Children and young people will soon be able to design and make their own sweet treats while learning about engineering at a chocolate factory set up especially by a Barnsley engineer.
The JJA Snack manufacturing facility will open soon at the Business Village in Barnsley. The new hands-on STEM-educational venture is being launched by Jamie Ashpole (picture above), director of Rotherham-based engineering company JJA Pack.
Ashpole and his team design, build, install and maintain machinery for chocolate factories all over the world, counting some of the best-known brands among their clients. Their new JJA Snack chocolate production line aims to give young people a taste of manufacturing too. Educational packages will lead them through the entire production process for chocolate, from raw cocoa bean to finished bar.
‘I want to give youngsters an insight into what manufacturing involves, through a fun, hands-on opportunity to design and make their own chocolate bar,’ Ashpole said. ‘I love what I do and I really would like more young people to think about a career in engineering. When I travel to chocolate factories all over the world, I’m struck by how it is mostly older people working in them. I’d really like to see that change.’
Ashpole has partnered with Siemens to use its Insights Cloud Software on the project, so children will be able use the latest smart technology to track the production process, using data capture, AI machine controls and digital dashboards.
‘Engineering has been transformed by smart control systems in recent years, allowing us to remotely monitor activity, detect problems and fix them before costly breakdowns,’ Ashpole said. ‘It’s not just nuts and bolts anymore. Everything has got more high-tech and opened up more scope for creativity too. To my mind, I work in the coolest industry on the planet. It’s all about chocolate and robots – what’s not to like?!’
Ashpole has invested more than £70,000 in kitting out and customising his chocolate factory for young people and is creating two new jobs in 2024. Although he wasn’t directly inspired by the Willy Wonka movie, he shares the famous factory owner’s passion for chocolate production.
‘It’s funny launching our chocolate factory just when a new Wonka film is in cinemas, but this wasn’t planned, we’re not that organised!’ Ashpole said. ‘However, if we can attract more kids to take a closer look at engineering through chocolate, that’s my dream come true.’