MDS 2023 graduate opportunities

Company Company Profile

MDS is the UK’s foremost provider of management training for the food industry. Founded in 1986 as a not-for-profit membership organisation, we create a pipeline of well trained, capable leaders to work in all aspects of the food supply chain.

Our membership includes some of the industry’s leading businesses: forward thinking companies committed to developing high-calibre individuals. MDS offers members the opportunity to build their own leadership pipeline whilst contributing to the success of the industry. Our members provide opportunities for MDS trainees to learn ‘on the job’ in roles with real responsibility, often managing specific projects or filling seasonal peaks. Our close collaboration with members ensures a broad range of suitable secondments as well as allowing ongoing input into the development of programmes.

MDS attracts a diverse range of candidates for our training programmes, from those early in their careers, either graduates or non-graduates with a couple of years under their belts, to more experienced people looking for a career change or returning to work after a break. The food supply chain offers a wide variety of opportunities and MDS equips people to make the most of them.

Each MDS trainee completes an industry specific qualification alongside a series of challenging secondments with member companies. Our programmes last for 18 months to two years and at the end of each programme members have the opportunity to recruit trainees. In the last 35 years, every MDS alumnus has succeeded in gaining employment within the industry.

MDS plays an important part in promoting the food supply chain as an exciting career choice. We look for the skills and attitudes that meet the needs of this fast-paced industry and each person is carefully mentored to ensure they reach their potential.

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Case Studies

  • Name: Orla


Orla Matthews is in her final few months on the 2-year MDS graduate programme. Orla has demonstrated a true passion for the industry to make the most out of her time on MDS. She has facilitated Trainee development, travelled to Switzerland for a secondment and has represented MDS at industry events. Orla has also left a lasting impact within Member organisations. She spearheaded a recycling project that saved a Member business over £150 per ton in waste removal costs. Orla’s achievements on MDS were recognised at Meet the Trainees event where she received the Doug Henderson Award.

Before MDS

Growing up in Cambridgeshire I was always aware of the various fields of fresh produce growing around where I lived. This is one of the reasons why I chose to go off to Harper Adams and study Food and Consumer Studies for my degree. I graduated in 2019 having gained a first-class in my degree. I absolutely loved studying this course because I was able to learn from the entire field to fork process.

About me

I think something that would surprise others about me is that I actually consider myself to be quite a shy person. My MBTI score is very much 50/50 between introvert and extrovert. Therefore, sometimes I have to flex my style and challenge myself in new situations. However, this is definitely something that has improved during my time on MDS. I think three words that would best describe me would be determined, chatty and curious. The words that other people have used to describe me are motivated, organised and passionate.

Making the most out of MDS

I’ve tried to maximise my MDS experience as much as possible because I recognise that I’m so fortunate to be working amongst so many like-minded young professionals who have the same interest as I do in the food and fresh produce industry. One of the ways I’ve done this is by being very involved with the Trainee Action Group or TAG group. This is a group of Trainees that aim to better connect Trainees with each other. We facilitate support and promote further professional development. In TAG I have supported with arranging social events over Zoom during lockdown and before COVID-19 we organised Member visits.

My achievements

My most validating experience while on MDS was definitely winning the Doug Henderson award which honours excellence in performance, professional development and celebrates success in secondments. I feel the area where I’ve made the biggest impact in my secondments was while working on a waste management project where we implemented the recycling operation of all LDPE and PP plastic across four sites. This not only improved the business’ environmental credentials but it also reduced waste removal costs by more than £150 per ton. Outside of the core MDS training I’ve really enjoyed using the resources in the wider industry to learn more about food and fresh produce so my favorite podcast at the moment is the FPJ Fruitbox podcast. I also really enjoyed attending the virtual city food lecture back in February.

What drives me

The thing that really drives me is knowing that the work we do in the food and fresh produce industry can have a real impact. Impact on the people who produce and consume it as well as the environment in which it’s grown. I feel like all of those areas have the potential to have quite damaging impact on those three things but it also has the potential to have a really positive impact and I’m really excited about the way the industry is going and to see the improvements and benefits it can provide in the future.

