James: Meet the Trainee
What are you doing right now?
I am on my second placement on the MDS graduate scheme, based in Kent at Integrated Service Solutions.
Tell us about your day…
It’s a production-based role at a busy packhouse facility so I am gaining valuable practical management knowledge by supporting the day-to-day running alongside the HR, operations, technical, and training teams. My first secondment was based in Cardiff for a well-known cake manufacturer in a project management role, which shows how varied each secondment can be!
Why did you choose to follow a career in food and fresh produce?
It sits nicely alongside my horticultural degree and is such an important, relevant, and ever-changing industry.
What didn’t you know about the industry that you know now?
I had very little knowledge of where and how our food was produced. After seeing the commitment and dedication that goes into delivering quality food to our supermarkets 24/7, it has given me more trust and respect for the people within the industry. This awareness has been heightened now, more than ever, during the current global pandemic.
What are the best bits of training with MDS?
Exposure to the best in the business, working in new places and the phenomenal support from MDS to be the best you can be. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to network with Member companies directly at the bi-annual Meet the Trainee events, and these also heighten your visibility to industry leaders. The management training sessions delivered by The Apprenticeship College allow theory to be put into practice whilst on secondment through the specially tailored course given to MDS graduates, which has been really valuable. The chance to carry out placements anywhere in the UK, and possibly overseas, gaining experience of the whole fresh produce supply chain in four different companies is pretty unique, and the tremendous amount of support given by the team at MDS is second to none; their focus is always for us to achieve our best.
And what is the most challenging?
Adapting to the change of location and job role every six months. However, you are guided each step of the way by the fantastic MDS team, who are continually looking into areas for development and finding opportunities to fill them. Overall, it has taught me to view each experience as new learning and to not stop finding areas where I can develop and grow as a person.
Where would you like your career to go?
MDS has shone a light on job opportunities I would not have considered whilst I was at university. I would love to marry the management experience gained over the two years with my passion for horticulture and sustainability to work for an ornamental nursery grower.
What, for you, is exciting for the future of the industry?
For me, I am most excited about seeing more younger people entering the industry. Especially the horticultural industry. I feel the industry’s image is changing; it is becoming more appealing to a younger generation of keen and skilled workforce, which is brilliant.
How does MDS training help prepare you for a career in food and fresh produce?
By offering job roles with real responsibility and clear expectations from day one, whilst building a vast network of fellow graduates and influential people already within the industry. The Level 5 Chartered Management Institute / Departmental Manager diploma four you gain on completion is highly regarded in the industry and all management roles.
What advice would you give to others considering a career in it?
Go for it! Treat every experience as an opportunity to learn something new and always keep an open, positive mind.