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Outstanding talent celebrated at Lantra Scotland's Awards

The hard work and dedication of some of the country’s most talented trainees and modern apprentices have been recognised at Lantra Scotland’s 15th Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards, which took place on Thursday 2nd March in Dunblane.

The awards were presented to trainees at the glittering ceremony and gala dinner by farmer and TV presenter Adam Henson. Speaking at the event, Adam reminded the audience of the importance of fostering new talent and investing in skills to ensure a lasting future for Scotland’s food and drink sector and the wider rural economy.

Adam commented: “I’ve really enjoyed presenting these awards and meeting Scotland’s top trainees and learners from the land-based and aquaculture sector.

“It’s inspiring to see such talented people getting the support of employers and training providers as they start their careers within these key industries.

“As well as congratulating everyone nominated for Lantra’s learner of the year awards, I’d particularly like say well done to the winners and the runners-up. It really is a fantastic achievement and I’m sure winning these awards will be great for their prospects and their self-confidence.”

As well as friends and relatives of the finalists, other guests were representing training organisations, employers and industry bodies.

Categories for the 2017 awards included the Overall Winner and Runner-up, the prestigious CARAS awards, the Modern Apprentice of the Year, the Higher Education Award, the Rural Schools Award, Jean’s Jam and the Tam Tod Trophy. Industry awards were made in trees and timber, agriculture, aquaculture, equine, horticulture, game and wildlife, land-based engineering, fisheries management and environmental conservation categories.

Among the many highlights were presentations to the Overall Winner and to the Runner-up for Lantra’s Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Award. Emma Staniforth, a talented 34-year-old forestry apprentice from Dumfries, took the top accolade this year, while Stuart MacKinlay, a 22-year-old fisheries management apprentice from Deanston in Stirling, took the runner-up spot. Emma also won the Trees and Timber Learner of the Year Award, whilst Stuart won the Fisheries Management and Environmental Conservation category.

Emma has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship SVQ Level 3 in General Woodland and Treework through Forest Enterprise Scotland. She began her SVQ with no prior knowledge or practical experience of forestry, then went on to gain certificates in the use of forestry equipment at her first attempt and completed her SVQ Level 2 within 15 months of starting her new career. Her ambition is to own some woodland, either privately or through community ownership, and use it as a teaching centre for community groups.

Emma commented: “I can’t believe I’ve won two awards and to be chosen as the overall winner is the icing on the cake. It’s fantastic news and a great achievement for me. I’m delighted with the support I’ve had from my employer, the hard work I’ve put in has really paid off. I’m honoured to have represented Forest Enterprise Scotland and their apprenticeship scheme at Lantra’s Learner of the Year Awards.”

Lesley Smith of Forest Enterprise Scotland said: “Throughout her time with us, Emma’s professional skills were evident, and her winning personality enabled her to engage and work extremely well with colleagues and members of the public.”

Other highlights on the night included the Higher Education Learner of the Year Award which went to Kati Michalek from Oban. Kati is currently undertaking a PhD in Shellfish Aquaculture in Oban through the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) UHI and the University of the Highlands and Islands. Her work is part of a bigger European project aiming to provide new insights into how bivalves like mussels, scallops, oysters and clams, will cope with climate change. Runner up was Megan Simpson from Aberfoyle, who has completed an HNC and HND in Equine Studies at SRUC Oatridge Campus.

The Modern Apprentice of the Year Award went to Jack Fraser, a 22-year-old Aquaculture Modern Apprentice from Caol near Fort William. Agriculture student Katie Dubarry and agriculture apprentice Matthew Douglas were joint winners of the prestigious CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies) awards. 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.

The Rural Schools Award, which is supported by the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland in recognition of schools with exceptional standards in rural skills training, was won by Ullapool High School and Breadalbane Academy.

Jean’s Jam Award, which is in recognition of the efforts of mentors and trainers across Scotland, was awarded to David Olds of North Highland College UHI. The prize was donated by training instructor Elspeth Watson in memory of her friend Jean Costello to recognise the mentor judged by land-based and aquaculture learner of the year finalists to be the most inspiring.

A newcomer to the Lantra awards this year was the Tam Tod Trophy, which was awarded to Alasdair Davidson, a talented 18-year-old Game and Wildlife apprentice from Fort William. The Tam Tod Trophy is awarded 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.

Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards 2017, winners and runners up:

* Overall Winner Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year:

o Emma Staniforth


* Overall Runner-up Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year:

o Stuart MacKinlay


* Modern Apprentice of the Year:

o Jack Fraser


* Agriculture Learner of the Year:

o Winner: Jakob Eunson

o Runner-up: Matthew Douglas


* Aquaculture Learner of the Year:

o Winner: Jack Fraser

o Runner-up: John Blance


* Equine Learner of the Year:

o Winner: Cherise Halliburton

o Runner-up: Karla Purves


* Fisheries Management and Environmental Conservation Learner of the Year:

o Winner: Stuart McKinlay

o Runner-up: Gill Walker


* Game and Wildlife Learner of the Year:

o Winner: Alasdair Davidson

o Runner-up: Fraser MacDonald


* Horticulture Learner of the Year:

o Winner: John Boyd

o Runner-up: Brooke McKenzie


* Land-based Service Engineering Learner of the Year:

o Winner: Stephen Moore

o Runner-up: Thomas Perfect


* Trees and Timber Learner of the Year:

o Winner: Emma Staniforth

o Runner-up: Matt Lingard


* Higher Education Learner of the Year:

o Winner: Kati Michalek

o Runner-up: Megan Simpson


* Secondary Schools Awards:

o Rural winners: Ullapool High School and Breadalbane Academy


* CARAS Award Winners:

o Katie Dubarry

o Matthew Douglas


* Jean’s Jam Award:

o Winner: David Olds of North Highland College UHI


* Tam Tod Trophy

o Winner: Alasdair Davidson


The Learner of the Year Awards were organised by Lantra Scotland, the sector skills council for the land-based, aquaculture and environmental industries, and play a vital role in celebrating the achievements of trainees within Scotland’s rural sector and in encouraging employers to invest in the next generation of talent.

Kevin Patrick, Director of Lantra Scotland comments: “Our awards recognise the achievements of Scotland’s top learners, their employers and training providers, and highlight the important contribution they make to our economy, particularly in rural areas.

“Land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries offer a wide range of rewarding career opportunities and our prestigious event celebrates the hard work and incredible talents of everyone involved.

“We are very grateful to have the generous support of our main sponsor, Skills Development Scotland, and to: Aberdeenshire Council, BAGMA, Buccleuch, Carrs Billington, Easterton Stables, Elspeth Watson, George Linton Memorial Trust, Marine Harvest, National Farmers Union Scotland, Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland, Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, the Scottish Forest & Timber Technologies Skills Group, Scottish Sea Farms, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Qualifications Authority, the Scottish Salmon Company, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation and SRUC.

“Thanks also to the independent judging panel, chaired by Ray Jones, formerly of Scotland Food & Drink, and to our host for the evening, Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland”.

To find out more about the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards 2017, visit call 01738 310164 or e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Lantra Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government.


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