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Industry Partnership At SIT Sound Creates Training Advantages

The culmination of four years of work is coming to fruition for SIT Sound. The recent installation of specialist stage lighting in the re-purposed former St. John’s Anglican church, housed within Te Rau o te Huia, completes the facility so it can realise its full potential; now able to be used for music shows, drama, art exhibitions, guest workshops, industry lectures and more, the multi-purpose space can be enjoyed by students and the public alike.

Doug Heath, Programme Manager for SIT Schools of Sound & Contemporary Music, said the lighting installation aesthetic had been chosen to be sympathetic to the church’s renovation, with custom black trusses installed to match the original stained glass windows. The installation itself wasn’t typical either, he added. Because it was being used for teaching, there was an integration of all different types of lights, from historical, pre-digital units, to the latest, operate-from-your-phone technology.

“The importance of having the lighting within our designated performance and exhibition area, serves students’ current, industry-relevant training requirements.

The students get to see it here and learn in a safe environment.”

Installing industry gear facilitates an ongoing relationship with technicians who have highly specialised skills, able to demonstrate the Health & Safety aspects of the business, on-site at SIT performance venues. “This illustrates the weight and importance of certification”, said Mr Heath, and is a necessary requirement for students learning Entertainment and Event Technology / Live Sound and Lighting; it has been added to the programme as a result of listening and responding to student feedback.

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The design of the lighting system and installation of the rigging infrastructure (motors, trusses and hanging points) had been carried out by ShowQuip, with Southern Lights designing and installing the flown lighting rig (fixtures and desk).

Christchurch company ShowQuip are national industry certifiers, carrying out all the motor inspections on show lights; ShowQuip Service Manager, Simon Holdaway, says the job requires him to work all over New Zealand, with few technicians nationwide who operate in this small and specialist field.

“If they (the students) can use the equipment before they get into the workforce, it’s a real advantage,” Mr Holdaway said. He described what it was like when he started in the industry more than twenty years ago, “...everyone just walked in not knowing what to do”. Training was preferable because “it gives you and ongoing advantage, and is so much better than being corrected by the boss or them having to keep a close eye on you”, due to lack of knowledge and experience.

SIT provides one of the best training facilities for the specialist entertainment engineering solutions field he works in, Mr Holdaway added.

Mr Heath said industry partnership had stepped up a gear in recent years as numbers of SIT graduates in the workforce increased. Through their graduate network they had a connection with Dunedin business, Southern Lights - specialising in event production – in 2017 SIT graduate, Garry Keirle of Southern Lights approached SIT Sound with a request for additional student crew for international shows scheduled to appear in Dunedin; students who participated would gain on-the-job learning, as well as earn some income. From an industry perspective, Mr Keirle said it was prudent to tap into the resource the students provide, but also, “We want to encourage those graduates to stay in the industry and get a good feel for what they can do.”

The first van load of SIT students were supplied for Ed Sheeran in 2018, bringing unforgettable experiences and memories. “They saw forty tonnes of lights come out of trucks and get hung on the stage,” said Mr Heath. The opportunities to see the large event work provides real industry insight for the students. “The ideal learning environment in this industry is on the job,” he added. Since then, the partnership has continued, creating a win-win scenario for all involved. SIT Sound and Event Technology students have been present to assist and learn at Pink, Kendrick Lamar, Fleetwood Mac and The Eagles’ shows.

Being able to train on on a range of current industry gear and up-to-date technology is an essential component of a SIT qualification. Mr Heath said there is an indisputable link between learning skills on what the sector uses now, and being employable and employed beyond graduation. “The job opportunities are there and waiting to be filled by graduates who know how to use industry equipment,” he said.

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