MDS Launch Graduate Careers Workshops

September 21, 2021
The MDS Graduate Scheme

Kick-start your graduate management career in a fast-paced, thriving, and vital industry. If successful, you will experience four secondment roles across at least three food and fresh produce businesses where you will discover the best fit career path for you.

The MDS graduate scheme is unlike any other. We nurture ambitious graduates who have the potential to be future senior leaders in an industry that feeds the world. Your management career in an innovative, growing, and sustainable industry begins with the MDS graduate scheme and our unique partnership with over 60 organisations, including Sainsbury’s, Aldi, PepsiCo, Birds Eye, Iceland and many more.

Not your typical careers event

We are pleased to launch a new exciting MDS event for high-calibre graduates looking to kick-start their food and fresh produce career!

We’re giving exceptional, can-do graduates the unique opportunity to boost their CV, improve their management skills, and stand out against other graduates. Attendees will get access to not one, but two free management training workshops delivered by qualified leadership training experts. Not only will you develop your leadership knowledge, but participants will also receive a certificate to share with potential employers upon completion of the day.

If you stand out to our Talent Acquisition Team as an exceptional candidate, you will also have the opportunity to be fast-tracked through our recruitment process.

What to expect?
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM: MDS Info and Networking Session

MDS is a graduate scheme with a difference. It takes high-calibre leaders to turn fresh produce into the products that you see on your supermarket shelves. Ask us anything about our unique graduate scheme! Find out more about MDS and hear from our Trainees on what makes the programme so great.

1:00 PM – 2:00 PM: Leadership Style

This 60-minute session is for high-calibre graduates who aspire to be future managers and leaders. The workshop is an opportunity to develop your understanding of leadership styles so you can build effective teams. Topics will include:

  • What does an inspirational leader or manager look like?
  • Understanding the impact of different leadership/ management styles on others
  • Ways to motivate your team
2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: Powerful communication

In our final 60-minute session, you will develop your communication skills for all situations. This workshop is for outstanding graduates and future leaders who are keen to unlock the power of effective communication and improve their personal and professional relationships. Topics will include:

  • What makes a great communicator?
  • Exploring the four communication styles
  • How to use body language, tone and words to build effective professional relationships
  • The power of active listening and effective questioning
I’m in! How do I sign up?

It’s simple, visit our Eventbrite page and sign-up HERE

  • You will receive all Zoom links and workshop materials ahead of the event
  • The workshops include interactive elements which require active participation to develop your knowledge
  • The workshops will be run by Management training experts and facilitated by
  • MDS staff who will observe participation
  • Enthusiastic candidates who stand out may have the opportunity to be fast-tracked through our recruitment process
  • Candidates must contact event organisers if they are no longer able to attend the event (please email
  • You will only receive the digital certificate upon completion of all three 60-minute sessions
  • This certificate is backed by a specialist provider of bespoke training in Leadership and Management

Spaces are limited, so sign up now!


MDS Diversifies with new Member, Noble Foods

August 4, 2021

We take great pleasure in announcing a new MDS Member, fresh food, animal feed and poultry supplier, Noble Foods. In collaboration with Noble Foods, we hope to diversify the MDS programme and offer a broader scope of opportunities. This diversification marks a development for MDS and the wider industry. We will continue to support food and fresh produce by developing a leadership pipeline inclusive of all aspects of the sector.

Why MDS?

Group HR Director Louisa Hogarty attended her first Meet the Trainees event on behalf of Noble Foods in June. The business plans to take on its first MDS Trainee for the winter secondment season. Louisa explained why the organisation decided to join MDS:

“We are passionate to grow future talent for the food industry. Since Brexit and COVID it is ever more important for us to unite as an industry to demonstrate the wealth of career opportunities we can provide and to welcome and support people into food careers.

Utilising Trainees

When asked how fresh produce Trainees will be used to support an eggs, animal feed and poultry business, Louisa explained:

“We have many facets to our business from agriculture and feed milling to food manufacturing.  One of the main things that excites me about the MDS programme is fresh thinking, working together with candidates that can bring new ideas and opinions to us, that challenge us to be better.”

