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What Is It Like being a Program Training Assistant for the Foreign Agricultural Service?

For our “Guide to International Jobs in Government,” we interviewed four professionals that hold public sector jobs in international affairs and foreign policy. Below, I recap our interview with Ryan Bedford, a Program Training Assistant at the Foreign Agricultural Service.

Name: Ryan Bedford

Title: Program Training Assistant

Agency: Foreign Agricultural Service, Department of Agriculture

Degree(s): Master in Public Policy, Concentration in Management, Finance, and Leadership from University of Maryland at College Park; Bachelor of Arts in International Relations, from Florida International University

Language(s): Spanish (Professionally Proficient), Japanese (Working Professional Proficiency)

Foreign Experience: Worked for 3 years as an Assistant Language Teacher for Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET)

Ryan Bedford really enjoyed studying international relations and participating in the Japan Club during his years at Florida International University. To pursue his passion, Bedford decided to teach English in Japan after graduation. He joined the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET) and spent three years teaching English at four elementary schools and two junior high schools in Kumamoto Prefecture. Upon his return, Bedford began attending the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. It was there that he obtained an internship with the National Institutive of Food and Agriculture and decided to become a public servant that focused on international policy issues.

Today, Bedford is a Program Training Assistant for the Foreign Agricultural Service in the Department of Agriculture. While his role is mostly administrative on a day-to-day basis, he is also responsible for planning, coordinating, and evaluating training programs in agricultural disciplines throughout Central Asia and Eastern Europe. He says, “I provide training to middle to high management and experts in various agricultural specialties by organizing for them to travel to the United States and observe agricultural practices in universities and private companies.”

The ultimate goal is for these foreign managers and experts to return to their host countries, implement the skills learned, and increase trade with the United States. He states, “My region is generally the former Soviet Union, so people from Eastern Europe and Eurasia. It is really great when they come to D.C. I get to meet them and put them in contact with various agencies that they might need. For one group, I went to the Patent Office in Alexandria and got to see how the various patents play a role in the agriculture trade, so I am learning on the job as well.”

In this role, Bedford performs administrative and logistical work, such as conducting interviews and organizing events for perspective and alumni participants. In recruiting perspective participants, he works directly with embassy officials, who establish the finalists from their country for the program. During alumni events, he inquires how participants have implemented the lessons learned and how they have benefited from the program. Most of the participants speak English and Bedford utilizes an interpreter when necessary.

In his first year, Bedford has traveled twice to foreign countries for roughly two weeks each time. During the trips, he interviewed participants that completed the program and observed directly how they have implemented lesson from their training. Bedford finds that “it is extremely important for the Agency to monitor the program and ensure that the United States is getting good value for the training provided to participants.” With additional pressure from sequestration, Bedford is being especially diligent to ensure that funding is used effectively and efficiently. He asserts, “The United States pays for the farmers to travel here and for the trainers to conduct the training, so one of the main things we so when we are overseas is find examples of increased trade with the United States and whether of not they are utilizing U.S. related equipment and practices.”

To read our other interviews with professionals in international affairs and foreign policy, check out our "Guide to International Jobs in Government." These interviews include a Senior Development Policy Officer at the Millennium Challenge Corporation and a Country Director for Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay.

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