Horticulturist Colin McKnight wins professional of the year 2017

Horticulturist Colin McKnight has won the Northern Ireland Civil Service Professional of the Year Award 2017.

The CAFRE Horticulture lecturer who is an expert in landscape construction scooped the top award in the Northern Ireland Civil Service-wide competition for the international success he has achieved with his young students.

Twenty-nine-year-old Colin, who has worked at Greenmount Campus, CAFRE for five years said: “I am delighted to receive this amazing honour and thrilled that horticulture, and in particular landscape design and construction, is being increasingly recognised as a rewarding profession.

“I hope my award helps raise the profile of the industry and the many fantastic career choices it offers to students.”

As well as being a horticulture lecturer Colin was until recently Training Manager for the Worldskills Landscape Gardening Squad and Team. Worldskills is the world’s largest international skills competition and Colin led two successive UK teams to win a Silver Medal in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 2015 and a Gold Medal at EuroSkills 2016 in Gothenburg, Sweden.

“The teams, including some CAFRE graduates, have achieved great success competing against the best in the world. To the students it is more than a competition – it’s their opportunity to show the world just how skilled we are as a profession and as a nation. CAFRE graduate Adam Ferguson has recently secured a place in Team UK for the 2017 world final in Abu Dhabi in October,” added Colin.

Paul Mooney, CAFRE’s Head of Horticulture said: “I’m very proud of Colin and his success. He is very deserving of the award and recognition of his work and the success he has achieved with our horticulture students.

“People often don’t realise that there is so much to horticulture. There are so many different aspects from art and design, science, technology and business to heritage and conservation, leisure, sport, and health. Horticulture offers rewarding and varied careers that impact so much of our modern world.

“Colin is one of my expert team of horticulture staff at Greenmount and it has given me great satisfaction to see them raise the standard of students’ landscape construction skills through our involvement with the Worldskills Organisation.

“Skilled landscape contractors are in demand and there are also opportunities for capable students to develop their own businesses; just as Jonathan Gill has done following his success in Brazil. Colin has led UK teams to amazing success in recent years and I am delighted to see his work recognised with this Professional of the Year Award,” Paul concluded.

For more information on CAFRE courses and careers in horticulture, visit the College website: www.cafre.ac.uk or come along to one of the Walled Garden Open Weekends or Careers Advice evenings.