0 Search begins for top Scottish land-based learners

Calum MacLeod, Maureen Watt MSP and Barrie Lewis.jpgAs the search begins to find Scotland's Land-based Learners of the Year for 2008, four previous winners from Oatridge College in West Lothian have been talking of how the award, from Lantra, the Sector Skills Council for environmental and land-based industries, has boosted their careers and personal confidence.

The farmer, the farrier, the greenkeeper and the agricultural engineer who claimed the top awards as students between 2004 and 2007 are all urging employers and training providers to nominate their best employees or students who have shown outstanding commitment to training through their hard work and determination.

Farmer Colin Inglis, from Fife, who was the first of "four-in-a-row" students from Oatridge to win the overall title of Scottish Land-based Learner of the Year, in 2004, says: "It gave me a huge lift and really boosted my confidence." The prize money has helped him add to his own small herd of cattle and at work he was appointed assistant manager, soon after winning the award.

Farrier Sarah Mary Brown, from Giffnock near Glasgow, won the title in 2005. She says: "It was great honour to win it and because of the publicity which followed, everywhere I went people recognised me." Sarah qualified soon after her success and fulfilled an ambition to travel to Canada and the United States to look at farriery there. On her return, one of her first freelance jobs, in Shetland, came directly through her employer reading about her Lantra success on the internet. She now runs her own successful business at Penrith, but will move soon to join her boyfriend, another farrier, in his business at Scotch Corner.

Greenkeeper Barrie Lewis, from Bridgend in West Lothian, lifted the title in 2006 and he says: "It has really helped my career, having such an accolade on my CV, and it gave been a huge confidence boost. It has a lot to do with me getting my present promoted post as assistant head greenkeeper at Kingsfield Golf Club and Driving Range at Linlithgow, where I have been working on the development of the new course."

Last year's winner, agricultural engineer Calum MacLeod, from Fife, says: "I'm still surprised that I was chosen, but it was a big honour and it did a lot for my confidence. I'm still meeting people who've read about me in the press." Calum qualified soon after his success and has since taken charge of the workshops at George Sellar and Son in Edinburgh, where he works. The cash prize helped him customise his Ford Fiesta ST car which in turn won him a prize from the Owners' Club!

The number of nominations received by Lantra last year was double on the previous year, and had a prize pool of £3,800. This year Lantra are hoping for even more nominations.

Entrants throughout Scotland are invited to compete for 14 titles. Prize categories include 'Overall Winner Scottish Land-based Learner of the Year', 'Higher Education Learner of the Year', 'Modern Apprentice of the Year', as well as the Skills for Work and Scottish Progression Awards.

David James, Principal of Oatridge College supports the awards, which are sponsored by prestigious organizations, employers and individual farmers, says:

"Oatridge College is delighted to once again support the Lantra Scottish Land-based Learner of the Year Awards as a sponsor. We believe that it very important to recognise the outstanding achievements of those undertaking land-based education and training, not only here at Oatridge College, but with other providers across Scotland."

Lantra's National Director for Scotland, Willie Fergusson comments: "The awards provide a wonderful opportunity for employees and students to be recognised for all their hard work and commitment to working in land-based industries. Previous winners have shown initiative in meeting challenges and an enthusiasm for the exciting and valuable career opportunities that now exist in the land-based sector. "

Successful nominees attend an informal interview with a panel of independent judges. Winners and finalists are announced at an awards ceremony held on the 26 February 2009. The closing date for nominations is Friday 14 November 2008.

Contact Lantra now for more information on 01738 553311 or view the website at www.lantra.co.uk/scotland where nomination forms can be completed online.

Lantra is working with businesses across the land-based and environmental sector to help ensure they can access the right training and development opportunities. For more information on their work in Scotland, please call Anne Haskell on 01738 553311 or email anne.haskell@lantra.co.uk

More information on Oatridge College is available at www.oatridge.ac.uk

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