New Team Members

March 19, 2021

In order to maintain growth and keep up with demand, MDS has welcomed two new team members.

Kelly Cook: Trainee Liaison Officer

Kelly has joined MDS as Trainee Liaison Officer and will be supporting People Development Manager, Gretta Ryan with Trainee development. She will provide support throughout the secondment process. This support will include helping Trainees to develop their skills within secondments and assisting with aspects of Level 5 training. Kelly joins MDS with a range of experience in team management, sales and learning and development. MDS appealed to Kelly due to the amazing opportunities and coaching MDS gives Trainees.

Kelly Cook

“The trainee blogs, social media updates and positive experiences the Trainees share demonstrate the wide range of opportunities MDS provide. Everyone is friendly, positive and enthusiastic, it’s all about seeing people achieve great things, it’s a perfect fit for me! I’m really looking forward to supporting our current and future trainees achieve their career goals.”



Thomas Divers: Talent Acquisition Officer

Thomas has joined MDS in the new role of Talent Acquisition Officer and will be supporting Business Development Manager, Kirsty Barden with our Graduate engagement plan. Tom will also take a leading role in Trainee recruitment and enrollment. Thomas’s experience is based in education and teaching and will therefore offer great insights into youth recruitment and engagement.

New Team MemberTom told MDS that he is really looking forward to joining the team:

“The opportunity to introduce recent graduates to the food and fresh produce industry attracted me to MDS. I am looking forward to joining MDS. I am excited to be part of a unique graduate scheme provider that encourages and supports future leaders and talent in the industry.”


The appointment of Kelly and Thomas will increase the number of office staff to eight which includes Izzy who joined in May 2020 as a Marketing Assistant.

We look forward to seeing how MDS can grow and develop with the appointment of new members to the MDS team!

New Team Members

RBOrganic: Member Profile

March 19, 2021
MDS Alumni: RBOrganic are recruiting

RBOrganic (part of Produce World) are looking for a diligent, self-motivated team player who can collect, assess and deliver valuable information to help the business retain its position as a leading organic roots supplier. Take a look at their Member profile to see what a role with RBOrganic looks like.

RBOrganic: Member Profile

RBorganic: Who we are

“RBOrganic (which forms part of Produce World Group) is a family business. We’re dedicated to using the very best of sustainable farming techniques in our own farming and collaborating with other expert farmers. We grow the finest quality potatoes, roots & alliums which we pack ourselves to supply to our customers. Our expertise is doing the difficult well. We love what we do and that gives us the edge in growing high quality, speciality and organic vegetables. It’s why we have long-standing partnerships with our customers in retail, wholesale and processing.”

Why is RBOrganic such a great place to work?

“RBOrganic is an inclusive, open and honest culture focused on growing our own! We provide opportunities for personal and professional development at all stages of employment.”

What makes the ideal RBOrganic team member?

“Versitile, proactive, honest, committed and willing to expand on their knowledge and skills.”

What are some of the perks of working at RBorganic?
  • Be part of the UK’s leading grower of organic vegetables
  • Contribute to sustainable and innovate farming techniques that are good for people and the planet
  • Be part of a fast-growing farming and food business with strong environmental and social values
  • Work independently, but with support from our teams and gain responsibilities fast
  • As part of a small team, you gain insights to many areas of our grower group and develop your market and industry awareness
  • Snack on our delicious produce as much as you like!

Are you passionate about sustainable and organic farming and have experience working within a farm environment?

Do you care about the environment and want to play a key part in growing the UK’s leading organic root vegetables?

Do you like to travel around the country and spend time outdoors?

Are you happy to roll your sleeves up and get stuck in when the going gets tough?

If your answers are ‘YES, that’s me!’ then take a look at the Organic Farms Technical Lead on our Vacancies page and APPLY NOW!


You Garden & Intercrop New Members

March 2, 2021

This month, MDS has welcomed two new Members, You Garden and Intercrop. The new Members are two very different businesses who will offer some great secondment opportunities for Trainees.

You Garden

You Garden are a Gardening e-commerce business based in Lincolnshire. Set up in 2011, You Garden specialize in “Gardening for everyone”. The business offers thousands of easy-to-grow plants that can be planted anywhere! As well as selling plants, the business has its own nursery spanning 11 acres with a brand-new purpose-built packhouse. You Garden provide online care instructions and videos so customers can get the best results with minimal experience.

When asked why You Garden decided to join MDS, HR Manager Laurence Beeken explained:

“Having experienced explosive business growth over the last twelve months, our long-term plans accelerated. We have found ourselves in the fortunate position of being able to look seriously at our future structure and begin the search for high-calibre talent.”

