Fresh produce industry training provider Management Development Services (MDS) is calling for ambitious graduates, both recent and from previous years, to apply for its two-year graduate training programme in the food and fresh produce industry following a renewed surge in demand for trainees from within the sector.

MDS, which works with some of the country’s leading agri-food businesses including Barfoots, BASF, Aldi, Adrian Scripps Ltd and Riverford Organic Farmers, said produce companies are looking for more graduate trainees than ever to help them negotiate the challenges of coronavirus, Brexit and the wider economy.

MDS business development manager, Kirsty Barden, said: “As the food industry responds to the wider pressures of the pandemic, Brexit and the economy, member companies are looking to take on more driven and able graduates than ever. We placed 50 per cent more graduates in the autumn, and the demand has increased by 50 per cent again for this spring.

'This is huge credit to the MDS trainees who have shown their true worth and capability, and particularly in the last few months when many have had to work autonomously from home. We are always proud of how they respond under pressure, which is what they are trained to do, and we are also delighted that this opening up of further positions will give more young people a chance to embrace a career in a dynamic, challenging and rewarding industry.”

Spanning two years, each MDS graduate trainee undertakes four different six-month secondments in a wide range of member companies and roles, from harvest management to procurement, marketing, technical development and logistics. The training integrates a Level 5 Leadership and Management apprenticeship qualification - accredited by the Chartered Management Institute and developed with the industry in mind.

MDS currently has 66 graduates on the scheme – its highest number since the organisation was founded by three growers in 1986 - and in the past year has increased its member companies from 48 to 60 businesses in the agrifood and fresh produce sector.

MDS placements have not been interrupted by the pandemic, MDS says. 60 per cent of the current trainees are working on a flexible arrangement with employers, dividing their time between working from home and on-site; the remaining 40 per cent are working in the office or on-site full-time.

MDS was set up in 1986 by a group of growers concerned about the shortage of skilled managers within the industry.

It quickly established itself as a leading training provider in the fresh food, produce, horticultural and agricultural industry. Since then, it has expanded steadily as companies seek to safeguard the future by attracting and providing training for the right calibre of recruit.

Today, MDS encompasses the whole supply chain of vegetables, salads, fruit, flowers, plants, arable and prepared food products not only based in the UK but also for operations in many countries around the world.

MDS represents a consortium of member companies comprising growers, suppliers and supermarkets. There is consistent interest from potential new members who wish to be involved in what is now seen as a ‘model’ for specialist management training.