Current Members

MDS programme

MDS is a consortium of member companies who recognise the benefits of training managers industry-wide, rather than only from within their own company. MDS also provides its services to a number of subsidiary/sister companies and different sites belonging to the same company, some of which are abroad.

Member companies pay an annual subscription as well as a daily rate for each trainee they have on secondment within their company. These fees contribute to the running costs of the organisation including the salary of the trainees. MDS is a not for profit organisation.

The strength of the organisation comes from so many companies working together with one shared aim – to recruit and train the very best people for the industry. Under normal circumstances these companies are competitors within the food, fresh produce and arable industry, but they have all recognised the value of pooling resources to ensure they have the very best industry trained managers for the future.

For some Members it would not be viable to run their own in-house training programme, whilst other Members use MDS alongside their own scheme. Often Members offer secondments to trainees and put their own staff through the MDS training programme.

  • A central management team who select and employ the best trainees, co-ordinate the programme, as well as offer continuous support and development to the trainees and Member companies
  • Four secondments giving practical experience that encompasses the whole supply chain as well as the opportunity to experience a variety of company cultures
  • A group of trained junior managers to recruit from every six months
  • Comprehensive accredited apprenticeship training programme, which is available to Members’ own staff as well as to trainees

Want to know more about being a Member?
Please call the MDS office on 01733 667753


Members value the steady flow of high-calibre people that the programme provides. The diverse nature of the roles and companies that the trainees are seconded to result in the output of well trained and experienced individuals ready to work at a management level in a career they have a passion for.

Benefits for Members:

  • Reduced recruitment costs in terms of advertising, administration, interviewing and mentoring
  • Encouragement of a culture of continuous personal development within the business; bringing fresh ideas, experience and innovation
  • Access to graduate trainees who are capable of fulfilling increasingly responsible and challenging positions
  • An opportunity to employ trainees who have a wide level of relevant skills, experience and knowledge at the end of their two-year programme
  • Cover for seasonal work and specific projects provided by our trainees
  • Training programme (L5 Leadership & Management) available to members’ own employees. As it is an apprenticeship, businesses paying the levy can use this to cover the costs (£7k). Members who don’t pay the levy or who have none left, can access government funding and pay just 5% of the fees, amounting to £350 for a 2 year training programme.

Who can join the Membership?

Enquiries are welcomed from organisations which meet the following guidelines:

  • Trading for at least five years
  • Based in the UK
  • A clear management structure with a minimum of 10 permanent/salaried staff
  • Ability and willingness to provide a balanced range of secondments (two each year)
  • Health and Safety policy in place, as well as risk assessments and appropriate training, specific to the job, for all activities involving trainees
  • Commitment in providing a secondment manager to act as a mentor for the trainee whilst on secondment
  • Applications are subject to approval by the Board of Directors after full consultation with the membership.

What does it cost?

  • Joining fee £800
  • Annual subscription £2,800
  • Secondment fees are charged monthly, in advance, at the daily rate of £119 (1st year trainees) or £129 (2nd year trainees), according to the number of working days in a month
  • Transfer/recruitment fee payable of £2,500 when a Member recruits a trainee upon completion of the two-year programme
  • If you are interested in further information please email:

Apprenticeship Training

The training programme that MDS offer its graduates can be made available to members’ own employees. The programme is a Level 5 Leadership and Management apprenticeship, developed with apprenticeship specialist Quantet and our membership with the food and fresh produce industry in mind.

The programme is ideal for those showing leadership potential within your businesses. For more information please see the brochure here.

The full two-year programme costs £7,000. However, businesses paying the apprenticeship levy can use their levy pot to fund this. Non-levy paying businesses can also access this training for a cost of just £350 for the training programme.

The programme begins in April and October each year. However, if there are enough delegates within your business or a group of members to create an extra cohort, start dates could be flexible.

For more information about the programme, please contact

Member FAQs

These are some of the most frequently asked questions from potential members about the services available from MDS.

Membership FAQs

How does the recruitment element work?

Member companies have access to trainees who have completed the programme as soon as membership is approved. Management trainees cannot be recruited while they are part-way through the programme. As they near completion, their details are circulated to all Members. A ‘transfer fee’ is payable by Members who recruit a trainee in this way, as an investment into the future of the programme.

Can I choose the trainee for my secondment?

MDS co-ordinates the secondments to ensure all management trainees receive as broad an experience as possible. Secondments are matched carefully with management trainees to achieve a balance between their previous experience, development needs and the needs of the Member company. It is important to remember MDS offers a training programme and therefore trainees must be given the opportunity to gain new experience and develop new skills.

What makes a good secondment?

The biggest difference comes from the relationship between the management trainee and the secondment manager. The most beneficial secondments for all sides are those where the trainee receives good induction and initial training, has clear responsibilities and objectives and receives regular, constructive feedback on their performance and development.

What is a typical secondment?

Secondments vary greatly. Some members identify a role to be filled in an ongoing programme by an MDS trainee, such as packhouse production supervisor. Others are one-off projects, to meet seasonal requirements, to trial a new position, to fulfil a customer request or to cover maternity leave. The common link is that all secondments must offer management responsibility.

What type of secondments should be made available?

We ask for a range of secondments, both in terms of level of responsibility and function. There should be opportunity for trainees on their first assignment right through to the final secondment in the programme, across a wide area… production, technical, commercial and so on. This flexibility is necessary to ensure trainees can gain experience across the whole supply chain and ensure that all Members share the training input.

Is there a minimum requirement of each Member company?

Yes. At least one Winter and one Summer secondment each year so management trainees have continuous employment.

Who pays the trainee’s salary?

Management trainees are employed directly by MDS and we pay their salary. This is funded by invoicing Members on a monthly basis for each trainee seconded to them. The invoice amount covers their salary and a contribution towards training costs and MDS overheads.

Who provides accommodation for the trainees on secondment?

The trainee themselves, although Members’ help is appreciated. Some companies have on-site accommodation that is available to rent. Others may provide a week’s bed and breakfast to give the trainee time to find something suitable. Many provide advice on the best areas to live in or advertise for accommodation on staff notice boards.

Does MDS make a profit?

No. MDS is a non-profit making co-operative, registered as a Friendly Society with the Financial Services Authority.