“Initially, we envisage using Trainees to support with specific projects.  Longer-term we hope to build lasting relationships with the MDS network, identifying potential Trainee roles in different career pathways with us and providing alumni with the opportunity to join us permanently when a suitable vacancy arises.  I also hope that together with MDS, we can support our colleagues to build a meaningful industry network and encourage wider support across the food industry.”

MDS Diversification

MDS COO Sapphira Waterson commented on the announcement:

“We are looking forward to working with Noble Foods to provide enriching opportunities for our Trainees. This collaboration marks a step forward for MDS as we diversify the business to support the industry and its needs further.”

We are excited to see where this collaboration can take the MDS programme and are looking forward to working with Noble Foods to empower proactive future leaders to support all areas of the food industry.

Noble Foods

Maximising Mentoring

July 30, 2021

Nathan Whitehouse is the Marketing Manager at Certis, which develops crop protection solutions for UK and Ireland’s professional growers, with a focus on Integrated Crop Management. Certis joined MDS in 2016 and offers secondments within their marketing department. We spoke with Nathan about why he finds effective mentorship to be so important and how it can benefit both employees and businesses.

How does Certis encourage mentoring and development with new starters within your business?

 I can clearly remember preparing for our first MDS Trainee at Certis. We had read all the documents from MDS and discussed how we would work with our Trainees. As with any new starter at Certis, we provided them with a buddy to help with day-to-day questions and finding where things are.

What was different was providing formal mentoring. We encouraged Trainees to come and discuss things that were on their minds or they needed help with at any time. You also have to be proactive, get to know your trainee as this helps to spot when they may be uncertain about something or what they have just been asked to do will be taking them out of their comfort zone. Then you can help mentor them through it. Be prepared to share your experiences, these will help the trainee to learn and know we have all faced similar challenges, it’s a part of life.

Why do you think it is important to provide additional development, mentoring coaching sessions?

They are trainees and this is often their real first experience of the workplace. MDS provides a great opportunity to embed within a diverse range of companies to gain an equally diverse range of experiences and knowledge which would otherwise take years to accumulate.

Member companies are an extension of the formal learning Trainees receive and help them apply the principles, and to experience how the real world can differ from the theory. We have to stretch them to support their post-graduate development and in return we receive a person capable of a role we require help with.  My experience is the more you engage with trainees early, challenging them and providing mentoring support the quicker they develop and contribute to your business. The difference in confidence and capability between the trainee who starts with you and the one who leaves after six months will be a testament to this.

What benefits does this bring to the business and the individual?

We have given day-to-day management of Trainees to staff members to help them understand and develop their skill set for managing and motivating people. This helps prepare them for the next step in their careers and opens them up to what is needed when you have direct reports, such as setting expectations, clear communication and workload management.

The benefits for the Trainee is that when they join Certis we expose them to all parts of the business and all the staff. Our view is that MDS is a management development programme and these trainees will become managers in the future, and they will be helped by having wider business exposure beyond just their role.

Have you attended the Secondment Management Training?

I attended the event in March and found it helpful. The breakout groups were a high point of the day for me. We had a mix of new and experienced secondment managers and this allowed for a lot of sharing and discussion. It also made me realise how much I had learnt and developed as a manager working with and mentoring trainees.

What benefits do you think the training had or could have to secondment managers?

I think it is really helpful, especially for new secondment managers or those who may not have managed people before. Trainees are bright, enthusiastic and hungry to develop, but they have not got a great deal of broad workplace experience. The training can help you level your expectations on what you can expect from a Trainee and how to support them improve. I would say do not underestimate what a Trainee is capable of and can achieve when supported. My personal experience is they are extremely quick to learn, integrate well and will do an excellent job.

Have you ever benefited from directed mentorship?

Looking back, I realised I have benefited from mentorship, although at the time they were not formal mentoring relationships. I have been fortunate enough to work with people who gave their time to share experiences, challenge and encourage me forward in my roles and career. This has been invaluable as part of my development and in turn what I can give back through mentoring others.

How do you feel you have benefited by mentoring individuals?

It has made me think you don’t always realise how much you have experienced and learned over time, and how valuable and helpful this can be for others. For me, this is the biggest benefit, to be able to give back and see Trainees grow in themselves as well as their roles.

If you have the motivation and time to mentor a Trainee I would recommend you seriously consider it, you’ll be amazed at how much both of you will enjoy it and grow.

