9 January 1998

Have you got what it takes?

YOURE in the farm office. Two phones are ringing, a lorry drivers getting impatient outside, the subsidy forms need returning, the tenancy agreement needs checking. Oh, and the boss wants those letters typed before lunchtime. Know the feeling?

If so, and you could handle it, then you could be the 1998 Farm Secretary of the Year.

Its not an easy job. Farm secretaries nowadays have to be comfortable with the latest legislation, as well as having a broad technical grasp of farming. They have a direct influence on the success of the business. In short, they are the farmers "right-hand man".

The 1998 Farm Secretary of the Year competition aims to identify people with these skills. People who know the ins-and-outs of a busy farm office. People equipped to face the challenges that agriculture throws at them.

If you think it could be you, then this competition is for you.

All you have to do is answer the first-round question (in bullet point format, on two sides of A4 paper or less), fill in the entry form below and return it to the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators, together with your CV.

A shortlist of applicants will then be selected, who will be asked to submit a further written paper in late March/early April.

The final winners will then be chosen after a session in an outdoor training centre in southern England in June. As last year, when this session in the woods was introduced, were not looking for a Sally Gunnell or Arnold Schwarzenegger. But we will be looking for initiative, leadership skills and determination.

And, if the feedback from last years finalists is anything to go by, even the unsuccessful candidates will find the day immensely rewarding.

The competition is divided into three categories:

&#8226 The senior award – for full- and part-time secretaries currently working in the industry. The prize in this section is £500 from Lloyds Bank, a selection of Farmplan computer software and a years subscription to the Royal Agricultural Society of England.

&#8226 The Mary Collins Award – for students under 21-years-old on Feb 28, 1998. The prize money here is £100.

&#8226 The mature student award, for students 21 or over on Feb 28, 1998, with prize money of £125.

All section winners and runners-up will also get a Black Horse trophy from Lloyds Bank at a special awards ceremony at next Julys Royal Show at Stoneleigh.

Entrants may be self-nominated or put forward by their employers. And remember, employers, if you nominate one of the winners, therell be a bottle of champagne for you, too.

&#8226 The closing date for entries is Feb 28, 1998.

Trust me…Im a farm secretary. Running any business depends on teamwork, and this is one of the qualities judges will be looking for when finalists for the 1998 Farm Secretary of the Year competition assemble at a woodland training centre next June. Closing date for Round 1 of the competition is Feb 28.

RULES

1: Entrants must be bona-fide farm secretaries working either full or part-time in Great Britain or students taking an agricultural course here (full or part-time), whether or not they have entered the competition before.

2: The competition will be run in three sections, the senior award for the Farm Secretary of the Year, the Mary Collins Award for the best student under 21 years on the closing date for entries, and the Mature Student Award for the best of those over 21 years.

3: Complete the entry form in ink, clearly indicating which section you wish to enter, enclosing a copy of your Curriculum Vitae plus the reply to the first round question in bullet-point format on A4 paper. Please state if you have a particular area of specialisation (for example, dairy industry, horticulture etc). To arrive no later than Feb 28, 1998.

Details to be included in the Curriculum Vitae:

– The names and addresses of two referees (one work reference, one character reference).

– Senior category – details of current and past work undertaken, and any other relevant information – for example, on-going training, career aspirations etc.

– Mary Collins category – what sort of work you would like to do once you have completed your course. Plus details of any vacational/pre-college employment.

– Mature Student category – As for Mary Collins category, but also why you decided to retrain, if applicable, as a farm secretary.

4: Best first round entrants will be asked to complete a further written paper in March/April.

5: Successful entrants will be asked to attend the final selections at the Lasham Woodland Training Centre in Hampshire on Fri, June 12, 1998.

At the Training Centre entrants will be given a range of team tasks to complete, plus an individual discussion with the judges, and a case study on administration skills.

6: The winners will be announced at a reception hosted by Lloyds Bank at the Royal Show on Monday, July 6, 1998.

7: All judges will be appointed by the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators, Lloyds Bank and FARMERS WEEKLY. All referees may be contacted.

8: Standard class return rail fares or mileage expenses will be paid for those attending the final selections.

9: All entries will be acknowledged, but no entries will be accepted after the closing date. No responsibility will be accepted for entries delayed or lost in the post or otherwise. Proof of posting will not be accepted as proof of delivery.

10: The decision of the judges will be final and no communication will be entered into.

ROUND 1 QUESTION

"How are farm assurance and traceability schemes going to affect the work of the farm secretary? What will you do to ensure that the paperwork runs smoothly and efficiently?"

* Answers in bullet point format on a maximum two sides of A4 paper.