“We have wanted to start working with graduates for a number of years but have always been deterred by the amount of form-filling and admin that goes hand in hand with employing interns. MDS was recommended to us, and it was immediately apparent that they were the ideal solution to take the hassle out of the recruitment process.”

“The MDS mantra of working in partnership towards a common goal resonates with our own culture, and their proven track record of attracting high-calibre recruits makes them the ideal partner for our business.”


Intercrop is a pioneering salad growing business formed in 1992 and based in East Kent. The business has farms in Betteshanger and Sandwich Bay, as well as a Spanish operation based in southern Spain. Intercrop is an experienced fresh produce business working at the forefront of innovation. The Member business will offer some exciting secondment opportunities for Trainees.

General Manager Henry Robertson is an MDS-almunus and explained how the business will benefit from the MDS scheme:

“As a former MDS graduate myself, I am well aware of the benefits the program can bring. MDS is a great solution to combine our need for dedicated seasonal management and investing in the future for our business, as well as encouraging and helping the next generation accelerate their careers in fresh produce and agriculture.”

We are very excited to be working with You Garden and intercrop.

You Garden & Intercrop New Members

Gen Z: snowflake generation or perfect match for fresh produce?

February 25, 2021


With a surge in graduates applying to be part of the fresh produce industry, MDS COO Sapphira Waterson says knowing who Generation Z is and what they want from a job can increase productivity and profitability for businesses. 

At MDS, we specialise in graduate training in fresh produce businesses and have placed more than 150 Trainees from Generation Z, the term used to identify those born in the late 90s, in tough, demanding roles over the last five years. Sapphira, says this generation has a lot to offer the industry: 

With a thirst for variety, responsibility and self-improvement, what could be a more perfect fit for the fast-paced fresh produce industry? Gen Z is sometimes referred to as a snowflake generation for their perceived lack of resilience and oversensitivity but that annoys me. They have been in the workplace for a few years now and we’ve had an insight into how they tick. They have certain demands and priorities, but employers who recognise how they can get the best out of these twenty-somethings will be repaid with hard work and fulfilled, productive employees.” 

Gen Z-ers are not solely in it for the money, Sapphira explains; they want a fun place to work where they feel valued. They like to be given responsibility and accountability but also thrive with regular check ins from managers and colleagues, even if it’s just for five minutesThey are self-aware and prepared to learn from failure but need more emotional support than their employers may have had as they entered the workplace.

Admirably self-aware, this generation sees feedback as vital to their self-improvement, and managers need to leverage this to push their mentees to their best potential. They tend to need more emotional support as they learn resilience, and while this may grate on baby boomers who worked hard and late, and sometimes for free, to get their rung on the ladder, at MDS we have seen the positive results of nurturing young people in a demanding role. And why be tough if we can get the results another way? 

Sapphira says to retain Gen Z-ers in the business, they need to feel valued and to see clear opportunity for growth and career progression. This goes beyond salary - and not just to pensions and benefits that give them security - but to feeling a respected part of the team. Variety in the job, and open conversations about where career opportunity lies are also vital.  

A recent survey carried out by MDS shows that for young people, priorities have shifted, pre- and post-Covid outbreak, from wanting a good salary to wanting stability, and a recognition that the food industry offers this. A doubling in applications to MDS’ graduate training programme has shown how the pandemic has boosted the food industry’s image, not only in terms of job security, but as a diverse and dynamic place to work with challenge and reward. 

MDS recruits graduates from across disciplines including engineering, agriculture, food science and technologySteve Carter of Fleurie Nurseries says that MDS not only identifies capable future talent that works well in this industry but supports both the Trainees and the managers to nurture it: 

By their very nature, MDS Trainees are aspiring managers and MDS’ Leadership Programme supports them to rapidly develop strong leadership skills, but it’s more than this. The MDS team is also there to give the emotional support and extra mentoring that brings these young people on and supports our managers with training in how to maximise on the touch points for this generation, such as being ‘there’ more; giving them autonomy and how to keep them in the business. Having an MDS trainee has been particularly useful in the last few months when we need self-starters – especially if they are working remotely – who can perform under pressure as we have had to focus on the constantly changing demands of the supply chain.” 

