According to the largest survey of adult participation in learning, over a third of adults want to change careers in the next two years. However, over 69% don’t feel they have the skills to do so. That’s where we come in!

Salaries and opportunities in the agri-food and horticultural supply chain are rising quickly, and it’s the perfect opportunity for career changers to transfer their skills. Leadership Trainee Mark McKenna offered his story on how he was able to make the leap from swimming coach to Technical Assistant with AM Fresh.

What was your previous role and sector?

Before enrolling with MDS, I was the Head Coach at a Swimming programme which produced National and International Junior medallists.

What prompted you to change careers?

I had spent 15 years working in sport and swimming coaching. I enjoyed many elements of the role and had risen as a coach quite quickly, but the progression opportunities and salaries available were extremely limited. With the rise in energy prices also hitting the leisure industry hard, these opportunities will become more scarce in the future.

Changing careers was daunting, especially when I’d been relatively successful in my previous career. I knew that any change could result in having to learn everything from scratch, which filled me with nerves and excitement.

I love to learn new things, and the opportunity to challenge myself in a new industry was exhilarating. The food industry appealed to me as it offered the same fast-paced, ever-changing environment I loved in my previous career, but it is also a sustainable, eternal industry. The industry will always need talented, hard-working and motivated individuals, and the opportunities ahead of workers are extensive. The MDS scheme particularly appealed to me as it offered me the opportunity and time to learn and understand multiple areas within the industry, giving me the best chance to accelerate into a progressive career.

What skills were you able to transfer from your previous career?

Communication with people on multiple levels has been my biggest asset so far. My new role requires communication with many different departments, and I was also able to utilise my active listening skills. In my secondment, understanding information, who it may impact, and communicating appropriately has been very well received around the business.

Of course, in this industry, working under pressure in an ever-changing industry is crucial. I am used to meeting deadlines and having last-minute, urgent jobs appear that require solutions.

What challenges do career changers face?

The most significant difference when I started my new role was my change in responsibility. In my previous position, I was used to making decisions and being the go-to for questions or problem-solving. Of course, as I have entered a new industry, everything is new. I have adapted quite quickly and am now a point of contact for some questions, but initially, I found myself asking for help more often, which felt a little awkward initially. This goes away quickly, however, as you will always need support whenever you enter a new role at any point in your career.

Would you recommend the industry to other career changers?

Yes, be open-minded. There are so many different departments and roles that need hard-working, diligent people. There are many opportunities for you to utilise your skill sets and find a role that you will enjoy and thrive in.

What are some of your long-term career goals within the industry?

I’m still at the start of my career journey in this industry, so my current ambitions are to observe, learn and discover. I have used my first three months to learn about the varying departments and roles available within them. I intend to delve deeper and understand the range of roles further, to discover whether these will be the positions where I can thrive, or whether these jobs will provide me with the experience to transfer into lead or director roles in the future.

If you would like support in kick-starting a management career in the agri-food and fresh produce supply chain, apply today!