Meet the Trainees Awards

July 13, 2021
Meet the Trainees

Meet the Trainees (MTT) is a valuable networking opportunity for MDS Trainees. It is also a unique benefit that is exclusive to all MDS Members. The event offers Member organisations the opportunity to present their business to future leaders in food and fresh produce. It is a chance for Trainees and Members across the industry to come together and discuss secondments and career aspirations.

The event also celebrates the success of our Trainees and the support of our Members. In the most recent MTT awards ceremony, we were proud to present the Doug Henderson Award for professional development to Orla Matthews. Weronika Pawlowska also received the David Bagshaw Apprenticeship Award for her success on the Level 5 Leadership and Management training programme.

Doug Henderson Award

TraineesOrla received the Doug Henderson Award for her can-do professional attitude. The group 46 Trainee has received excellent reviews in every secondment and has left a lasting impact in the Member organisations she has worked with. In a previous secondment, she spearheaded a recycling project that saved the Member over £150 per tonne in waste removal costs. She championed the project across four different sites, sourcing external businesses, arranging transport and training staff in the changes.

On top of this, she constantly seeks out new development opportunities for herself and other Trainees. As a founding member of TAG, she facilitates Trainee networking and peer support. Orla is a perfect example of the MDS type and is a role model for other Trainees.

David Bagshaw Award

TraineesWeronika Pawłowska received the David Bagshaw Award for fully embracing all aspects of her apprenticeship training. She consistently achieves a high level of work, demonstrating a clear understanding of all topics. The MDS apprenticeship programme is designed to develop knowledge and push Trainees to put theory into practice which Weronika has evidenced in her secondments. She always stretches herself beyond the curriculum and is proactive in seeking further development, embracing all opportunities.

Peter Shepherd Award

We also present the Peter Shepherd Award to a Member or secondment manager who has exceeded expectations. This time, secondment manager Justin Fletcher, Agriculture Supply Chain Manager at British Sugar, received the award. Justin has continuously supported Trainees and pushed them out of their comfort zone to learn.  He is wholly supportive of the entire secondment process and is always willing to support the MDS Team when it comes to start dates and handovers.  Justin is a positive influence on all Trainees that he comes into contact with and receives amazing feedback without exception.  Recently, whilst looking to take on a Trainee, Justin, recognising that it was difficult for a Trainee to travel, undertook a 3 ½ hour car journey so he could meet and discuss a potential role with them. He is an excellent advocate for MDS and we would like to say thank you for his support. 

We want to congratulate all of our award winners and thank all of the event attendees. MDS are passionate about development and love to celebrate Member and Trainee success. We look forward to seeing how our Trainees can develop in the next 6 months and will continue to work closely with our Members to support the growth of their leadership pipeline.

New Logo

June 25, 2021

MDS has experienced huge growth over the last two years. As the organisation enters a new chapter, we are pleased to reveal our new logo. The new logo is very different to our previous branding, however the message, values and mission that we have been delivering for the past 35 years are remaining strong. We are here to develop future leaders for the food and fresh produce industry.

The new logo focuses on the four different aspects of MDS, each represented by a different colour.

So what do the colours mean?






Serving the industry

We are here to serve the food and fresh produce industry. We support deliver for the industry as a whole not just through our tailored training programme but through our knowledge and promotion of the industry.





Serving our Members

We are here to serve our Members. MDS provide a first-class graduate programme and work in collaboration with our Members to benefit them in every way we can. We ensure they can recruit the right people and have access to the highest-calibre graduates. We also assist our Members through training and developing their own staff.






Serving our Trainees

One of the most important factors of MDS are our Trainees, we are here to develop and train potential. We are growing the future leaders of the food and fresh produce industry through tailored training, coaching and varied secondment experience.





Serving our Colleagues

Finally, we are here to serve our colleagues. We ensure a MDS staff experience the best culture possible through offering a huge amount of training and development opportunities. Our colleagues are what make MDS possible.

We are really looking forward to using our new logo to highlight the different aspects of MDS. We hope you like it too!


Engineering Matters

June 18, 2021

Putting Trainees in engineering roles is not always a natural choice for Member Businesses, but if you can put a non-marketeer in a marketing role, why not do the same for engineering? asks Richard Whittle, Director of food manufacturing experts, Protolan, and MDS board member.

