Winners celebrated at Lantra Scotland's Learner of the Year Awards

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The talents of the country’s top land-based and aquaculture trainees and Modern Apprentices were celebrated last night (Thursday 7th March) 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 DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Dunblane Hydro to take part in Lantra’s largest awards’ ceremony yet.

Host and main speaker for the evening was well-known Perthshire farmer and stand-up comedian, Jim Smith, who went on to present the winners and runners-up awards for agriculture, animal care, aquaculture, environmental conservation, equine, horticulture, game and wildlife, land-based engineering and trees and timber categories. Animal care is a new category introduced this year.

In addition, there were prizes for the CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies) Awards, Higher Education, School Pupil, Secondary Schools, Jean’s Jam and the Tam Tod Trophy. 

Guests also heard from Megan Rowland, Winner of the Game and Wildlife category and Overall Winner in 2018, who is also a Lantra Scotland Industry Champion.

Highlight of the evening was the announcement of the Overall Winner, an honour shared by two people for the first time. They were 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. Amy 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!"

Janis Brivkalns, aged 34 from Dunoon, has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Aquaculture with The Scottish Salmon Company through Inverness College UHI. The standard of his work has been excellent and he is an inspiration to others. He has overcome many hurdles to become an established and valued member of the production team.

Janis said: “It’s great to be recognised like this, and winning these awards is incredible. I hope this will help me progress within the company and the industry I love so much. I’m very grateful to my tutors at Inverness College UHI and my employers at the Scottish Salmon Company for all their support.”

Award nominator Martin Sampson from Inverness College UHI said: “Janis thoroughly deserves to be rewarded for all his hard work. Embarking on a new career path in a different country isn’t easy, but he moved rapidly through the course, developing and adapting his knowledge and skills to help his team to produce an exceptional crop of fish. Janis’ work has been completed to an excellent standard and he is an inspiration to others.”

The four winners of the prestigious CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies) awards were: Amy Park, Erica Taylor, Harry Hamlin-Wright and Isla Campbell.

Andrew Richardson, originally from the Isle of Skye, was the winner of the Higher Education Award. The 26-year-old has been doing an Erasmus Mundus joint Masters degree in Aquaculture, Environment and Society through the Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI in Oban. As well as excelling on his course, he was recently elected as one of only two national coordinators in Scotland for the European Aquaculture Society Student Group, and is an active member of the Sustainable Oceans Alliance.

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 & 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. 

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 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.

Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards 2019, winners and runners-up:

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

•    Modern Apprentice of the Year
o    Janis Brivkalns

•    Agriculture Learner of the Year
o    Winner: Amy Park
o    Runner-up: Louise Main

•    Animal Care Learner of the Year
o    Winner: Lauren Attwood
o    Runner-up: Stuart Hynds

•    Aquaculture Learner of the Year
o    Winner: Janis Brivkalns
o    Runner-up: Billy Welsh

•    Environmental Conservation Learner of the Year 
o    Winner: Luke Taylor
o    Runner-up: Ceara Marie Law

•    Equine Learner of the Year 
o    Winner: Aimee MacRae
o    Runner-up: Lauryn Penman
o    
•    Game and Wildlife Learner of the Year 
o    Winner: Cameron MacLean
o    Runner-up: Andy Oldham

•    Horticulture Learner of the Year 
o    Winner: Tyler Tovey
o    Joint Runner-up: Calum Melrose and Ross Yuile

•    Land-based Engineering Learner of the Year 
o    Winner: Don Martin
o    Runner-up: William Muir

•    Trees and Timber Learner of the Year
o    Winner: Kyle Baker
o    Runner-up: Jack Burton

•    Higher Education Learner of the Year
o    Winner: Andrew Richardson
o    Runner-up: Isla Campbell

•    Secondary Schools Award
o    Winner: Lockerbie Academy 
o    Runner-up: Nairn Academy

•    School Pupil Award 
o    Winner: Chloe Reid

•    CARAS Award Winners
o    Amy Park
o    Erica Taylor
o    Harry Hamlin-Wright
o    Isla Campbell

•    Jean’s Jam Award
o    Winner: Morag Higgins

•    Tam Tod Trophy
o    Winner: Toni Lamont

The 2019 Learner of the Year Awards were organised by Lantra Scotland, the sector skills council for the land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries. 

According to Liz Barron-Majerik, Director of Lantra Scotland, the awards are 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.

She continued: “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 & 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."

To find out more about Lantra Scotland’s Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards, visit www.scotland.lantra.co.uk/learner-year call 01738 310164 or email scotland@lantra.co.uk.