From education to employment

Trainees win at Lantra Scotland’s Learner of the Year Awards

Kieran Paxton (centre) and Robert Pickford (left) from Jedburgh and Reece McNaughton (right) from Kelso

Kieran Paxton (centre) and Robert Pickford (left) from Jedburgh and Reece McNaughton (right) from Kelso have won at Lantra Scotland’s annual Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards, which took place at Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro recently.

18-year-old Reece won the Horticulture category, and was also the Overall Runner-up for Land-based Learner of the Year, the second highest accolade of the evening. 19-year-olds Robert Pickford and Kiernan Paxton were both winners of the prestigious CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies) awards, while Kieran Paxton was also runner-up in the agriculture category.

Reece has been doing an SVQ Level 3 in Amenity Horticulture through Borders College, while working for Mertoun Estate Gardens. He has always had a passion for learning about horticulture and received the ‘Best Overall Schools Plus Student Award’ in 2014, as well as completing the Rural Skills Award in Horticulture. Reece joined Borders College full-time to complete an SVQ Level 1 and 2 in Horticulture, before going on to do an SVQ Level 3 in Parks, Garden and Green Spaces.

Reece said: “It’s great to win these award, a big thank you to everyone at Mertoun Estate Gardens, my tutors at Borders College and Lantra Scotland. Winning the horticulture category is one thing, but to be second overall is unbelievable. Winning will give me a lot of confidence and self -belief and I’m sure will help me get to where I want to be in my career.”

CARAS winner Robert Pickford has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Agriculture through Borders College, while working for TDC Thomson. He has also completed an NC in Agriculture and won a prize for being best practical student. Over the next few years, Robert would like to continue working at Caverton Mill Farm, developing his skills and taking on a managerial role. He has ambitions to explore new opportunities for the family farm, including diversification projects. 

Robert said: “I’m really honoured to win a CARAS award. I’d like to thank my employers at TDC Thomson and tutors at Borders College for putting me forward for an award, as well as all the support they’ve given me along the way. 12 months ago, I never thought I’d be standing here holding this trophy. It’s a great feeling.”

Agriculture runner-up Kieran Paxton has been doing an SVQ Level 3 in Mixed Farming through Borders College while working for WE Sanderson. His first experience of agriculture was when his family moved to the country and his mother got a job as housekeeper on a farm. Before long he was helping Neil Ralston at Edgerston Home Farm at nights and weekends. After school he applied for the NC in Agriculture at Borders College, before progressing onto the apprenticeship scheme.

Kiernan said: “I’d like to thank my tutors at Borders College and the guys at WE Sanderson, who have given me the chance to get some valuable work experience. Winning a Lantra Scotland and CARAS award is a great thing to have under your belt and I’m sure will help me in my chosen career.”

The 2018 Learner of the Year Awards were organised by Lantra Scotland, the sector skills council for the land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries, and saw more than 200 guests, including finalists and their families, event supporters, employers, training providers and industry leaders, take part in Lantra’s largest awards’ ceremony yet.

Emma Staniforth, a previous overall learner of the year winner, spoke about her experiences as one of Lantra’s industry champions. The keynote speech was given by Dougie Vipond, TV presenter of sports and outdoors programmes and Deacon Blue founder member and drummer. Dougie then presented prizes for the Higher Education Learner of the Year, the Secondary Schools Award, CARAS winners, Jean’s Jam Award and the Tam Tod Trophy.

This was followed by winners and runners-up awards for agriculture, aquaculture, equine, horticulture, game and wildlife, land-based engineering, trees and timber, fisheries management and environmental conservation categories.

The evening ended with awards for Modern Apprentice of the Year, for the Overall Runner-up and finally for the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner Year Overall Winner.

According to Kevin Patrick, Director of Lantra Scotland, the awards play a vital role in celebrating the achievements of trainees within Scotland’s rural sector, as well as encouraging employers to invest in the next generation of talent.

He continued: “Our awards highlight the incredible people, the great work they do and the career opportunities within Scotland’s land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries.

“We are also very grateful to have the support of a range of people and organisations who make holding an event like this possible, including Skills Development Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council, ABP Food Group, BAGMA, Countryside Learning Scotland, Easterton Stables, Elspeth Watson, George Linton Memorial Trust, National Farmers Union Scotland, Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland, Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, Scottish Forest and Timber Technologies, Scottish Land and Estates, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Qualifications Authority, Scottish Salmon Company, Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation and SRUC. Lantra Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government.

“Thanks also to the independent judging panel comprising: Ray Jones (Chair), Former Chairman of Scotland Food & Drink; Lisa Connell of The Scottish Salmon Company; Rebecca Dawes of Jane Craigie Marketing; Erika Hay, Journalist and Consultant; Keith Paterson of Forestry Commission Scotland, and Keith Redpath of Redpath Farms.”

To find out more about the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards, visit  call 01738 310164 or email [email protected].

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