Amy Gray

ASSISTANT POLICY ADVISER FOR THE NATIONAL FARMERS UNION

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NAME Amy Gray JOB Assistant Policy Adviser COMPANY National Farmers' Union (NFU) AGE 26 SALARY* Competitive *industry average

What do you do day-to-day in your job?

As an Assistant Policy Adviser for the NFU, my job is very varied.  I work in a team that deals with topics related to science and regulations, so we cover everything from Animal Health and Welfare to GM.  My role allows me to take on topics from across my team’s remit, so I deal with issues such as Animal Welfare during Transport, Health and Safety on farm, and national training programmes for farmers. 

In addition, I do more administrative tasks, such as build web-pages and am Secretary for our organisation’s Policy Board (which decides what direction to take when it comes to NFU policy lines) and a group called the Farm Safety Partnership, which is trying to develop new ways to reduce accidents and fatalities on farm. This involves organising meetings and agendas and writing minutes and allows me to be involved in some high-level decision making processes.

What other jobs have you had?

Before I started at the NFU, I worked part time in a school as both an Administrative Assistant and a Teaching Assistant.  I have also done voluntary work up to 3 days a week on a nature reserve contributing to both the outdoor landscape management of the reserve and occasional work in the shop.

I initially joined the NFU as a Graduate Trainee in September 2011.  This is a brilliant 2-year scheme which is currently running every year and provides successful applicants with a well-rounded overview of the organisation through project-based placements.

In the year that I worked as a Graduate Trainee, I spent 4 months in our Head Office in the Policy Team, 2 months in Brussels near the European Parliament, and 6 months in Exeter studying the regional agricultural structure in the South West.

What other jobs or career path did you consider?

When I left University, I knew that I wanted to be involved in influencing the environment.  I considered a number of career paths – with my qualifications, I could have worked for an environmental charity, such as the RSPB. I also considered working as a local government environmental officer.

However, following my Masters project (which looked at the importance of farm ponds on biodiversity), I remained keen to work with landowners (in this country, the majority of what is considered the ‘natural’ landscape is actually farmed in one form or another).   I knew I wanted to work for the NFU from quite early on. 

At the time, there was no paid job at my level being advertised, so I wrote a speculative application to the Chief Environment Adviser at the NFU asking if there were any related positions coming up in the near future that I would be a suitable candidate for.  Unfortunately, there was nothing at that time, but she passed my Email through to the Human Resources team, who suggested I sign up for their text-alert system which tells people when new jobs are being advertised.

I did, and through that, when the Graduate Trainee role came up, I applied and was shortlisted, and was ultimately successful.

What qualifications do you have?

I have an MSc Global Environmental Change, a 2.1 BA Natural Sciences, 5As in my A-Levels(Biology, Chemistry, General Studies, Maths and Physics), and for my GCSE results I gained 8A*s for Biology, Chemistry, English Literature, English Language, Maths, Music, Physics, Religious Studies, and 2As for Dance and French.

What do you like most about your job, and what’s not so great?

One of the best things about my job is the great people I work with.  They are all so friendly, and I am surrounded by experts in their field, which can be a bit intimidating as a newcomer and someone who’s still learning their trade, but is also very inspiring.  I also love the variety. Every day is different, and it is never boring. 

Finding a bad bit of my job is difficult! But if I had to choose, I’d say that the worst bit of my job is giving presentations. Public speaking is still a bit of a fear of mine, but despite my fears, it does get easier with practice, and the NFU has great training for presentation skills which has boosted my confidence enormously.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years’ time?

In 10 years’ time, I would definitely like to have progressed within my organisation.  At the moment, I am an Assistant Adviser.  I want to have reached Chief level by then, which would mean that I have managerial responsibilities over a team and lead on a specific policy area.

What one piece of advice would you give people trying to get into agriculture?

Think big!  The agricultural sector is so much more than being a farmer. I get to influence the government and farming practices without getting my hands dirty at all.  If being more ‘hands-on’ is your thing, there are also plenty of opportunities to get involved through apprenticeships and farm placements.

The retail industry is also a related route into the agricultural sector (think about people who advise large supermarkets on what products they should be buying, and from where).  Similarly, farmers often employ advisers when it comes to nutrition of farm animals to fertilisers and soil management techniques to get the best out of their farm’s soil. 

As you can see, the agricultural sector is incredibly diverse and has opportunities for people from all walks of life.  There is bound to be a role that suits you.

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