Engineering in Fresh Produce

Innovation, technology and sustainability are at the heart of our 21st century fresh food businesses and we need to capitalise on the motivated, digital savvy and eco-aware generation coming into the workplace set to drive it forward.

Whilst there may only be a small proportion of engineers coming into the MDS graduate training programme, there’s still plenty of opportunity to integrate MDS Trainees into engineering roles, and there is much to be gained from bringing in a fresh perspective. After all, we put non-marketers into our marketing departments to learn on and from the job.


By our very nature, at Protolan, engineering is core to our business, and since we took our first Trainee in 2014, having been introduced to MDS by a client, we’ve had a mix of engineering and non-engineering graduates, both of which have been assets to us and our clients. While an engineering degree helps, whether it’s chemical, mechanical or food engineering, and graduates in this discipline have the skills and greater understanding to take on projects quickly, ultimately engineering is about creating solutions. It takes an analytical approach, attention to detail and lateral thinking, skills which many MDS Trainees boast. Combined with their generation’s natural affinity with technology and environmental awareness, they have strong credentials for one of the most fundamentally important areas of modern production.

Engineering spans the supply chain. Those working in sustainability and packaging are influencing engineering as much as those in NPD, manufacturing and operations. Our first Trainee Marina Llorente brought with her a particular interest in the environment and sustainability and, introducing her outlook to an area of increasing commercial significance, she helped educate us as a business.

MDS Trainees

One of our most recent Trainees, Ivan Erviti, has a food engineering degree completed in his native Argentina, and by the time he’s fulfilled four secondments in different disciplines, he will have a much greater understanding of how engineering fits into the wider industry and bring that insight into his future roles. His management training will be a distinct advantage that will undoubtedly elevate him into senior roles in the business. In my experience, engineers are largely under-represented at CEO and COO level in the fresh produce industry, and having engineering intelligence at management level also benefits businesses as they innovate and progress.

At Protolan, our projects are constantly changing, and we don’t have a specific secondment role – it could be involvement at implementation stage or it could be a feasibility study into operational improvement, but what we love about MDS Trainees is that they are motivated, keen to get stuck in, and are not precious. They are embraced into our business because they embrace it. It’s what MDS is all about and it’s a huge credit to the team that they can identify the calibre and potential that match each of the Member businesses.


As businesses in the sector, and proud MDS Members, on the one hand we have a role to challenge young people’s perceptions and champion the exciting, rapidly developing opportunities in food and fresh produce and entice more bright engineering minds in to drive our industry forward. We need to encourage them, particularly to do this via MDS, so that as an industry we can develop managers who will bring engineering acumen to the top table. On the other hand, we need to include MDS Trainees from all disciplines in our engineering and technology teams, bringing fresh viewpoints to these, but also to future roles, to help progress innovation, efficiency and sustainable solutions across the sector.

We should not be working in ‘discipline’ silos. If the mindset is that engineering can only be done by engineers, it doesn’t drive innovation and awareness of change across the industry. The whole food industry ultimately gains from that.

Protolan takes two MDS Trainees for each six-month secondment. The roles are varied and change with each placement.

Birds Eye joins MDS

June 16, 2021

We are pleased to announce that Birds Eye, the UK’s leading frozen food brand, have become an MDS Member. The business has joined through their UK Agricultural division and will offer some exciting hands-on secondments.

Birds Eye Secondment

The business have already seconded their first Trainee into an Assistant Agricultural Fieldsperson role. Group 50 Trainee, Harry Vandeleur, has started his MDS journey early specifically for the role, which is heavily involved with pea production and freezing operations. The Trainee graduated from RAU in 2018 with a degree in International Business Management in Food and Agribusiness.

Birds EyeHarry is excited to start his MDS journey:

“Being able to work for four different companies in four varied roles is a great opportunity so the potential for development is huge. Most importantly, the experience I can gain through MDS will set me in good stead for a bright future within the food industry.”

The group 50 Trainee is looking forward to his secondment with Birds Eye. “Working for a market leader means that I am exposed to the highest standard of operations. As a result, I will be able to develop my communication, time-management and organisational skills.”


Why MDS?

