A group of pupils from Ballymena Academy were Runners-up at the ABP Angus Youth Challenge finalist programme awards ceremony which was held recently in the Logan Hall, Balmoral Park. Their research assignment explored ‘future-proofing beef farming through technology’.
Meanwhile, the team from Castle Tower school in Ballymena and their teacher received a Highly Commended award for how they brought their passion for farming to life.
Two pupils were also singled out for individual awards - Jessica Livingstone from Ballymena Academy was given a Judges’ Special Merit Award and Ruth Sheppard from Magherafelt High School won the award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual.
The Minister for Education, Michelle McIlveen MLA attended the event as Guest of Honour.
In her speech she congratulated the award winners and all the finalists for completing their 18-month agri-skills development programme.
The Minister said: “The ABP Angus Youth Challenge is a wonderful example of school/employer engagement and activity.
“It demonstrates a shared interest in, and shared responsibility for, the future of the young people involved. Through collaboration there is a mutual benefit for both the young people and for employers who share their expertise with the future workforce. I have no doubt that the ABP Angus Youth Challenge has and will continue to enhance the learning experiences and employability skills of the young people involved.”
A collaboration between ABP and the Northern Irish Angus Producer Group, the competition has been running for over five years. A programme for teenagers interested in agriculture and the beef supply chain, it offers participants an opportunity to experience the dynamics of beef production from farm-gate to supermarket shelf, interact with ABP employees and find out about ABP’s circular economy business model. The competition attracts entries from students from agricultural and non-agricultural backgrounds.
Initial team entries are screened and then a shortlist competes at an exhibition in front of an independent panel of judges. The four teams with the most marks become finalists. The finalist experience entails rearing a prize mini-herd of Angus cross calves through to beef, selling them to ABP for a financial reward and completing a detailed farm-to-fork research assignment with the assistance of a College of Agriculture and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) mentor. Finalists also benefit from training in presentation and communications skills and first hand insights into ABP’s circular economy business model. One overall winning team receives £1,000 for their school/club/society.
Presenting this years winning team - Omagh Academy - with a cheque for £1,000 for their school, Managing Director of ABP in Northern Ireland, George Mullan said: “We introduced the ABP Angus Youth Challenge so that young people could gain skills and a practical experience of our sector. Notwithstanding the pandemic, we were determined that the ABP Angus Youth Challenge would continue to nurture the skills and experience necessary for the world of work.”
Twenty-two new teams from 14 post primary schools were also in attendance at the Logan Hall to compete for a place in the next finalist programme. They had to exhibit their ideas to an independent panel of agri-food and education professionals. The displays ranged from carbon sequestration and soil health to medical applications of animal by-products and the nutritional comparisons of a vegan versus a flexitarian diet. The teams that go through to the next stage will be announced next month.
George Mullan, added: “ABP is delighted to have a record number of new teams enter the Challenge this year. Their interest is a strong signal of the value they, their teachers and parents see in the competition as a enhancement to their studies.”