6 December 1996

OUTDOOR ROAD TO TOP SPOT

The Farm Secretary of the Year competition is entering its 16th year. As previous winners have found out, the rewards of taking the title go way beyond the actual prizes on offer. But this year we have revamped the format so that contestants can benefit just by taking part

BEING a top farm secretary is not easy.

Of course there is a need to be technically competent. She, (or he), needs to be well-educated in the ins and outs of running a farm office – from filling out VAT returns and sorting out wages, to completing subsidy claim forms and matching cash flow to budgets.

But there is much more to it than that. The secretary must be independent enough to work unsupervised, yet flexible enough to deal with the unexpected. She must be able to get on with other people, but remain discreet when it comes to her employers business. Above all, she must be able to stay cool in a crisis and take responsibility if the farmer is not on hand to give instruction.

The 1997 Farm Secretary of the Year competition seeks to test all these attributes with a wholly new approach by the organisers.

The first stage involves sending us the completed entry form on this page, together with a copy of your CV and your answer to the first round question above (in bullet point format on up to two sides of A4 paper).

From this we will select a short list of finalists, who will be asked to submit a further written paper in February.

For the final stage, we have decided to get out of the interview room and take to the woods. The venue will be an outdoor training centre set in 200 acres of mature woodland in the south of England. Qualified instructors will take the finalists through a number of tasks, designed to test for leadership, teamwork and motivation.

The activities are not physically demanding, but do reveal much about the individuals character. They also facilitate both personal and group development, so everyone should benefit from the experience, even if they do not emerge as an eventual winner.

While the format is new, the categories remain the same:

&#8226 The senior award, for full- and part-time secretaries currently working in the industry. Total prize money 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 on Jan 31, 1997, with prize money of £125.

&#8226 The mature student award, for students over 21 on Jan 31, 1997, with prize money of £100.

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. But as most past winners will testify, it is the kudos of winning the competition which is the greatest reward.

Entrants may be self-nominated, or else put forward by their employers. Anyone who nominates a winner will also receive a bottle of champagne from the sponsors.

&#8226 Closing date for entries is Jan 31, 1997.

If you go down to the woods today….. Walking the plank blindfold is just one of the surprises for contestants who make it to the final day at the woodland training centre.

Round 1 question

"What are the main challenges facing the UK farming industry as the millennium approaches?"

&#8226 Answers in bullet point format on a maximum two sides of A4 paper.

FARM SECRETARY OF THE YEAR 1997

To: The Secretary, Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators, National Agricultural Centre, Stoneleigh, Kenilworth, Warwicks, CV8 2LZ.

Full name (CAPITALS): Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms……………………………………………….

Address………………………………………………………………………………………..

………………………………………………………Postcode………………………………

Date of birth……………………………………….Tel……………………………………..

Category entered:

Senior

Mary Collins

Mature student

Tick if interested in further details of IAgSA

I/we nominate my/our secretary/student for the 1997 Farm Secretary of the Year competition

Name (Optional)……………………………………..

Address………………………………………………………………………………………..

ENTRIES TO BE RETURNED BY JAN 31, 1997.


RULES

1: Entrants must be bona-fide Farm Secretaries working either full or part-time in Great Britain or students taking an agricultural secretaries course here, 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 Jan 31,1997, and the mature student award for the best student 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 question in bullet-point format on up to two sides of A4 paper. To arrive no later than Jan 31, 1997.

Details to be included in the curriculum vitae:

The names and addresses of two referees.

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

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, but also why you decided to retrain, if applicable.

4: Successful entrants will be asked to attend the final selections at an outdoor training centre in southern England on May 30, 1997. They will also be asked to complete a short written paper during February.

At the Training Centre entrants will be given a range of team tasks to complete, plus an individual task on administration skills.

5: The winners will be announced at a reception hosted by Lloyds Bank at the Royal Show, Stoneleigh on Monday June 30, 1997.

6: All judges will be appointed by the Institute of Agricultural Secretaries and Administrators, Lloyds Bank and farmers weekly. All referees may be contacted.

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

8: 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.

9ll The decision of the judges will be final and no communication will be entered into.