The good things about trading and training
In a new series on aspects of business across the Sheffield City Region, we chatted to Anne Wilson MBE, Managing Director of Numill Precision Engineering, on her recent trip to Poland when she joined a Northern Powerhouse trade mission to Warsaw.
The trip was organised by the Department for International Trade and attracted 18 businesses in the advanced manufacturing sector, five from the Sheffield City Region, and supported by delegates from the city region’s executive team.
Anne and the group spent four days meeting Polish business contacts, and for her much of the success of the visit was in the relationships and helpful networking established between the UK businesses, each with their own contacts both in Poland and the UK, which she intends to build on.
Although Numill exports widely across Europe, Poland is a new market, but a promising one with a belt of heavy industry and an improving advanced manufacturing sector. A meeting was arranged for Anne with a Polish agent who immediately understood her company and its potential for trade, and is now researching further into opportunities. Numill specialises in renovating and making cutting tools for the automotive, aerospace and rail industries, and because its work is far extremely complex and high-value, is not facing local Polish competition.
Anne said: “It can be daunting going solo to a foreign country. I would always recommend joining a group like this for a first, exploratory visit to a new market. You get a lot out of the peer-to-peer support, and fantastic help in making contacts. This was a very high-level visit so we also had mission briefings and a reception at the UK Embassy, all of which was very helpful.”
- On another topic, back at the Numill office in Sheffield, Anne is also an enthusiastic advocate of helping young people get ready for the world of work.
“I don’t think we have been successful yet in training young people for the world of work. We need a more joined-up approach – there are too many programmes that are here today and gone tomorrow.
“We also need to change people’s attitude to engineering, for example – we have to win hearts and minds, including the parents.”
Anne is a ‘Cutlers Champion’ who represents the engineering sector in its work with schoolchildren in Sheffield, in her case at the Outwood Academy City. This gives pupils from Years 9, 10 and part of 11 a programme of industrial visits, innovation challenges and seminars which are designed to increase their social skill and boost their confidence. Six hundred children take the programme every year.
“Boost a child’s self-awareness and confidence and you can change their life. I’ve seen the programme help to stop children going off the rails, and I’ve seen it help them fly in their studies and careers.”
Anne takes on a new apprentice each year who will spend one day a week at The Sheffield College. “They learn in a real place and work in real time. They also have to face the real pressure of a client’s needs, and build relationships with the team all around them.
“They get peer-to-peer support with us, and a structured NVQ programme in college. We teach them how to put theory into practice.”
And putting what she preaches into practice, Anne has set her latest apprentice a dedicated project. He will have to use the full range of his experience to renovate a range of tools to a standard to be sold online.
“It’s a challenge,” Anne says. “But it’s a real life challenge and one which will help him to learn. He can ask for help and advice but at the end of the day it’s his responsibility to produce something we will all be happy with.
“I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product!”