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Fresh Produce Managers graduate at Harper Adams

Posted 15 July 2013

I have really enjoyed MDS. I feel quite lucky to have experienced it. I could not have asked for anything more from the programme.

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MDS 2013 graduates

MDS 2013 graduates

The latest group of newly-qualified fresh produce managers has graduated at a special ceremony at Harper Adams University.

The 16 graduates have spent the last two years completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Food and Fresh Produce Management delivered by MDS (Management Development Services) and accredited by Harper Adams.

Graduates from groups 28 and 29 were invited to the university’s Regional Food Academy on Friday to receive their certificates and to celebrate their successes with friends and family.

The event was opened by Link Co-ordinator and Harper Adams lecturer, Richard Taylor, and the graduates and their guests were welcomed by the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Dr David Llewellyn, before chairman of MDS Ltd, Doug Henderson, presented the awards.

Mr Henderson said: “We should be celebrating the fact that all our trainees have been offered good jobs within our industry – a record that MDS has maintained during these troubled economic times.

“This I believe gives a very clear indication that our trainees are properly equipped to successfully manage the very diverse activities within our industry.

“Looking forward, the demand for MDS graduates remains strong. Things are looking very positive for MDS.”

The course, which saw its first official graduation in 2009, combines training, personal development and secondments with four employers.

Anna Playfair-Hannay, from Scotland, has secured a full-time role since completing MDS as part of the agriculture team at M&S in London.

The 24-year-old, who studied Agri-Business Management at Newcastle University, said: “I’m from a farming background and always had a passion for food and wanted to stay within the agri-food sector and MDS covered both aspects of that.

“I have loved MDS. It’s been a great experience for the two years that I have been on it. I have learnt a great deal and have met some amazing people on MDS but also within the companies I have worked with.”

Anthony Clark, who was born in Greece before moving to Scotland, now works in Kent for Mansfields, one of the largest fruit growing, storage and packing operations in the UK.

The 25-year-old, who studied Biotechnology and Strategic Management at the University of Edinburgh before MDS, said: “The major draw of MDS was the fact you get great experience on-the-job and, along with that, you had off-the-job training with various courses and a Postgraduate Certificate with Harper Adams, and that meant you actually had something on paper other than a CV to go and market yourself on.

“I have really enjoyed MDS. I feel quite lucky to have experienced it. It’s got me to a great position in a great place in the country so it’s treated me extremely well. I could not have asked for anything more from the programme.”

James Bradshaw, from Lincolnshire, applied for MDS after graduating from Reading University with an Agricultural Business Management degree.

The 25-year-old said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed MDS. It has been a good opportunity to meet lots of people, have live experience and responsibility as well as having the training programme behind it.

“After finishing MDS last year I’m now working for Tesco in their head office in Cheshunt in their produce category managing fruit and whole foods.”

Matthew Embrey, from Staffordshire, is now working for Empire World Trade, a leading UK fresh fruit importer, distributer and supplier, in Lincolnshire.

The 26-year-old, who studied Countryside Management at Newcastle University, said: “MDS appealed to me because of the range of placements on the course in such a short period of time and gaining that experience straight away.

“Obviously, not being from a fresh produce or massive farming background I didn’t have that much experience in the food produce industry so being able to do a different placement with a different product four times within the two years was a really ideal thing to get the depth and breadth of experience that you need.

“It’s been really, really enjoyable. It was quite a shift and the moving round has been tiring so it’s nice now to be settled and finally getting on my feet and concentrating on one product in one area.”

Victoria Wright, from Bridgnorth, Shropshire, is now an assistant trading manager for Berry Gardens Ltd in Kent.

The 24-year-old, who studied Geography at the University of Manchester, said: “I liked the fact with MDS you could experience different work placements and different jobs. I wasn’t sure what area I wanted to go into so it was the perfect option really.

“It’s been really good to experience different companies. I really liked being able to find out what suited me and what didn’t. It was quite nice to see different parts of the country too.”

William Lee, from South Yorkshire, applied for the MDS course after graduating with an Agricultural Business Management degree from Reading University.

The 24-year-old, who now works on his family’s arable farm, said: “I was not 100 per cent sure what I wanted to do coming out of university so the chance to go and see different companies and what each one was doing was what appealed most.

“I have enjoyed it. The different placements offer different opportunities and I think the ones where there is more responsibility, where you get to look after part of the business and you are left to that role, are the ones I enjoyed the most.”

Anthony and William wrote the best synoptic papers on their courses and will see their work published in the Fresh Produce Journal, whose editor, Michael Barker, was a special guest at the graduation ceremony.

Other students who attended the ceremony to receive their awards included Alexa Richards, Georgina Webb, Sarah Hugill and Tom Clamp.

MDS Ltd and Harper Adams launched the Postgraduate Certificate in Food and Fresh Produce Management in October 2007, when it was the first course of its kind. The accredited two-year course revolves around four secondments of about six months each, combined with off-the-job learning from external tutors, many of whom are industry experts.

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