Knee joints, metallurgical development and miners’ lights – Made in Sheffield is an internationally renowned brand. Lord Mayor Coun Sylvia Dunkley tells Rachael Clegg how she hopes to promote the brand in her year in office
IT wasn’t that long ago when you could pick up a knife and fork and see that famous Made in Sheffield mark stamped across its spine.
Today, with the advent of cheap labour in the Far East, few knives and forks are actually made here today, but the brand, Made in Sheffield, is still going strong.
In fact, such is the strength of the concept behind ‘Made in Sheffield’ that The Lord Mayor of Sheffield Councillor Sylvia Dunkley has made it the focus of her one-year tenure as mayoress to the city.
“The term is only from May to May so I had to think about what I was going to focus on before I started so I decided to concentrate on the concept of things being ‘created and made in Sheffield’.”
And it’s amazing just how much is still being produced in this city today. Coun Dunkley said: “People don’t realise how much manufacturing there is in Sheffield. Do you know that Sheffield produced more steel in 2007 than ever before?”
“The production of goods in Sheffield does not only benefit individual manufacturers, it creates a whole web of industry. There’s a synergy between companies where manufacturing is concerned.
“Companies need accountants, banks, packaging suppliers, fabricators, freight specialists – manufacturing creates so many jobs and not just within a particular company. No company can exist in isolation.”
And it’s because of manufacturing’s benefits and pride in the city of Sheffield, that Coun Dunkley continues to carry the ‘Made in Sheffield’ torch.
But there are obstacles to developing manufacturing in Sheffield. “There is a shortage of designers and engineers. Engineering has a huge image problem, many people think that engineers just weld but it’s far more complex than that.
“Engineering’s about problem solving, thinking and logic. We need to focus on bringing back more apprenticeships – an apprenticeship is an excellent way to learn while working on the job.”
Coun Dunkley should know – since 1992 she and her husband, John, have been running their family engineering business, which employs several apprentices.
“We have two excellent universities that are both very strong on science and engineering, day-release is a fantastic way to learn.”
Part of Sheffield’s strength in manufacturing is its agility and flexibility. Long gone are the days when Sheffield’s steel mills toiled through the night as the world’s industrial heartbeat and long gone are the days when your eating utensils were guaranteed to have been made in the Steel City. But this heritage has enabled new industries to evolve and new skills to develop.
Coun Dunkley said: “There’s a company called Wolf Safety Lamp Company who make lamps for use in explosive areas but they started out making miners’ lamps. We no longer have the mining industry in South Yorkshire so where one industry has died companies adapt and move into another.”
It’s this evolution of skills and knowledge that has likewise made Sheffield a world-leader in medical equipment, such as hip and knee replacements, as Master Cutler, William – Bill – Speirs, explains.
“We’re filling a gap in the market there. The population of elderly people is growing now so the number of people needing hip and knee joints is growing and we’re meeting that need by making joints out of exotic metals like titanium and a mixture of alloys but this is a result of Harry Brearley’s discovery of steel that allowed this to happen.”
But the rapid development of steel and its applications would not have been made were it not for Brearley’s initial initiative and application.
Bill said: “It takes imagination to understand that this was a ‘eureka’ moment. It was a leap of imagination but it also required practical ability and application”
Bill added: “How many 18- to 24 year-olds are we going to have leaving university and looking for jobs? There are too many people coming out of university with degrees in all sorts but added wealth to the country depends not on hairdressers and people with media studies degrees but with the skills to fill gaps in the market.
I don’t think that anyone has done a gap analysis in terms of what courses universities are running and what is needed in industry. There is no thought of output with universities and colleges. We’re going to have a whole generation of educated young people who are unemployed.”
Bill is concerned that young people are leaving school without the fundamental skills needed to develop as employees.
“It’s no good having young people come and work for you if they can’t write a proper letter or even answer the phone.”
But he does praise both Sheffield Hallam and the University of Sheffield for their contributions to engineering, as well as developments such as the Advanced Manufacturing Park.
“The Advanced Manufacturing Park is full of clever people addressing problems and coming up with solutions. It was set up by University of Sheffield professor of Design and Manufacture Keith Ridgway. The AMP has shareholders such as Rolls Royce and Boeing. Both the Advanced Manufacturing Park and Forgemasters give value for Sheffield, with a high calibre of staff able to create products that are cutting edge.
“The AMP is something we should aspire to. Whether it’s knee joints or cutlery, we should be aiming to be a world leader.”
Made in Sheffield, therefore, is a stamp that travels way beyond its name.
Advanced manufacturing park
The Advanced Manufacturing Park is a haven for intellectual initiative and practical solutions to high-end engineering problems.
It is the UK’s premier advanced manufacturing technology park, providing world-class advanced manufacturing technology solutions for aerospace, the automotive industry, medical world and sport secter, among many other areas.
The park is home to almost 40 companies including Boeing and Rolls Royce.
It covers around 100 acres of land on the Sheffield-Rotherham border, which was previously an opencast coal mine.
Among the ventures based at the Advanced Manufacturing Park is the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, involving Sheffield University, Manchester University and the civil nuclear industry.
Lord Mayor and Master Cutler
Coun Sylvia Dunkley, became Lord Mayor of Sheffield in May this year and her tenure will run for one year.
She has represented the Ecclesall Ward for 16 years, since being elected in 1995, with particular interests in planning, transport, culture and sport.
Since 1993 Coun Dunkley has worked part-time as a director in the family engineering business, which she set up with husband John in 1992.
The Master Cutler is the head of the Company of Cutlers in Hallamshire, an institution that was established in 1624.
Master Cutler William Speirs was elected on September 6 and installed on October 5 last year. Born in Scotland, Bill decided to become an engineer whilst standing on a Derbyshire grit stone edge at the age of 14.
He studied engineering production at Birmingham University and then, while working as an engineer, attended Sheffield Hallam University, then Sheffield Polytechnic.