Top skill award for gardener

A Shetland gardener is one of the winners of an awards scheme organised by LANTRA, the sector skills council for environmental and land-based industries.

Michael Balmain was presented with a special award, the Land-based Learner of the Year Steering Group Award for Endeavour, in recognition of “outstanding commitment to training and development”.

Michael started his apprenticeship with Shetland Amenity Trust in 2004 and has recently completed his SVQ Level 3 and Modern Apprenticeship in Amenity Horticulture. He was nominated by both Elmwood Col­lege and Train Shetland.

He attended Elmwood College for four years on block release, which was organised and co-ordinated by Train Shetland. He is presently working as a gardener specialising in arboriculture and is currently studying for the Royal Forestry Society Certificate in arboriculture.

His tutors at Elmwood College were impressed by Michael as he travelled from Shetland no matter what the weather conditions and from the beginning he threw himself into the spirit of the course. He was a very dedicated and exceptional student.

Through Train Shetland, Michael has given school talks and taken part in a DVD to promote apprentice­ships.

Michael said: “I put 100 per cent into my job – I don’t see why I should do anything less. I love my job and I have a first-hand role in helping the environment. It is excellent.

“I thoroughly recommend apprenticeships – it’s getting paid to learn. I would like to do more to promote this. It’s been a fantastic four years, an ideal opportunity to learn a trade and get qualifications at the same time.”

Shetland Amenity Trust wood­lands project officer James Mackenzie said: “I am delighted that Michael has received this award.” Sixty people had been nominated for the LANTRA awards, and the winners were presented with their certificates at a ceremony in the Crieff Hydro hotel last Thursday, attended by Scottish rural affairs minister Richard Lochhead.


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