In the same way that the fresh produce industry has flexed to adapt to the buying habits of Generation Z, Sapphira says so it needs to when employing them: 

We’ve seen that, as consumers, Gen Z look for a rewarding experience, authenticity, social responsibility and brands with purpose. The same multi-dimensional decision making is applied to their career choice. In fact, they see themselves as consumers in the job market, having paid for three or four years of further education. Their approach is, what can you give me? Although taking Gen Z into your fold may require a little more nurturing and connection, we are not going back so businesses need to adapt, and by working with the positives this generation brings, employers will not see snowflakes melting but strong, able young people with a new perspective. 


Top tips from MDS COO Sapphira Waterson: 

Give them responsibility with accountability

Gen Z thrive on a challenge and feel valued and driven if they are also accountable. 

Keep the communications network open and give regular feedback 

Gen Z are communaholics, used to being constantly in touch. They perform better with regular contact from their managers, even if it’s brief check in, and, self-aware and keen to constantly improve, they thrive on feedback. 

Variety and progression 

Keep them interested with variety and talk openly about opportunity for their progress in the business 

Trust them to do the job 

They prioritise mental and physical wellbeing, and where baby boomers would have worked late to be seen to be diligent, you are more likely to see this generation work fewer hours to maintain their health and happiness, but their work time will count. 

City Food Lecture 2021

February 22, 2021

City Food Lecture

MDS acquired access for all Trainees to attend the virtual 2021 City Food Lecture on the 10th February. The City Food Lecture is a staple in the food and fresh produce event calendar and offers valuable insights for the year ahead.

The event

This year’s lecture was delivered by Ocado retail CEO Melanie Smith, who discussed retail technology’s future and how Ocado has adapted to changes in consumer habits. MDS Trainees were also able to participate in a Q&A session chaired by BBC Farming Today presenter Charlotte Smith, food entrepreneur Charlie Bigham, IGD Chief Economist James Walton and Chief Executive of London City Harvest Laura Winningham. This panel session allowed attendees the opportunity to pose questions and interact with panel experts. MDS Chair Christine Tacon was able to ask the panel how they would encourage young people to join the industry. The panel all agreed that the industry is crucial, exciting, and offers many different opportunities.

A valuable opportunity

The event offered MDS Trainees a crucial development opportunity and even gave them the chance to network with attendees. Group 46 Trainee Oliver Gilding said of the event, “I thoroughly enjoyed my first City Food Lecture.”

“It was fascinating to hear Ocado Retail Ltd CEO Mel Smith give her perspective on the last 12 months and how customers’ new shopping preferences won’t be changing anytime soon. I’d like to thank MDS Ltd for organising access for their Trainees. It was truly fascinating to hear about the future of retail technology.”

Group 48 Trainee Ruby Powell agreed, “It was great to have the opportunity to attend the first-ever virtual City Food Lecture.”

“Mel Smith spoke so passionately about Ocado retail and how automation within the business is driving efficiency. This technology is really exciting! I hope the food and farming industry continues to use innovative ways to improve efficiency and bring value to customers.”

Thank you CFL

Thank you to CFL Chair, John Giles, and organisers for creating a fantastic event and for inviting MDS.

Free Management Training Session for all MDS Members

February 15, 2021
Free Management Training: Take your Management to the next level

MDS and The Apprenticeship College are offering a two-day free management training programme for all secondment managers and MDS Member employees. Representatives will exclusive access to training workshops and networking sessions, running between 24th March – 25th March.

Secondment managers are expected to attend the MDS session and will also have access to any of the four management training sessions. MDS Member employees can access any of the events. The valuable training content has been jam-packed into a virtual, bitesize format which takes a minimum of 90 minutes but will provide tailored, expert workshops to take employees to the next level.

As well as offering an MDS information session, workshops are delivered by a management training expert and will cover a range of crucial management topics including:

  • Goal setting
  • Effective 1-2-1’s, including giving feedback and reviews
  • Handling difficult conversations
  • Coaching skills

The interactive workshops will be delivered by leadership facilitation expert of over 15-years, Andrew Norris. Andrew specializes in designing and delivering powerful, engaging and challenging courses which encourage and inspire self-awareness in staff, leaders and aspiring leaders. The training expert has worked across a diverse range of organizations including Triumph, British Gas, RBS, Arriva, Fujitsu and more. He has delivered to a diverse range of delegates from core staff and middle managers right the way up to senior leadership teams. He specializes in training the essential communications skills to enable positive relationships, great conversations, people development and productivity.

As well as offering high-impact management training, the session will have built-in networking opportunities. These networking opportunities will give Member employees the chance to speak to representatives from businesses across the food and fresh produce industry.


