Meet Orla

Orla Matthews is in her final few months on the 2-year MDS graduate programme. Orla has demonstrated a true passion for the industry to make the most out of her time on MDS. She has facilitated Trainee development, travelled to Switzerland for a secondment and has represented MDS at industry events. Orla has also left a lasting impact within Member organisations. She spearheaded a recycling project that saved a Member business over £150 per ton in waste removal costs. Orla’s achievements on MDS were recognised at Meet the Trainees event where she received the Doug Henderson Award.

Before MDS

Growing up in Cambridgeshire I was always aware of the various fields of fresh produce growing around where I lived. This is one of the reasons why I chose to go off to Harper Adams and study Food and Consumer Studies for my degree. I graduated in 2019 having gained a first-class in my degree. I absolutely loved studying this course because I was able to learn from the entire field to fork process.

About me

I think something that would surprise others about me is that I actually consider myself to be quite a shy person. My MBTI score is very much 50/50 between introvert and extrovert. Therefore, sometimes I have to flex my style and challenge myself in new situations. However, this is definitely something that has improved during my time on MDS. I think three words that would best describe me would be determined, chatty and curious. The words that other people have used to describe me are motivated, organised and passionate.

Making the most out of MDS

I’ve tried to maximise my MDS experience as much as possible because I recognise that I’m so fortunate to be working amongst so many like-minded young professionals who have the same interest as I do in the food and fresh produce industry. One of the ways I’ve done this is by being very involved with the Trainee Action Group or TAG group. This is a group of Trainees that aim to better connect Trainees with each other. We facilitate support and promote further professional development. In TAG I have supported with arranging social events over Zoom during lockdown and before COVID-19 we organised Member visits.

My achievements

My most validating experience while on MDS was definitely winning the Doug Henderson award which honours excellence in performance, professional development and celebrates success in secondments. I feel the area where I’ve made the biggest impact in my secondments was while working on a waste management project where we implemented the recycling operation of all LDPE and PP plastic across four sites. This not only improved the business’ environmental credentials but it also reduced waste removal costs by more than £150 per ton. Outside of the core MDS training I’ve really enjoyed using the resources in the wider industry to learn more about food and fresh produce so my favorite podcast at the moment is the FPJ Fruitbox podcast. I also really enjoyed attending the virtual city food lecture back in February.

What drives me

The thing that really drives me is knowing that the work we do in the food and fresh produce industry can have a real impact. Impact on the people who produce and consume it as well as the environment in which it’s grown. I feel like all of those areas have the potential to have quite damaging impact on those three things but it also has the potential to have a really positive impact and I’m really excited about the way the industry is going and to see the improvements and benefits it can provide in the future.

Take a look at Orla’s video