A Year in Review

We at MDS have recently seen a marked change in interest from graduates, Member secondments, and new Members. We have had the most applications ever from graduates wanting to make their careers in food, farming, and fresh produce.

During 2020 the number of MDS applications has increased dramatically and we have placed 120 Trainees in secondments with Member companies, 56 in April and 64 in October.

The food sector is now being recognised as a secure and diverse sector, and one that ensures secure, long-term employment. Our team has capitalised on the COVID/Brexit uncertainty by sharing the sector’s career opportunities much more widely via virtual careers events, webinars, and an improved social media presence. Increased graduate applications will allow MDS to expand, but to do this we need more Members. Progress here has also been very good; we have increased from 49 Members in January 2020 to 58 at the end of 2020

Like every business, the pandemic has changed how we operate. Training has moved online and around 60% of Trainees are working on flexible arrangements between home working and their employer. These changes have created cost-savings which have allowed us to bring forward investments needed for MDS’s development, including software and hardware upgrades and investment in the MDS corporate identity and marketing.

Looking ahead we predict that the changes forced by Brexit will bring further opportunity for MDS and our Members. We are seeing signs that an increased number of modern facilities outside the UK want UK-trained management. This has already enticed many Eastern Europeans back to their country of origin and resulted in a renewed interest amongst employers for nurturing home-grown future leaders. We have had an unprecedented level of requests for secondments from our Members and in Members wanting to join MDS.

The pandemic has created widescale acknowledgment that the food and fresh produce industry is a fundamental service, and there is the recognition that it is a sector that can ride significant turbulence or a recession, which is why it’s an attractive career choice. Furthermore, as the sector adopts and communicates the technology it is embracing, we are in a strong position to offer new Trainee roles, for example engineering graduates interested in the automation of fruit picking and on packing lines.

Our focus for 2021 will be:

  1. To prepare for the doubling in applications and secondment demand that we have seen this year; while 2020 may be a blip, this increased interest may remain, and we need to be prepared.
  2. To generate closer links with university departments, not just career services, to attract the right graduates.
  3. To develop a regular, structured contact and feedback process with Members to ensure that you are getting the most from MDS.
  4. Working with MDS’ alumni as ambassadors for the programme.