  • Name: David Foster


David Foster joined MDS in 2019 after graduating from the University of Lincoln. David is in his final MDS secondment, working with fresh produce business, Worldwide Fruit, as a Compliance Technologist. We spoke to the group 46 Trainee on how he has been able to utilise the skills he developed on his Business and Marketing degree to support Member businesses and the wider industry.

What made you decide to study Business & Marketing at university?

A Business and Marketing degree offers a diverse range of modules from behavioural psychology to financial forecasting, with an element of creativity and design. The degree offered a great combination of subjects that I was passionate about at school.

What made you decide to apply to the MDS graduate scheme?

I had not wanted to narrow down which career path to take while I was still studying for my degree. When I discovered the MDS graduate scheme, I saw an amazing opportunity to spend two years testing myself in different roles and businesses to support the industry while finding my best fit.

How have you utilised the skills developed on your degree to support Member businesses and the wider industry?

One of the ways I have supported MDS Member businesses through utilising the e-commerce and website building skills I developed on my degree. I studied an e-commerce module, and the final outcome was to produce a user-friendly e-commerce website. Since joining MDS, I have made two websites in separate secondments.

Why is the food and fresh produce industry such a great career opportunity?

As I have come to learn, the fresh produce industry is both fast-paced and consistently evolving, which creates exciting and challenging roles. The industry is also vital in ensuring food security for future generations. If you want to challenge yourself while making a positive difference, I highly recommend a fresh produce career.

  • Name: Celia Robles Angel


Celia is from Spain and studied at Glasgow University. She joined MDS in 2019 and is currently on her final secondment. Her first secondment was with Accent Fresh as an afternoon shift supervisor in the operations department, followed by six months with Scottish Agronomy in communications. Her last two secondments have been with Syngenta Jealott’s Hill in Agile delivery.

Celia won the Doug Henderson Award for Professional Development in 2021, for showing the highest level of achievement in all of her secondments and for going above and beyond to demonstrate leadership ability.

What area of fresh produce would you like to work in?

In 2019 I joined Management Development Services (MDS), which has been providing graduate training in the fresh produce industry since 1986. We, the Trainees, stay in the graduate scheme for two years and we get exposure to up to four different roles in four different companies. I am open to working in most areas within the industry as I really believe in it and its huge potential. However, I have spent the last year working in the agrochemical side of the business, in crop protection (CP), and I think I still have a lot to learn and give.

What is it that interests you about working in the fresh produce sector?

What initially attracted me to the sector was realising I had no clue where my food came from. When I moved to Glasgow for university, I became close friends with people from the Highlands and Islands who have a very different relationship with their food than I did growing up in Madrid. Even now, almost seven years since my “lightbulb moment” realising I needed to learn more, there is so much more I want to learn. It is a robust industry which we all need, ultimately feeding ourselves is something we have got to do. However, what I find most exciting of all, is the notion that a lot of the time we are not “reinventing the wheel” but we certainly can come up with more ingenious ways of producing, distributing and preparing our food. It is that, balancing centuries’ worth of learnings with innovation and scientific advancement that ultimately has my interest.

What have you gained from the MDS graduate scheme?

In my case MDS has delivered exactly what I was after. In the past two years I have made lifelong connections. My peers in group 45 are people who have helped me get to the finish line and I will always value. I have met wonderful mentors and role models, not only directly through the secondments I have been placed at, but also through weird and wonderful moments that happen in life. Some of the highlights include going to a farm in Easter Ross (further north than this Spaniard ever ventured), having dinner at The Dome in Edinburgh, getting to know the coast of Hunstanton and having a socially-distanced picnic to get to know my new (3 months in) team. As well as, evidently, the MDS office themselves, who are there for you come rain or shine!

MDS has given me an entry way into an industry that I genuinely love. It has pushed me to think and experience all aspects of it, from a warehouse at 5 degrees celsius, to being a part of a leading global provider of agricultural science and technology.

Training & Profiles

  • Level 5 Leadership & Management qualification accredited by the Chartered Management Institute.
  • Introductory programme to the food and consumer goods industry by the Institute of Grocery Distribution Fast Track.

Application Procedure

We recruit 50+ graduates each year, with cohorts starting in October and April. You can apply at any time, and we interview for positions throughout the year.

There are three stages of the application process:

1) Website Application

2) Telephone Interview

3) Assessment Centre Day

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