Interview: Anthony Pickles, Chief of Staff to the Welsh Conservatives

As part of October’s employability feature, Anthony Pickles spoke to Amy Cowlard about his role as Chief of Staff to the Welsh Conservatives, as well as placements, living abroad and work experience.

The Senedd in Cardiff houses the Welsh Assembly

 

AC: What’s your job title and some of the day to day tasks you perform? AP: I am the Chief of Staff to the Welsh Conservatives. I run the Assembly’s team of researchers and press officers and carry out the party’s forward planning and advise the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Andrew RT Davies AM.

AC: How long have you worked in the Welsh Assembly and what led you here? AP: I started my role in January 2012. I worked in a pooled research team in the House of Commons previously, researching Foreign Affairs and moved across to Cardiff after about 14 months of working in Westminster. The Welsh Conservatives have a huge challenge to hold the Welsh Government to account and be a strong centre right voice in Wales and that challenge was something I wanted to help with.

AC: When you were a student in Aberystwyth what did you study and do you find it relevant to what you do now?AP: I studied French and International Politics at Aber. I also had a sandwich year out in Strasbourg at l’Institut d’etudes Politiques Europeenes. I find some of what I studied at Aber relevant, but actually what was more important was the real experience of local politics in Ceredigion.

AC: When you were a student was there a focus on gaining ‘extra’ skills or work experience? AP: I did a lot of work experience during my time in Aber. I spent summers doing internships in Westminster and the European Parliament. I also helped out with the local Conservative Association in Aberystwyth which was great for learning some invaluable skills in Welsh politics.

AC: What are some of the key attributes you look for in employees or candidates? AP: Running a small team that needs to produce huge amounts of debate briefs, press release and policy papers, my team members need to be energetic, intere

Anthony Pickles at the Senedd in Cardiff

sted in their portfolio areas and have an eye on issues that come up. They also need to multitask efficiently and effectively.

AC: In the day to day work environment, what skills or knowledge do you think are most useful for getting tasks done? AP: It is a real mixture of things. Clearly knowledge of different and sometimes very specific subject areas is useful but also understanding how the media operate, how to find out information quickly, being able to use a library efficiently, how to use the internet; sometimes even knowing how Twitter works can be of enormous help.

AC: Do you think that travel, living or studying abroad has a positive influence on employability? AP: When I was on my year abroad, I did work experience at the European Parliament in Strasbourg which was a great opportunity to learn about it and turn me into a rabid Euro Sceptic too! Living abroad is an experience which I would highly recommend. It is so difficult to do after you finish your studies, so if you have the opportunity, go for it!  

AC: Do you think placements or work experience are necessary for this generation of graduates to find employment? AP: Absolutely. Everybody in any walk of life needs experience and the dreaded ‘Unique Selling Point’. These days everybody has a degree so everybody needs something more and as the job becomes more and more competitive this is so important. Also it doesn’t have to just be work experience; it can be voluntary work too.