Reece McNaughton, an 18-year-old apprentice from Kelso, has won the Horticulture category at Lantra Scotland’s annual Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards, which took place at Doubletree by Hilton Dunblane Hydro last night. Reece was also Overall Runner-up for the Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year, the second highest accolade of the night Wednesday 28 March. The horticulture category runner-up spot went to 22-year-old Jennifer Wright from Dunfermline.
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 awards, so 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.”
Jennifer has just completed a Modern Apprenticeship in Parks, Gardens and Green Spaces with SRUC, while working for the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. She has regularly volunteered at a number of National Trust for Scotland sites, including the gardens at Culross Palace and Edinburgh Zoo. She is currently training with the Professional Garden Guild Traineeship (PGGT). As part of her PGGT course, Jennifer will get the choice to work at three of the UK’s most prestigious gardens, which may include Buckingham Palace, Chatsworth and Abbotswood Garden.
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 www.lantra.co.uk/scotland/land-based-and-aquaculture-learner-year call 01738 310164 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.