Cameron Barker adds “UK Top Student” to his impressive list of accolades. The 20-year-old Myerscough student swept away the competition to take the top honours, earning himself and his college a cash prize and tickets to the BALI National Landscape Awards.
As most readers will be aware, The BALI Chalk Fund runs a range of initiatives to support and inspire students to both join Land Based Courses and excel once enrolled. One such initiative is the Top Student Award.
Each year, all 18 UK Land-based colleges that are members of BALI, are invited to select the top student from their landscape and horticulture courses, each submission earns that student a £100 cash prize. In addition, the top students from each college are judged against one and other for the national title and top prize of £500, in addition the college also receives £500.
Cameron is no stranger to success, having been awarded an APL “Rising Star” award, Lancashire Apprentice of the Year, and then went on to win Gold at the 2021 World Skills competition too. Whilst the judges were impressed with Cameron’s previous accolades, they also appreciated his commitment to the industry since working at a local nursery from the age of 14. At the time of his application, Cameron hadn’t completed his course due to COVID disruption, but scored an impressive “full-house” in his theory mocks!
Having worked at the nursery for 18 months, Cameron was feeling slightly frustrated at his lack of progression, so when he left school, he sought a new challenge. A chance encounter saw his father, a breakdown motor mechanic, rescuing a team from Steven Foxcroft Landscapes, they got talking and the rest, as they say, is history!
Cameron landed a fulltime position with the progressive landscape company, who, in conjunction with Landscape Architects “Garden Form” deliver high quality landscape services to discerning clients in the Northwest.
Foxcroft provided the opportunity that Cameron craved, and a training programme was established, which included Landscaping Level 2 at Myerscough College whist working full time.
Cameron says “I have learned so much and grown stronger in the process, before I joined Foxcroft Landscapes I was not being taught new skills, now I’m being supported at work and I’m always learning something new. I have not only developed landscape skills but personal skills too”.
Reading the above, one would think that life had been a breeze for this talented young man, but it turns out that Cameron has his challenges, but support from his employers, and his college, has seen him grow in confidence despite his Asperges Syndrome, a condition that affects social interaction and thinking patterns. Cameron says, “The apprenticeship has really allowed me to develop not only my landscape skills but has helped with my confidence and my disability, with the guidance of my course tutor and employer I have been able to accomplish things I previously could only have dreamed of, such as taking part in the 2021 World Skills Competition and gaining the Gold medal”.
On receiving his letter informing him of his success, Cameron said “Thank you, I’m over the moon with this award, what a year it has been for me, and I’m excited to be attending the BALI National Landscape Awards too, where I hope to meet fellow landscapers, some I know and some that are new to me as well. I intend to invest the £500 prize money into my new business, since my recent successes, I have had a quite a few requests for work and I have started CB Landscapes and carry out projects in my own time”.
In supporting Cameron’s application, Myerscough College work-based tutor Richard Heys said “Cam prides himself on his timekeeping and punctuality, he has a hunger to learn new skills and a real determination to succeed, and become the best he can be, always searching for the latest trends and developments in the landscape industry. Cameron has excellent personal skills and likes to problem solve any issues that arise on site, he’s always willing to help”
As you might expect for such an achiever, Cam is not resting on his laurels, he already has plans to get further training under his belt and gain further qualifications, targeting excavator training and Arboriculture qualifications next.
Cameron speaks highly of his employer who has supported him through such an exciting period, employer Steven Foxcroft says “Cameron is a top lad and he’s been a pleasure to support, we work on some complex projects which include detailed, bespoke elements and we try to expose Cam to these as much as possible to speed up his development, he’s really enthusiastic and a key part of our small, highly skilled team, I couldn’t be happier for him to have been recognised in this way”.
Chair of the BALI Chalk fund judges Nick Coslet said “Cameron has already received well deserved recognition for his efforts, working with a local landscaper, he has developed a range of skills and knowledge having been involved in the industry since the age of 14. Cameron has been well supported by both college and employer and we wish him every success in the future”.