Resilient in challenging times

In their first week back at school, the teenagers taking part in the final stage of the ABP Angus Youth Challenge have been given a ‘behind-the-scenes’ insight into what it is like to work in agri-food.

Sunday, 28th March 2021, 7:54 am
Pictured from left is Omagh Academy Teacher Adele Lennox with her ABP Angus Youth Challenge team representing the school, James Fleming, Jill Liggett, Tori Robson, Joshua Keys and Allister Crawford
Pictured from left is Omagh Academy Teacher Adele Lennox with her ABP Angus Youth Challenge team representing the school, James Fleming, Jill Liggett, Tori Robson, Joshua Keys and Allister Crawford

The ‘Work Inspiration’ virtual event was hosted for them by ABP with the support of the College of Agriculture, Food and the Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) to overcome the challenges of face-to-face gatherings due to Covid-19 restrictions.

The General Manager of ABP UK, Ellesmere, Joe Murphy, guided them through the workings of one of Europe’s most sustainable and efficient beef processing sites. Originally from Co. Fermanagh, the pupils heard how Joe’s first job was as a production operative at the age of 17. Mairead McCullough, also from Northern Ireland, explained what it means to be a Technical Manager in the ABP Ellesmere site. The teenagers were also able to quiz an ABP HR Graduate and CAFRE on the various further education courses and pathways to employment in the sector.

CAFRE Director, Martin McKendry, said: “These are exceptional times but the fact ABP is prepared to deliver this programme despite the real difficulties experienced, demonstrates a real commitment to young people.”

Since last Autumn, each finalist team has been busy rearing their mini-herd of Angus cross calves, presented to them by ABP and the Northern Irish Angus Producer Group. They have also been assigned mentors from CAFRE to assist them in their research assignments on topics relating to a sustainable beef supply chain in Northern Ireland. Through these mentors, who are all beef advisors, they have been able to tap into CAFRE’s wider network of experts and learn more about topics such as food technology, animal health and carbon sequestration.

ABP has also moved its communications skills training for the finalists to online workshops to help the teenagers utilise digital communications for their projects and to overcome the difficulties presented by the Covid-19 pandemic.

This has already had an impact as Liam McCarthy, ABP’s Head of Supply Chain Development in Northern Ireland explained: “We are delighted with how each team has been applying their new skills. For example, Ballymena Academy’s team has had particular success on Instagram where they are currently utilising the platform to promote a questionnaire looking at on-farm technology. They have also created a blog to record their experience of participating in the Challenge.

“Omagh Academy’s team has been producing video diaries for Facebook on ‘farming during lockdown’ and have come up with a hashtag, #BestIntheWest, to promote their project. The team at Castle Tower School has featured on a national TV news programme. Some teams have been successful in securing secondary sponsorship to off-set the costs of rearing the calves.”

The schools currently taking part are:

Ballymena Academy - Assignment theme: Future-proofing beef farming through agri-technology

Cross and Passion College, Ballycastle - Assignment theme: Exploring the benefits of a holistic approach to animal performance; Mentor: Natasha Ferguson

Castle Tower School, Co. Antrim - Assignment theme: The Positive Impact of Farming & Agriculture on our Lives

Magherafelt High School - Assignment theme: Meeting expectations of consumers for a quality eating experience

Omagh Academy - Assignment theme: Explore the opportunities for a low carbon Angus beef brand for Northern Ireland.