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Employee profile

Orla Matthews

Trainee Manager

How I got the job and why I chose MDS

I chose MDS because I completed a placement year at a Fresh Produce packing business, which I loved, and I really wanted a graduate job in that helped me stay in that sector. I’d heard of MDS, and everyone I met who had done the scheme seemed to have good leadership skills and brilliant industry knowledge.

Ultimately, I wanted a role in fresh produce, and I wanted to be good at it, and it seemed MDS was the best way of achieving that through building a network, gaining experience, and developing a broad understanding of the supply chain.

I got the job through completing an online assessment centre and passing both a phone interview and Face to Face assessment centre. These were both positive experiences because I felt they were designed to help me showcase my skills, not make me break under pressure (which many other graduate programme interviews seem to do).

What my roles involve

No two roles are the same on MDS, so responsibilities can really vary, but in my first role I was working on corporate learning resources for sales and marketing professionals which involved developing training courses, coordinating third-party vendors with content translation, and developing an internal online ‘Learning Hub’. This meant lots of video calls with people all over the world, working with different web software, presenting my work in team meetings, and using creative skills to develop learning content.

My second role could not have been more different! I have been working on a large food manufacturing site, responsible for food safety validations. This has meant lots of tests and trials in the factory, working with people from different teams, generating reports, analysing data. It also combined both factory and office work which I have loved.

What training I have received while on MDS

When it comes to training, I don't think MDS could squeeze in any more training even if they tried. I'm half way through my Level 5 Apprenticeship in Operational Management and Leadership which has covered all the major management-related topics such as self-awareness, project management, people management, team dynamics and finance.

MDS have also delivered their own training covering networking skills, workplace dynamics, food safety and MBTI/personality types. On top of this I have had some on the job training, specifically using food quality/safety equipment, and this varies between secondments and could range from forklift driving to web-design.

The structure of the MDS scheme

This scheme is four placements (secondments) in four companies over two years, meaning you spend 6 months in each role. On top of this there is a Level 5 management apprenticeship and bi-annual networking sessions to meet prospective placement managers and discuss potential roles, plus some more training, so there’s a lot going on.

Highlights of my work on MDS

My biggest personal highlight on MDS was living and working in Switzerland at a global HQ. I learned a lot about myself, thrived in self-confidence, and made some brilliant connections out there. I also learned to Ski which I never thought I would do, so it was a great mix of working in a new environment, and also embracing a new country and their culture.

What I enjoy about the job

I love the faced-paced nature of my job. The food industry moves really quickly so no two days are the same, which means you get the chance to learn a lot in a short space of time, and mistakes are quickly forgotten about! I also enjoy meeting loads of people from different businesses and teams. They all have different knowledge and expertise, and you can learn a huge amount by working alongside them.

What challenges I have faced and how I have overcome any difficult situations – what support has been provided

When coronavirus really gathered pace back in March I was just about to change roles and I was very worried that I wouldn't be able to keep my job due to the uncertainty. But MDS were really supportive and provided lots of stability, and ultimately kept all of their trainees in employment during that time.

I think another challenge has been leaving teams when the 6-months are over, because it’s always a shame to leave a team you get on well with. However, most of the companies remain as MDS member companies, so there’s every possibility you could end up working for them in future. Plus you have those all-important connections which you can turn to further down the line.

Why I like working for MDS

For me the biggest perk is connections - through working for 4 different companies or teams, you meet all kinds of people who share knowledge and set examples for leadership.

Better still, I have made great connections with other trainees (there are 60 of us in total, so over the 2 years you meet up to 105 other likeminded future leaders, meaning you've essentially got a broad and approachable network of people who will most likely be working within the industry for the rest of your career. This is both a present and future perk because while right now they are a great support network of friends in the same boat as you, but in future they could be the person that gets you a promotion, or helps you solve a problem.