24th March
9.00 – 12.00
Introduction to MDS
The Role of the Secondment Manager
Benefits to a Member
Importance of Reviews
Challenge and Responsibilities
Level 5 Training and MDS Schedule
1.00 – 2.30
(The Apprenticeship College)
Goal and Objective Setting
2.45 – 4.15
(The Apprenticeship College)
Effective 1-2-1’s including giving feedback
25th March
10.15 – 12.00
(The Apprenticeship College)
Handling Difficult Conversations
1.00 – 2.30
(The Apprenticeship College)
Coaching Skills

If you are an MDS secondment manager, you will be expected to attend the MDS session. To get the most out of the event, MDS recommend attending as many of the sessions as possible. The sessions are highly beneficial to secondment managers and staff of all levels. Please fill out the Microsoft form linked below to sign-up for the events.

If you are an MDS Member interested in attending or have employees interested in attending, please sign-up via the Microsoft Forms link below.

Sign up form: CLICK HERE


Free Management Training

#ApprenticeshipWeek: The Summer Berry Company on MDS Training Benefits & Free Event

February 9, 2021

National Apprenticeship Week is back this month. The annual week-long celebration of all things apprenticeships highlights all the fantastic achievements being made by apprentices and employers across the UK and this year will specifically focus on how employers have adapted and stepped up to the challenges created by COVID-19.

MDS are Experts in Professional Apprenticeship Training within the Food and Fresh Produce Industry

MDS are experts in professional training within the food and fresh produce industry with over 35 years of experience. The current level 5 CMI (Chartered Management Institute) certified management training scheme is carried out through The Apprenticeship College and has been running for two years.

As well as MDS Trainees, there are currently over 42 Member employees enrolled on the scheme. Member delegates represent a range of businesses across the food and fresh produce industry such as The Summer Berry Company, G’s Fresh, Aldi, Fyffes, Del monte, Cobrey Farms and Protolan.

Despite the ongoing pandemic throwing huge hurdles at the traditional face-to-face training format, MDS and The Apprenticeship College have worked hard to maintain the usual high-quality, engaging, and interactive learning experience for Trainees and Members.

The Benefits of the Scheme

The exclusive training scheme’s benefits were demonstrated at the January #MeetTheTrainees event where MDS celebrated Trainee success on the programme. Group 45 Trainee Oliver Black received the David Bagshaw Apprenticeship Award for his efforts on the scheme.

Oliver highlighted the benefits of the training programme:

#ApprenticeshipWeek: Apprenticeship award winner Oliver Black“Exploring the full spectrum of management topics from decision making to delegation and beyond has given me an accessible tool kit. This has allowed me to conceptualise, design and respond effectively throughout my secondments on MDS. Additionally, it has provided a launching point in areas that I am yet to experience, instilling a strong foundation which will allow me to respond with confidence in the future.”

Oliver was also able to put the programme into practice during his secondment at Morrisons, “New Brexit requirements for export health certification created vast complexity and required a supply chain transformation. Acting as the project manager for Morrisons manufacturing sites, I was able to draw upon content from the Information Based Decision Making workshop to construct process flow diagrams and suggest areas of consolidation in initial scoping, reducing complexity. Utilising lessons from Change Management, Delegation and Managing Individual and Team performance workshops, I helped coach, coordinate and maintain progress across eight manufacturing sites to achieve milestones. Ultimately, Morrisons successfully generated export documents on the 31st of December and has maintained food supply.”

“A truly unique learning experience”

MDS Members are also seeing the benefits of the training made available to them through MDS. Diane Grace, HR Director at The Summer Berry Company, explained why they chose to enroll their own staff onto the programme, “We decided to enroll four of our managers and our internal Graduate Trainees on to the level 5 apprenticeship course to provide them with an opportunity to study and gain an internationally recognised qualification with the Chartered Management Institute. The group are learning skills that will help them to progress to higher levels of management. This supports our culture of investing in our employees’ development and supporting them to progress within the business.”

“We chose this programme because it offers training in a broad range of skills and throughout the programme, each delegate is assessed and works with a coach to support them. They also receive a tailored development plan, ensuring a truly unique learning experience. One clear benefit is that this programme is funded by the Apprenticeship Levy funds so there is no cost to the business. We hope that another group will commence the programme in September 2021.”

The Summer Berry Company employee Camilla Langmead started the scheme in September 2020 and is already reaping the benefits, explaining “So far the course has been extremely valuable, and I have attended workshops where I have been able to directly apply the skills to my day-to-day job. I look forward to gaining more experience, developing my knowledge, and pushing myself to reach my potential within our fast-paced industry.”

