MDS 2021 graduate opportunities


MDS is a specialist management training organisation representing almost 25 member companies in the fresh food and produce industry. MDS works in the best interests of the industry, transforming university graduates into the managers of tomorrow through a two-year training programme. The programme is accredited by Harper Adams University College offering successful trainees a Post Graduate Certificate in Food and Fresh Produce Management. For those wanting agronomist opportunities there is an optional 3rd year offering fACTS and BASIS courses.

One of the biggest advantages of the MDS programme is the opportunity to experience several different jobs at different companies, providing a wider understanding of the needs and challenges facing the fresh food and produce industry. This is achieved by giving the management trainees four six month secondments within four different member companies. As well as the practical experience that the Management Trainee receives through this programme, MDS also provides comprehensive off- the- job-training. This formal training is linked to day to day business needs and its integral part of the two year MDS programme.

The training areas covered are topical and relevant and include communication skills, leadership, team building, financial awareness, process analysis, problem solving, negotiation skills and employment law. Spread over 25 days, these courses are structured to complement the secondments and provide trainees with skills, knowledge and techniques that can be applied back in the workplace. It is a comprehensive and well-designed programme which has been assessed and accredited by Harper Adams University which on successful completion gives the management trainee a Post Graduate certificate in Food and Fresh Produce Management.

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  • Training & Profiles

The Accredited two-year management programme revolves around four secondments of about six months each, combined with off-the-job learning from external tutors, many of whom are industry experts. In this way, every Management Trainee gains as wide an experience as possible.

Management Trainees are paid a salary of £19,000 in their first year, rising to £20,250 in year two. Post-MDS Ltd, successful Trainees have a record of achieving 100% employment; in recent years, up to 85% of leavers have joined member companies. Management Trainees can expect to apply for a position with responsibilities and a salary from £25,000 upwards.

Key Elements:
Management Development Services Ltd (MDS Ltd) is the only Harper Adams accredited postgraduate management scheme which offers four different jobs in four different companies (see Secondments).

The programme is open to graduates of all degree disciplines, and MDS Ltd is particularly interested in land-based, food related, life sciences, business management, marketing and languages graduates.

Candidates must show a practical, hands-on approach to management and an ability to work with, and through, others, as well as being open to change, keen to accept demanding roles and be responsible for their own learning.

Our two-year Graduate Development Training Programme combines this practical experience with 'off-the-job' learning, combined with working towards a Postgraduate Certificate in Food and Fresh Produce Management (see Management Training and Postgraduate Certificate).

We offer two intakes a year in April/May and October/November. Applications are considered throughout the year and it is sometimes possible to defer entry if you are thinking of taking a break after university.

Who Can Apply?
MDS Ltd is open to graduates across all disciplines especially land based, food related, business management, life sciences and language graduates.

More important are personal qualities combined with a realistic appreciation of what is involved in the fresh food and produce industry:long hours at times, a need to handle the demands of many different stakeholders and the high expectations of product quality and service.

MDS Ltd operates a rigorous selection procedure and those who are offered a place will already show a level of business awareness, a 'hands-on' approach to getting things done and good people skills.

You should have a desire to succeed, be self-motivated and able to learn from mistakes.

We want someone who:

  • understands what 'taking responsibility' really means
  • is able to initiate as well as imitate and improve
  • has a management style which respects the views of others
  • is realistic in setting and achieving goals and targets, for themselves and others
  • likes to get results with and through other people
  • is sensitive in gauging a situation
  • is a clear thinker and problem solver
  • is innovative, using their own or the ideas of others
  • recognises the need for their own and others' learning within a fast-moving business
  • will contribute positively and pro-actively to new and changing situations

In short, someone who is not afraid to take a risk! Where there is risk there is also reward.

Having to balance the forces of nature with tight financial margins will test your spirit of adventure. There is nothing standard about our products, customers or suppliers. If you are looking for stability and predictability, then MDS Ltd is not for you.

Can I choose my secondments?

The short answer is no, as the purpose of MDS Ltd is to provide the widest possible opportunity to manage a variety of commercial situations and meet pre-set objectives. In reality, you would be consulted about location and type of job, but the decision is ultimately made by MDS Ltd.

Can I change my secondment if I don't like it once I have started?

It would be very unusual to change mid-way through a placement. The aim is to provide a broad managerial experience, and that includes learning how to get results in challenging and sometimes difficult circumstances.

Do I get paid?

Yes. MDS Ltd Management Trainees receive a salary of £19,000 in the first year, rising to £20,250 in year two and £20,750 in the optional third year. In addition, it is worth noting that the MDS Ltd training programme represents an investment of approximately £7,000 per person over the two-year period. On completion, as you move into a permanent post, you should be capable of achieving a position paying at least £25,000, and often much more.

How much notice do I get of my next secondment?

We try to give as much notice as possible of when and where your next secondment will be. Occasionally, you may have only a couple of weeks to prepare, and arrange accommodation. In such a case, member companies will often help the transition by providing some initial bed and breakfast accommodation until you find your feet.

Who usually finds the accommodation while I am away?

It is up to you to find accommodation for each secondment, but there is often help available from the member company or other Management Trainees who may have worked in that area. You are responsible for the costs of your accommodation. Some member companies have houses or rooms available at a favourable rent.

What support is available from MDS Ltd and member companies?

The MDS Ltd management team keeps in regular contact throughout the two years, including at least one visit during each secondment.Additional day-to-day support is provided through a Secondment Manager within the member company as well as an informal network of other MDS Ltd Management Trainees based locally. It's there if you need it - you only have to ask!

Am I guaranteed a job when I finish MDS Ltd?

There are no absolute guarantees, but within the last five years virtually all our successful Management Trainees have progressed on to the kind of jobs they aspired to at the start. It is fair to say that for many of them, their aspirations on leaving university alter dramatically, once they realise what they are capable of in terms of managerial responsibility. They often surprise themselves at the quality of their first full-time post, as potential employers have confidence in their ability and knowledge of the industry achieved through the MDS Ltd graduate management programme.

Is there a deadline for applications to the programme?

We welcome applications at any time, and interview for positions throughout the year. Start dates are spring or autumn each year, and we can sometimes defer entry for graduates who would like to travel or take some time out.

What is the holiday entitlement?

You are entitled to 28 days holiday per year including bank holidays.

What hours can I expect to work?

Hours of work depend on your secondment responsibilities, but in practice, Management Trainees often work a six-day week. Supplying supermarkets is a 24-hour operation, 365-days a year and working patterns tend to reflect this.

What will MDS Ltd give me that a full-time job in one company would not?

Some people are more confident about learning within one organisation but for others, the challenge of learning to manage and get good results in a commercial environment is best-achieved by putting their skills to the test in a variety of settings. In this way, they are faced with different people, cultures, products and systems - all within two years. MDS Ltd gives you the chance to learn management skills quickly and to test them out in different jobs and different companies.

How good is the 'off-job' training?

'Second to none' may be a cliche but we have many testimonials to this effect. The one thing we can guarantee is that the programme will feel very different from university lectures - it's also great fun!

Do I get a recognised qualification?

Please see the Postgraduate Certificate section

What does MDS Ltd look for when selecting Management Trainees?

Evidence of personal qualities... an understanding of the meaning of 'taking responsibility', a willingness to learn from your own actions and mistakes and an ability to initiate not just imitate and improve. Your style of management will respect the contribution of those around you, and you will be realistic in setting goals and targets, for yourself and others, and able to meet them (or understand why not).

How do I apply?

Click here and complete our online application form. If you are unable to complete the form online, please e-mail your name and address and a form will be sent to you.

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