this year they really couldn’t separate the two top learners. So for the first time ever, we have two overall joint winners, Amy and Janis. I’d like to congratulate them both and all the rest of our finalists too.

“We’re of course very grateful to have the support of a range of people and organisations who make holding an event like this possible, including our main sponsor Skills Development Scotland, and Aberdeenshire Council, ABP Food Group, British Agricultural and Garden Machinery Association, Countryside Learning Scotland, DRB Youngstock, Elspeth Watson, George Linton Memorial Trust, Marine Scotland, Royal Highland and Agricultural Society Scotland, Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Qualifications Authority, Scottish Salmon Company, Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation and SRUC.

“Thanks also to the independent judging panel, who comprise: agriculture and rural affairs journalist Erika Hay; smallholder, former agricultural banker and vice-president of RHASS, Jimmy McLean; learning and development manager with Forestry Commission Scotland, Keith Paterson; farmer and former chair of the CARAS Scottish panel, Keith Redpath; head of training with The Scottish Salmon Company, Lisa Connell; and Rebecca Dawes, of Jane Craigie Marketing."