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.

MDS and Covid-19 Update

March 20, 2020

MDS is currently operating as usual. We are in constant contact with all of our members and trainees and plans have been put in place to ensure that training and secondments take place as planned.

We are accepting applications as normal and the first stages of the process are unaffected. For those applicants that are invited to assessment days , these will be held virtually. Successful applicants will receive details of this in due course.

We are aware that many graduates or current students may have had to cancel plans to travel over the summer. You may therefore be looking for temporary or seasonal work instead. We are teaming up with a number of our members to promote seasonal working opportunities  and besides a method of earning over the summer many of these positions offer opportunities to work outside, learn new skills and in some cases accommodation is provided. Why don’t you use your summer to make new friends and gain an insight into the agricultural industry. Please have a look on our vacancies page for more details.

Trainee Awards

February 13, 2020

We are always looking for ways to celebrate the success of our trainees. As such, we recently decided to put forward three trainees for the Target National Graduate Recruitment Awards. After much deliberation we identified 13 trainees that we felt had really stood out due to their achievements during their secondments, their involvement during training days and their representation of MDS. Our initial selection of trainees included:

  • Ellie Churchill
  • Krystian Wisniewski
  • Clare Powell-Tuck
  • Danielle Grootes
  • Larissa Keyte
  • Catherine Russell
  • Robert Ward
  • Hayley Wilson
  • Alexandros Benakis
  • Harriet Duxburry
  • John Gonzales
  • Gwenaelle Mateos
  • Paivi Pirhonen

After the trainees had submitted evidence of their achievements, and with much deliberation, we put Alexandros Benakis forward for the Rising Star award and Ellie Churchill and Clare Powel-Tuck forward for Apprentice of The Year. We are delighted to announce that Alexandros made it onto the final shortlist in his category. We would like to congratulate Alexandros and all the other trainees, and we look forward to receiving the final results in April. Alexandros was also recently awarded the Doug Henderson award.

We are now eligible to be considered for the Graduate Employer of the Year Award. Part of the submission requirements for this award are that current trainees and Alumni complete a questionnaire about their experiences on the programme. If you feel you would like to help us with our submission, please follow the link below. This will be an amazing opportunity for us to be recognised for all the hard work our members, trainees and the MDS team put into the graduate scheme and how we are developing the future leaders of the Food and Fresh Produce Industry.

Celebrating 50 member companies!

October 2, 2019

We are very excited to announce that we now have 50 MDS member companies!  We have come a long way since MDS was established in 1986 by G’s, Greens of Soham and QV Foods (now known as AH Worth).

Over the summer we have had 7 new members join us, all of whom will be taking on their first trainee during the upcoming winter secondment period. We would like to welcome Corteva, The James Hutton Institute, JDM Food Group Ltd, Scottish Agronomy Ltd, Morrisons Ltd, NIAB and Greencell Ltd to MDS. We look forward to continuing our growth as we work in co-operation with all of our members to provide a graduate scheme like no other.

MDS Open Morning 26th September

August 22, 2019

Here at MDS we are very aware of the difficulties involved in hiring and developing the right people to become the future leaders within the food and fresh produce industry. At MDS we recruit the highest calibre graduates, give them experience and training, so that they can go on to benefit our member companies.

We will be hosting an open morning on Thursday the 26th of September in Peterborough. During the morning there will be the opportunity to meet with some of our members and trainees to discuss how MDS has helped them to recruit for the future of their businesses. Please click here for further details MDS Open Breakfast Invite