Omagh Academy wins ABP Angus Youth Challenge

The 2020 ABP Angus Youth Challenge – a unique agri-skills development scheme – has been won by a team from Omagh Academy.

This is the first time in the history of the event that the  top prize has been secured by a school from Co. Tyrone.

Now in its fifth year, the competition requires participating schools to demonstrate a unique mix of business acumen, innovation and flair while, at the same time, getting the chance to actually own and rear Aberdeen Angus cattle.

ABP managing director for Northern Ireland, George Mullan said:

“The Angus Youth Challenge has been a tremendous success. Interest from schools wanting to participate  has grown year on year.

From the very outset, ABP recognised the value of the scheme to promote the potential for young people to get actively involved in production agriculture and the food processing industry.

“The scope of the career opportunities within both sectors continues to expand. The Angus Youth Challenge is also informing young consumers about the value of beef in a balanced diet,” he added.

ABP Angus Youth Challenge

ABP said that it introduced the Angus Youth Challenge so that young people could gain skills and a practical experience of the 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,” Mullan continued.

He made these comments while attending the recent prize giving for the Class of 2020 who were completing the competition.

The ABP Angus Youth Challenge represents a collaboration between ABP and the Northern Irish Angus Producer Group and the competition has been running for five years.

It is a unique programme for teenagers from across Northern Ireland , who are interested in agriculture and the beef supply chain.

It offers participants an opportunity to experience the dynamics of beef production from farmgate to supermarket shelf, interact with ABP employees and find out about ABP’s circular economy business model.

Significantly, the competition attracts student entries from agricultural and non-agricultural backgrounds.

Omagh Academy

The team from Omagh Academy comprised Joshua Keys, Tori Robinson, James Fleming, Jill Liggett and Allister Crawford. Their winning project was entitled: ‘Exploring the potential of a low carbon Angus beef brand’.

What made the presentation stand out was its analysis of the challenges to the climate posed by emissions, and its assessment of the steps farmers can take to mitigate the impact of livestock production to produce sustainable beef for consumers.

The Omagh team has been taking part in the ABP Angus Youth Challenge finalist programme since 2020 along with four other teams from Ballymena Academy; Castle Tower School, Ballymena; Cross and Passion Ballycastle; and Magherafelt High School.

A team from Ballymena Academy was deemed the runners-up in the 2020 competition. The members of that group explored the options of future-proofing beef production through technology.

Meanwhile, Castle Tower’s team and their teacher received a highly commended award for the ways in which they brought their passion for farming to life.

Two pupils were also singled out for individual awards. Ruth Sheppard from Magherafelt High School won the award for Outstanding Achievement by an Individual and Jessica Livingstone from Ballymena Academy was given a Judges’ Special Merit award.

Northern Ireland’s Minister for Education, Michelle McIlveen attended the recent 2020 awards event as guest of honour.

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,” the minister added.

A further 22 new teams from 14 post primary schools were also in attendance at the awards event to compete for a place in the next finalist programme.

They were exhibiting agri-food displays for an independent panel of agri-food and education professionals.