A landscaper and WorldSkills landscape team coach has been named the top civil servant in Northern Ireland, after he helped students on the road to international success.
CAFRE horticulture lecturer Colin McKnight has won the Northern Ireland Civil Service Professional of the Year Award 2017. The 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.
Greenmount Campus-based Knight recently stepped down as training manager for the WorldSkills Landscape Gardening Squad and Team. During his period in charge, he 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.
His CAFRE students have also had WorldSkills success and CAFRE graduate Adam Ferguson is one of the members of Team UK for the 2017 world final in Abu Dhabi in October.
McKnight 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."
He praised the WorldSkills’ teams for their "great success"
"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 head of horticulture Paul Mooney 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."
He added that skilled landscape contractors are currently in demand whether they decide to work for others or set up their own businesses.