National Apprenticeship Week 2024

This week, we are celebrating National Apprenticeship Week 2024. For the next seven days MDS, alongside many other businesses throughout the UK, will be highlighting the opportunities that are available through undertaking an apprenticeship.

Read about Will’s experience as a Trainee on MDS below!  


Before I joined MDS back in April 2023, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in agriculture. Given that I also studied the subject at university, it would probably be easy for anyone reading this to think that the pathway to me making this decision was an easy one… if only that were the case!

I realised early on in my time at university that, as many within the industry are aware, agriculture is not a job, it’s a lifestyle. For me, this meant seeking experiences outside of listening to the lecturer (in person, or online – thank you Covid) and so for the following summers I worked on a farm during harvest. It was here that I discovered three things; how underrated the food industry is, my career direction and the huge benefits of learning on the job.  

Why an apprenticeship? 

From the beginning my MDS journey, the scheme has allowed me to continue learning on the job.  

When I was at school, I wasn’t the sort of person that would stare out of the window in the classroom; but admittedly there were some moments were I wanted to add more colour to the black ink on the page in front of me. No matter how engaging the teacher was, I don’t think anything got through to the space between my ears until I put things into practice. This is the value in on-the-job learning – as it allows you to test your skills or learn new ones whilst at work, meaning you adapt to the role faster as you’re putting your knowledge into practice rather than in an exercise book. There are other benefits too, add a mentor into the mix and you have an invaluable resource in the form of someone who will show you the way, whilst also applying their own experiences (and mistakes) to help you succeed.  

When it comes to the apprenticeship vs degree discussion, one argument (of many) is pay. It is a difficult topic to talk about, whether you are on a zero-hours contract in your first job or if you’re concerned about having enough money for retirement. Without going too far into the debate of which salary is larger off the back of an apprenticeship or university experience, mainly because I don’t want to bore you with the expected pay for every role under the sun, the important thing is that with an apprenticeship, you get paid to learn. As a result, you don’t have to worry about how you’re going to pay for your education and (more likely than not) you’re working for a company that has a clear career pathway/progression ladder so you can worry less about your next step.  

If this isn’t enough to convince you, you may want to consider the result of what you stand to gain from your time on an apprenticeship. Beyond the technical skills, the role, the people and the company, many apprenticeships offer industry-recognised qualifications, which provide you with great flexibility in terms of the role you’re after. MDS, for example, offers a CMI-accredited (Chartered Management Institute) qualification through their training provider, the Apprenticeship College. This provides you with a valuable bargaining chip when it comes to navigating the highly competitive job market as it enhances your credibility and gives employers another reason to hire you. 

My experience 

Even though I am not even halfway through my experience, I have learnt a lot of things, been to many places and met plenty of people thanks to MDS. If you’ve got this far without knowing what MDS is, Trainees, like me, undertake their apprenticeship alongside 3 to 4 secondments throughout the scheme. My first role involved working in the harvest office of Cobrey Farms in Herefordshire- who are the largest producers of asparagus in the UK, amongst many other claims to fame (hence the blueberries below). This role focused on managing the 4 asparagus trial plots,  monitoring the differences in yield between the 13 varieties on one site, to observing the impact soil treatments on another. If you bought asparagus from your local supermarket last summer, it definitely had little to do with me, but I could tell you where it was grown! 

Fast forward a few months, I am on my second role working within the marketing department for MDS and like everyone else’s experiences, I was immersed in the role from the start. It is my responsibility to create content for the website (yes, this one) and MDS’s social media pages whilst promoting all the incredible things that other Trainees get up to. What I’m enjoying most about this current role is the exposure to the industry network- such as being able to attend CropTec, the National Fruit Show and Nourish Your Network events across the country. I even managed to feature in a video we did alongside JEPCO.

All the roles that MDS offer on their scheme can be quite challenging at times, in my view though, it is important to embrace this, because you never know what you are truly capable of until you try. Here too, despite the fact that Trainees are working throughout the country or even the World, we always have access to the MDS network and it is always great to catch up with the rest of my Trainee group (53) to hear of everyone’s adventures.

For further information on #NAW2024, visit their website.