A YOUNG Shetlander who used a modern apprenticeship to achieve her dream of working on a local farm has been recognised as a finalist in the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards.
Julie-Ann Murray is now trusted to be left in charge of 1,000 sheep and is said to be so capable at her job that her employer has had her first holiday in five years.
The 21-year-old had been desperate to stay on the islands and work with animals but faced a lack of opportunities, whilst going to college on the mainland came with extra cost.
But the ex-Brae High School pupil, of North Roe, persevered and is now building her ideal career after her neighbour Pat Johnson offered her a job as an agriculture modern apprentice.
Julie-Ann said: “Doing a full-time course would have meant being off the island for long periods, but we live on a croft and I didn’t want to leave everything for my dad to do. I also have my two dogs and a horse to look after.
“A full-time college course meant paying for accommodation and travel which is very expensive, so it didn’t work for me.
“The modern apprenticeship allows me to do what I love, gain experience and a qualification, and be more financially independent.
“I heard about modern apprenticeships from a Skills Development Scotland careers adviser at school and she put me in touch with the learning provider.”
Julie-Ann attends SRUC Barony Campus in Dumfries for five weeks a year and is progressing to a Level 6 Modern Apprenticeship.
Her jobs on farm also include repairing fences and driving tractors and quad bikes.
She quickly learned the signs of sickness in the animals and how to treat them, saving some from serious illness, and plays a key role working around the clock during lambing season.
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Employer Pat Johnson said: “Julie-Ann’s youth and enthusiasm gives everybody a lift and she brings in fresh ideas.
“I was able to go on holiday for the first time in five years, confident that all the work would be done properly and the animals well looked after, thanks to Julie-Ann. She is a real asset.”
UHI Shetland vocational training coordinator Janice Leask said: “Julie-Ann’s confidence has really improved throughout her Modern Apprenticeship and she has gained important life skills.”
After deciding not to leave the island, Julie-Ann explored other qualification routes including modern apprenticeships with Skills Development Scotland careers adviser Alison Shearer.
She linked Julie-Ann up with the training provider and helped her explore whether the employer she had identified was the right one for her, as well as helping with her career management and confidence skills through five contacts while at school.
Modern Apprenticeships are jobs open to anyone aged 16 and over who wants to work, learn and earn.
Apprentices spend most of their time learning in the workplace while being supported by a local college or specialist training provider to gain an industry recognised qualification.
Julie-Ann’s achievements have led to her being a finalist in the Scottish Apprenticeship Awards in the Modern Apprentice of the Year – SCQF Level 5 category.
The awards are set to take place during Scottish Apprenticeship Week from 6-10 March.
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