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Fred Searle


Wednesday 17th February 2021, 10:46 London

Propagating talent in ornamentals

Fred Searle speaks to Steve Carter of wholesale plant nursery Fleurie Nursery about how the business near Chichester has benefitted from the MDS fresh produce graduate scheme, hearing his views on the state of recruitment in ornamentals and fresh produce

Propagating talent in ornamentals

Steve Carter is general manager at Fleurie Nursery

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What are you looking for in a new recruit?

We are expecting an enthusiastic, dynamic individual who is a quick learner. We want a recruit to be organised with good time management and people skills. We are looking for trainees to be able to take the lead on projects with only periodic support.

How does the MDS graduate scheme help prepare young people for a career in fresh produce?

Very few individuals will arrive with the full set of skills that I described above. MDS trains and coaches the individuals and teaches them to be self-reflective, which is very important, as well as enabling the structure of regular feedback so they can improve their weaker areas.

In which areas is your business and the wider industry particularly in need of new talent?

Operational management is probably the biggest area we struggle to fill, and technical is also a problem. We also need roles for our stock control department. 

These are not always the most attractive roles for young people. They are not as easily marketable as commercial roles such as sales and purchasing, which can appear as the more exciting roles, whereas the operational and technical roles are more like the steady, long-term career-building roles.

What advice do you have for young people that want to embark on a career in fresh produce?

The food and fresh produce sector is a very rewarding industry. You have to be quick and nimble to deal with this pressure; however, you will find it a great industry to work in so long as you enter with your eyes open. 

What makes the fresh produce industry an interesting and rewarding place to work?

It is fast-paced, with long hours and pressure during the season. Everybody is very friendly, with a single purpose of delivering whatever the goal of the business is. For most people, it is a lifelong career.

What do you think the industry needs to do to attract more talent?

For me, what MDS does is excellent. It goes into the universities, and it taps into other sectors. MDS reaches individuals that would never have thought of joining the industry, and once they are in, they want to stay.

That is what the industry has to do – it has to make people aware of itself and aware of the career prospects. In particular, it has to paint the picture of the high-tech side to the sector rather than the stereotypical view of agriculture that most young people have. 

There is an awful lot of good that we can really promote ourselves with, but we haven’t been very good at doing that. Those in the industry are very rewarded and happy in what we are doing, but we struggle to capture this and bottle it to sell to others.

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