Learner of the year award finalists

A select group of the country’s top trainees have been named as finalists in Lantra Scotland’s much-anticipated Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills (the ALBAS).

The talented apprentices and trainees who have made the shortlist will find out if they have won at a prestigious gala dinner and award ceremony on Thursday 5th March at the Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro.

Lantra Scotland is the sector skills council for land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries, and the awards play a vital role in promoting careers within the rural sector, celebrating the achievements of learners and highlighting the importance to employers of investing in skills.

MC and host for the evening will be well-known Perthshire farmer and stand-up comedian, Jim Smith.

There are categories for the agriculture, aquaculture, equine, horticulture, game and wildlife, trees and timber, land-based engineering and environmental conservation industries, as well as Higher Education, Rural Schools, Modern Apprentice of the Year, CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies) and a new Partnership Working Award.

The CARAS Award was established by the UK’s four national agricultural societies, including the Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland (RHASS). It aims to recognise, through an awards scheme, distinguished achievements in agriculture and related land-based industries. RHASS also supports an award for secondary schools.

The Tam Tod Trophy will be awarded in association with Countryside Learning Scotland to an outstanding young learner. The trophy was created in memory of the late Tam Tod, described as a well-loved gamekeeper, ghillie and lifelong friend of the countryside.

Jean’s Jam Award will also be making a return. The award recognises an inspiring mentor, teacher or trainer and was donated by training instructor Elspeth Watson in memory of her friend, Jean Costello.

The highlight of the evening will be the announcement of the Learner of the Year Overall Winner. This goes to an outstanding trainee who has demonstrated exceptional ability, hard work and a passion for their industry.

The finalists for the 2020 ALBAS were chosen by an independent judging panel made up of influential figures from across the land-based and aquaculture sector and chaired by agriculture and rural affairs journalist Erika Hay.

The finalists for the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards 2020 are:

  • Alexander Austin, aged 18 from Dumfries, who has been doing an apprenticeship in trees and timber with Forestry and Land Scotland through SRUC.
  • Caroline von Linden, aged 40 from Maybole, Ayrshire, who has been doing an Equido Level Four qualification through Ross Dhu Equestrian Ltd.
  • Charlie Blance, aged 20 from Methven, Perthshire, who did an HNC in Gamekeeping and Wildlife Management through Borders College then worked at Dunan Estate in Pitlochry.
  • Euan Sneddon, aged 18 from Newton Stewart, has been doing an apprenticeship in Trees and Timber SVQ Level 5 with Forestry and Land Scotland through SRUC.
  • Gavin Elrick, aged 22 from Westhill, Aberdeen, who has been doing an SVQ in Land-based Engineering (Ground Care Machinery) with Fairways Groundcare through SRUC.
  • Greig Lambie, aged 20 from Strathaven, has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Landbased Engineering (Agricultural Machinery) with Daniel Ross Engineering Ltd in Lanark through SRUC.
  • Hanna Rennie, aged 27 from Stirling, who has been doing an HNC in Countryside Management with SRUC.
  • Jack Young, aged 19 from Crossford, Carluke, who did an HND in Agriculture with SRUC and now works for WG Young at Overton Farm.
  • Javin Hannah, aged 24 from Newton Stewart, has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in trees and timber with Forestry and Land Scotland through SRUC.
  • Jimmy Dakin, aged 32 from Sandy, Orkney, who has been doing an SVQ with Scottish Sea Farms through NAFC Marine Centre UHI.
  • John MacPherson, aged 23 from Portree, Isle of Skye, who has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Aquaculture with Grieg Seafood Shetland Ltd through Inverness College UHI.
  • Karen McDonald, aged 26 from Peterculter, Aberdeen, who has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Trees and Timber with Forestry and Land Scotland through the Scottish School of Forestry.
  • Laura Graham, aged 20 from Cumbernauld, who has been studying for a Higher National Diploma in Equine Studies at SRUC.
  • Lawrence Martin, aged 30 from Tillicoultry, who has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Agriculture with Carbeth home farm at Balfron through SRUC.
  • Lee McPherson, aged 49 from Edinburgh, who has been doing an SVQ in Parks, Garden and Green Spaces with East Lothian Council through SRUC.
  • Michael McLeod, aged 19 from Dornoch, who has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Land-based Engineering (Agricultural Machinery) with Robertsons of Tain through SRUC.
  • Ross Yuile, aged 25 from Glasgow, who has been studying for an HNC in Horticulture with Glasgow Clyde College.
  • Shaun MacLeod, aged 17 from Urquhart, Elgin, who has been doing an SVQ in Livestock with Matheson's Ltd through SRUC.
  • Stewart Sloss, aged 20 from Tomatin, Inverness, who has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship in Gamekeeping with Coignafearn Estate through North Highland College UHI.
  • Valentina Romano, aged 29 from Brechin, who has been doing a Technical Apprenticeship in Aquaculture Management at Dawnfresh Seafoods through NAFC Marine Centre UHI.
  • Xavio Vastano, aged 15 from Kincraig, who has been doing an NPA Level 5 Rural Skills focussed on gamekeeping through Kingussie High School.

Liz Barron-Majerik, Director of Lantra Scotland commented: “I’m delighted to announce the finalists for our 2020 Awards for Land-based and Aquaculture Skills, the ALBAS. As well as playing a key role in promoting the importance of gaining qualifications and developing skills, for trainees and employers, the ALBAS showcase the achievements of new entrants and career changers in our sector. All those nominated, whether finalists or not, should be extremely proud of this recognition, and we look forward to celebrating their success at our ceremony in the DoubleTree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro on Thursday 5th March. We are very grateful to the independent panel of judges, to training providers and to the employers for contributions, and of course to all of our generous event sponsors.”

Erika Hay, chair of the independent judging panel, said: “I know I speak on behalf of all the ALBAS judges when I say we continue to be extremely impressed with the high quality of the nominees. We always find it really rewarding meeting them and finding out more about their inspirational stories. Getting to this stage reflects the high value we place on them as representatives of their industries. It’s gratifying to see the breadth of talent and enthusiasm coming through across Scotland, as it can only be good news for the future of our rural sector.”

Since the awards were launched in 2004, there have been over 1000 nominees and 300 finalists.

Tickets for the evening are available from Lantra on 01738 310164 or scotland@lantra.co.uk.

Lantra’s work in Scotland is supported by the Scottish Government.