National Foods has an unquestionable track record of delivering on its primary value proposition of learning, development and growth across every division of its business. This includes supporting employees who are looking towards a milling profession with an accredited wheat and maize milling technology training organisation. National Foods is presently investing in ten millers who are participating in a correspondence course through SAGMA (Southern African Grain Milling Academy). Here they gain cutting-edge theoretical and practical knowledge, coupled with the development of their technical and interpersonal skills. This equips them with problem-solving and decision-making competencies, when faced with wheat and maize milling situations. This programme runs for 4 years, during which time millers are required to complete 8 exams plus a final graduation trade test exam.
Farai Sandi, present Unit Manager of the Cereal Division, walks us through his 8-year career journey, confirming how he benefited from putting his theoretical knowledge into practice within National Foods’ production and workplace environment.
Upon completing his Agricultural and Production Engineering Degree at the University of Zimbabwe, Farai joined SIRCD (the Scientific and Industrial Research and Development Centre) for 3 months to gain practical industry experience. In September 2014, Farai heard that National Foods was recruiting trainee millers. He applied and was accepted as a trainee miller in the milling programme within the Maize Division. Upon completing this programme, Farai was appointed into the role as a full-time shift miller, working under the supervision of senior millers and a production line manager for 4 years.
While it was challenging to balance studying and working, Farai confirms that the beauty of the course is that the examinations align with the day-to-day running of a mill (managing staff, planning your day, understanding the scientific part of milling and the technical day-to-day activities). This makes the bridging of theoretical and practical aspects easier. “Milling is a practical job and an art. You need to master the art. You spend 95% of your time in the mill and examinations are based on this practical workplace experience. Every day of your shift, life is on the ground.”
Upon the completion of his final graduate trade test, Farai was appointed as a qualified shift miller, where he was gradually introduced into a head miller role. Farai took charge of the production planning, controlling and other millers within the shifts. This was Farai’s first experience of overseeing a small section and managing a team. Here he learned how best to interact with people, especially when it came to striking a balance between meeting targets and acting as intermediate connection between shopfloor staff and top management. Dealing with employees double and triple his age and experience, Farai had to develop his people management skills, become a team player, develop self-confidence and learn to work under pressure.
Farai was assigned to his present unit management role this year.
How has National Foods supported you on your continuous learning and growth path, and why is the company your employer of choice?
My experience at National Foods has taught me to become a better person in society and not only at work – you learn good things about human management and teamwork. Being self-confident, enthusiastic and to keep challenging yourself to do better with each passing day. With the size of National Foods, the opportunities are always there. I believe the sky is the limit!
It’s up to you to prove that you are capable as you have the training and support from management and the mentors. It’s like you have been given an empty cheque just for you to fill in. You get all the support, the resources and the investment in your training.
National Foods has been an amazing place for me. I’ve managed to appreciate manufacturing, milling and production, and taking the responsibility for “feeding the nation”. Each time you wake up and go to work you are responsible for feeding millions of Zimbabweans and it’s your task to make sure that every individual gets fed with a good quality product. I am driven by the fact that I have a national responsibility.
Amazing journey, amazing support. As much as you have a purpose, you must have the passion in doing what makes you happy. The more you do something that you enjoy, the more you become the master of the art that you do. Passion, drive and challenge to work hard, together with courage and enthusiasm to learn.