Birds Eye are looking forward to utilising MDS and most importantly working with our high-calibre Trainees. James Hopwood, Agriculture Manager for the UK and Italy, explained:

“It’s a fantastic milestone for Birds Eye to have joined the MDS Membership. Focused on our Agriculture division and our unique and sector-leading pea production and freezing operations, we feel strongly that the graduate scheme will be of significant benefit in ensuring a pipeline of high-calibre individuals into our succession planning.”

James highlighted the importance of MDS within the wider industry:

“Supporting young people in the industry in the early phases of their career, building on their core values and embedding resilience and accountability is so important.”

Birds Eye


May 14, 2021

MDS is taking part in the first-ever #AgriLeadershipWeek running from 17th-23rd May. The campaign is a collaboration between a range of key organisations within the Agricultural sector, this includes:

  • MDS
  • The Farmers Charitable Trust
  • The Worshipful Company of Farmers
  • Nuffield Farming Scholarships
  • The Institute of Agricultural Management
  • The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board
What is #AgriLeadershipWeek?

The campaign has been developed to target current and aspiring leaders. It aims to raise awareness of leadership training opportunities within Agriculture. Currently, less than 35% of UK farmers have any formal management training*. This is despite the fact that a range of Agricultural leadership training programmes have shown a return on investment of 13:1.**

MDS Leadership Training

There are a range of training programmes available to current leaders and also aspiring leaders at any career stage. MDS provides management and leadership training to those who are in their early careers. On the MDS grad-scheme, Trainees have the opportunity to gain a Level 5 Leadership and Management Apprenticeship, accredited by CMI***. The training combines leadership and management training with a focus on the food and fresh produce industry.

There is also a bespoke training course available to all MDS Members. This is accessible via the Government’s Apprenticeship Levy. Currently, 42 Member employees are on the MDS training course.

Why is Leadership Training so important?

MDS Chair, Christine Tacon, attended the Beanstalk Global #AgriLeadershipWeek Broadcast. The Broadcast featured representatives from all of the organisations taking part in the campaign. The representatives all shared their experience with leadership training with one common thread, it changes your life.

Christine highlighted the importance of the campaign:

“This is the first time the Leadership training organisations in the farming industry have worked together. I am delighted that MDS is included. We are playing a huge role in training future leaders at the very start of their careers. I would hope that all our alumni have already recognised the importance of keeping that training going.”

“You should never be too busy to get trained, and you don’t have to be a leader to benefit from leadership training.”

How to take part in #AgriLeadershipWeek

Anyone can take part in the campaign simply by investing time into leadership development. If you would like to get involved, share your pledge on how you will make a positive change to improve your leadership skills and share it to #AgriLeadershipWeek to be in the chance of winning a signed book from an industry expert

Christine Tacon’s Leadership Pledge

Find out more:

#AgriLeadershipWeek Leadership Competition. Share your leadership pledge to #AgriLeadershipWeek to be in the chance of winning a signed book from a leadership expert.

*According to data from AHDB

**Independent evaluation of AHDB EFM (Effective Farm Manager) and PMDS (Professional Manager Development Scheme) according

***Chartered Management Institute

RAU Alumni Lectures – Career Advice from MDS Chair

April 27, 2021

Despite the busy changeover period, MDS Trainees are continuing to demonstrate an enthusiastic can-do attitude! This month, group 48 Trainee Max Pitman took part in the exciting RAU 175 Alumni virtual Lecture event alongside MDS Chair Christine Tacon.


The Alumni Lecture series celebrates the university’s 175th anniversary and feature expert leaders from across the industry. Christine sat down with Max via the live webinar to discuss her fascinating career background, covering a portfolio of commercial expertise. Christine and Max had plenty of advice for young people interested in starting a food and fresh produce career.

Find a Mentor

Christine’s main advice for people starting a career in food and fresh produce? Finding a mentor.

“One of the things I advise people quite early on in their career now is to try and get themselves a mentor. Someone you pick up along your career that has an interest in helping you. If you identify somebody that is like that, cling on to them and ask them for advice as you go through your career.”

According to Christine, MDS opens Trainees up to a vast network of industry professionals who are willing to help them.

“There are around 22 Trainees starting with you and another 60 Trainees that are there to try and help you. There’s an Alumni network of around 500 people across the industry.”

