Juanita and Beth with Bertie the goat

An animal care centre has found a new member of staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to Lantra Scotland’s new skills matching service.

Mossburn community farm near Lockerbie was set up in 1990 to provide help for horses and ponies, and now cares for a wide range of other animals as well, including guinea pigs, goats, cattle and even emus. 

It’s run by Juanita Wilson MBE, who explains what her experience of using the Skills Matching Service was like:

“The very worst thing that could happen right at this moment would be for either of my regular staff to get the COVID-19 virus, as I am still recovering from a hip operation. 

“So I signed up for the Lantra scheme, and it didn’t take long before they matched us up with someone.

“It was all very simple, and after I called the potential employee, Beth, to check that she had been taking all due precautions against catching the virus herself, she was here within a week. 

“It was totally free and has made a huge difference to us. Beth is an animal care student and delighted with the opportunity to get work experience. She is getting on well with everybody and working very hard, staying with us in a mobile home on site, and making sure she keeps up with her coursework.

“She has learned very quickly what we do, so instead of the other girls not getting finished at night until later on, they are now finishing promptly at 5 o’clock thanks to Beth’s input. 

“For anybody who is land-based and needs any form of help in finding staff at the moment, contact Lantra and ask because it has been a very efficient service.”

Beth Black, the new member of staff, is an animal care student from Dundee who was doing an HND in Animal Care at the Arbroath Campus of Dundee and Angus College.

She explained why she applied for Lantra’s service:

“I don’t like sitting around doing nothing, so I was getting really stressed just being in the house during lockdown. I like being out and doing something. It took me a while to pick up everything at the centre, but now I know what I’m doing its going well.

“My daily tasks are feeding the animals, cleaning out their beds, taking the horses to the various fields and paddocks and just making sure that the animals are really well looked after and happy.

“I am kind of a city girl, but have always been passionate about animal care, so it’s great to be getting practical experience out in the countryside with animals at the moment, especially with some species that are new to me, including the emus.

“Just being able to help keep things going is important.

“Later this year I’ve got a job lined up in England, near where I’m going to be studying, so I’ll be going down there once the lockdown is over.

“It was very easy to sign up for the Lantra service and I’d say that if people are bored and sat at home looking for something to do then they should give it a go and see what’s out there.”

The free service is being supported by the Scottish Government to help the rural economy during the COVID-19 pandemic, and looks at the skills and experience of potential employees, before putting them in touch with relevant employers.

if you think you or your business could benefit from taking part, visit the Skills Matching Service online or call Lantra Scotland on 01738 310164.

You can listen to Juanita and Beth tell their own stories in our podcast.