Find out more: Free Member Training Information Event

The benefits of MDS training for Members.The Apprenticeship College is holding an exclusive online event open to all MDS Members on Wednesday 17th February 2021 13:00 – 14:15. The event will explain how the programme works, the availability of the scheme to Membership and how it can be funded via the apprenticeship levy or government co-funded scheme. If you wish to attend the event or would like to find out more, please contact:


MDS Awards Ceremony

January 21, 2021

One of the unique benefits of MDS is the networking opportunities we provide for our Members and Trainees. Every January and June we host our Meet the Trainees event which allows Trainees and Members to come together and discuss secondments and future career opportunities and aspirations. We also use the event to celebrate the success of our Trainees and the support of our Members. This week during our virtual event we were proud to award the Doug Henderson Award for professional development to Celia Robles Angel and the Peter Shepherd Award for Member engagement to Protolan. This year we have introduced a new award in memory of a previous Chairman; David Bagshaw. The David Bagshaw award is presented to the Trainee who has delivered to the highest standard in all aspects of the apprenticeship programme, and was awarded to Oliver Black.

All of our Members have surpassed our expectations over the last year as we worked together to secure secondments for a record numbers of Trainees, however Protolan stood out to us on this occasion. Protolan have offered numerous secondments in project management and they have recruited MDS Trainees into permanent positions at the end of the programme. They have supported Trainees working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic and have offered Trainees an all-round excellent development opportunity. Richard Whittle is also an MDS director and has taken time from his core business to support MDS and the team. During our most recent round of secondments Protolan exceeded our expectations in order to accommodate a Trainee that needed to start their secondment seven months early. Over the course of a weekend, the role was agreed upon and a start date organised. Protolan already had an MDS Trainee in situ and this agreement was outside of their original plan. These are just a few examples of how Protolan always strive to support MDS and evidence their dedication to developing future leaders.

The winner of the Doug Henderson award, Celia Robles Angel has excelled through all her secondments. This includes volunteering to direct an environmental project to reduce plastic waste, delivering a comprehensive website, and volunteering to support a trials team to monitor, count and dig out different crops no-matter the weather conditions. Celia saw every opportunity as a means of learning and developing. In her most recent role, she became an expert in Mural (a digital collaboration tool) and virtually trained over 200 people, which enabled projects to remain on deadline despite being in the midst of a pandemic. Further to this, whilst working with her secondment manager, she facilitated a series of major global workshops with over 100 participants and saved over $60,000 in the process. Celia has also built a reputation for excellent peer support making herself available to Trainees going into her previous roles, creating manuals, and ensuring comprehensive training plans are organised before she completes the role.

Our apprenticeship programme is designed to develop knowledge and test how the knowledge is being applied in practice. The David Bagshaw award is presented to the Trainee who has delivered to the highest standard in all aspects of the apprenticeship programme. We were delighted to present this award to Oliver Black who has completed secondments at Cobrey Farm, two separate roles at Syngenta Basel and is currently seconded to Morrisons. In each role he has been determined to deliver, meet objectives and increase his skills.
Throughout the apprenticeship, Oliver consistently submitted essays that exceeded expectations. His assignments delve deeper than the advised minimum, he explores an answer from all angles and delivers well-referenced sources outside of those suggested by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI). His work has proven to be amongst the best submitted across all Trainees. Feedback from The Apprenticeship College reported his 501 submission “The principles of management and leadership with an organisational context” was being held as an example of best practice for future Trainees. As well as his outstanding achievements in his written assignments, Oliver has approached all secondment opportunities with enthusiasm, developing skills and knowledge beyond the initial outline of each role. This ranges from providing maternity cover for the Technical Manager at Cobrey Farms, finding and shaping opportunities at Syngenta, through to his current project role at Morrisons where he has been entrusted to manage projects with high levels of complexity.

We would like to congratulate all of our award winners and we look forward to seeing how our Trainees develop over the coming 6 months and continuing to work closely with our Members to support them in developing their leadership pipelines.

A Year in Review

December 20, 2020

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 [from 432 in 2019 to 892] 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.

MDS welcomes a new Cohort

April 22, 2020

It has been an unusual start for our spring intake but we are happy to welcome group 47 to MDS. We have had to look into our onboarding process and work in collaboration with our member companies in order to give this new cohort the best start to their MDS journey as possible. 25% of the trainees have started their first roles working from home so getting them inducted and set up in roles has been unusual. Our members have been outstanding in getting the trainees set up in their roles and we are sure that this experience will not diminish the impact this cohort will have during their secondments.

We also bid farewell to group 43 as they come to the end of their MDS experience. As always we are very proud of what our trainees have achieved and we wish them well in their future careers.