Sound Leisure promotes manufacturing career to local school children

Leading jukebox manufacturer Sound Leisure has joined forces with The Ahead Partnership to develop an initiative to promote design and technology in manufacturing to local schools.

Sound Leisure Managing Director Chris Black and his wife Catherine were inspired by an experience at their own children’s school. “We were astounded that students were still designing and making the same plastic key rings that we made 30 years go. This is despite the many fantastic new technologies that are now available, including 3D printers, CNC Machines (manufacturing tools powered by computers) and more computer power than we could have dreamt of,” says Chris.

At this point, Chris and Catherine contacted local schools to see what they could do to help inspire students, given that Sound Leisure designs and manufactures all of its digital and nostalgia jukeboxes in its Leeds factory, incorporating all types of design technology, from vac-forming plastic components and hand-crafting wood and metalwork through to software development harnessing the latest digital music developments.

“Fortunately, we were introduced to Megan Taylor and Sami Holmes at the Ahead Partnership – a lottery funded organisation that specialises in connecting business with people and their community. Together, we formulated a plan to introduce students from a local school to the world of design and manufacture.”

The Leeds East Academy students first visited prior to the summer holidays. They had a factory tour and met with various members of the Sound Leisure team who discussed the role of design and engineering and the role that it plays in the business.

“We used an example of the Crosley Rocket 42, a Jukebox that we had just designed for a distributor in America, which runs a Nascar race team,” says Chris. “We explained the correlation between the racing car and the jukebox. Sound Leisure’s brand manager, Joe Armitage then set the students a task to design their own hot-rod inspired juke.”

This month, they returned to Sound Leisure to face Alan Black, company founder, Chris and Catherine Black and Joe Armitage in a “Dragon’s Den” style pitch of their ideas.

“We were genuinely astounded with the commitment and effort that was displayed by all of the students,” says Chris. “They had spent many hours on the project during class time and also after school. Some of the ideas were fabulous and even though some were not used to standing up in front of a room of people and pitching an idea, they were a credit to themselves and the school.”

Following half an hour of deliberation the joint winners were announced and gift tokens distributed. The feedback from students shows how valuable the experience has been. “This has helped me know what job interviews may be like,” said one. “Now I know how prepared and organised I will have to be in the world of work.”

Sound Leisure has also found the initiative to be very valuable. “As a family business, we strongly believe that links with the local community and especially with schools, is paramount to our success,” says Chris. “For many years we felt disappointed in the way that manufacturing was portrayed by politicians and the media, as being the poor relative to banking and call centres.

“Many students were being pushed towards university, no matter what their academic skills and with little consideration as to whether the degree they achieved would be of any use to them when they left,” he adds. “However, over the past 4 -5 years we have witnessed a seismic shift by the policy makers, with much more emphasis being placed on apprenticeships.”

“We are 100% behind this initiative and are proud to be involved at the grass roots level, hopefully making a difference to the next generation and employing many apprentices throughout the company.”

Sound Leisure looks forward to welcoming the next class early in 2016.

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