Extensive Career Portfolio

Christine reflected on her extensive career that spans Vodafone, Mars, Cooperative Farms, her role as the first-ever Grocer Code Adjudicator (GCA), and, for the last five years, Chair of MDS.

“I think I could say in many ways actually that my career was a series of successes or sequence of failures. When I look back, the most enduring impact I had in my career has always been on people. Helping people achieve what they thought they couldn’t.”

MDS Graduate Scheme

Christine highlighted how the MDS graduate scheme is the perfect career step for “can-do” individuals who love a challenge.

“MDS Trainees are thrown more than they think they can handle, but their can-do attitude means they’re not easily fazed. There may be some placements they don’t enjoy, but they will get through it. The most common feedback is that they learn the most about themselves in the toughest six months.”


Max, who is currently going into his 2nd secondment, said the MDS programme has been the most extraordinary experience, particularly in a year dominated by lockdown: 

“The immersion I had was unbelievable. You join a company for six months and you have to make an impact. It’s full speed from day one! I was fortunate to be in the office every day, but some Trainees have never actually been to the office. I think if we can make it through this, normal life will seem relatively easy.”

“The support from MDS and Finsbury has been excellent. The way the Trainees club together and support each other is amazing.” 

Thank you RAU

Max found the virtual event very insightful. “I enjoyed the webinar! It was the first time I had done anything like that, so it was a very new experience. Christine answered every question brilliantly, and we had a very insightful discussion.”

Christine Tacon also enjoyed being part of the event.

“I was honoured to be asked to be part of the event. MDS has recruited a number of graduates from RAU, and I was pleased that Max was prepared to ask the questions. There were some very thought-provoking questions. I hope that the RAU students found it useful.”

Branston: Member Profile

April 23, 2021
MDS ALUMNI: Branston are recruiting

Branston have a new and exciting role within the Agronomy Team for a candidate who is passionate about sustainability and the environment. As an Innovations Agronomist, you will help the business to deliver carbon neutral status in the future. You will utilise new technologies and data, alongside current field and crop knowledge, to improve crop quality and reduce environmental impact.

This is the perfect role for MDS Alumni.


Branston: Who we are

“Branston is one of the largest buyers, packers and marketers of potatoes in the UK. Our customers are key retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers in the food industry. We work closely with the growers who supply us – in the UK and beyond. We’re a truly end-to-end business – fully utilising all of the crop in a wide range of fresh and prepared products – as well as investing in a sustainable future for the potato industry.“

Why is Branston such a great place to work?

Amy Guevara is an Account Executive. She spent two of her MDS secondments at Branston and accepted a permanent position there when she finished MDS. When asked why she loves working at Branston, she said, “I love it, not only for the role but also the company culture. Everyone always ensures we provide the best service possible to our customers. They’re always willing to help and answer any questions.”

Group 46 Trainee Charlotte Hedderly is in her second secondment at Branston as a Junior Production Manager. She too loves the company culture, “I’ve been here for two of my secondments, and the company culture is amazing. Everyone is willing to help each other. As a fast-moving business, it allows you to put your problem-solving skills to the test and certainly keeps you on your toes, but morale is always high.”

What are the perks of working at Branston?

According to Amy, “Branston is great at celebrating milestones. There are some great perks too, from free potatoes to Easter Eggs and hampers. Despite Christmas being our busiest time of the year, HR and the management team always ensure there is a festive atmosphere.”

What is the ideal Branston team member?

The culture at Branston is all about supporting one another. That’s why Amy thinks that the ideal Branston team member is “In my opinion the ideal Branston team member is always willing to help and support others, ensuring things are done on time, efficiently and safely. A keen eye for detail and a positive attitude are absolutely key!” says Amy.

Charlotte agrees, “I would say the ideal Branston team member is willing to get stuck in and give support where needed. They can work in a thorough and systematic way that ensures all tasks are completed. Like Amy said, a positive attitude is key as the working environment and culture is always positive.”

Are you passionate about sustainability and the environment?
Do you have previous experience as a fields person or agronomist and are comfortable in a field environment?
Do you enjoy a hands-on practical approach and have an ability to build influential grower/farmer relationships?

If your answers are yes, take a look at the Innovations Agronomist role on our vacancies page and APPLY NOW!