Christina Alexander is a twenty-year old student of bio and material technology at Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland. Christina spent last summer working as a mill controller at a UPM pulp mill in Pietarsaari. Her previous summer jobs as a museum guide and a telephone sales person have both been of shorter duration. In addition to working hard Christina also had time to go on small trips around Finland and in Pietarsaari.
Moving from Helsinki to Pietarsaari was no big deal for Christina who had already moved from Sodankylä to Rovaniemi at age 16 for high school and later from Rovaniemi to Helsinki to study at Aalto University.
“I think it’s a great idea to move to another city for work for the summer. Pietarsaari is a very pleasant small town and the people there were really helpful. The best part of the summer was really working and being a part of the team. I also had more motivation for my studies after the summer, although I did enjoy going to work every day too,” Christina says.
A mill controller is responsible for monitoring the mill and ensuring that it is running smoothly. Christina was positioned at the fibre line and monitored the bleach, wash and pulping. Christina’s responsibilities also included general maintenance work, such as using the forklift to move things around and keeping things neat at the mill in general.
The Pietarsaari pulp mill runs in three shifts. After two morning shifts everyone has two evening shifts and then two night shifts. After the six shifts everyone has four days off work.
“The system actually worked really well for me. During the four days off work I was able to travel by train to both Sodankylä to see my family and to Helsinki to see my friends. I got on a train directly after my second night shift and slept soundly on the train. After the shift was finished it was easy to forget all about work, “Christina says.
Colleagues create the atmosphere
At a mill it is typical to work in the same team all through the summer. This means that you can really get to know your colleagues. Christina’s team consisted of four permanent employees and two other summer employees. “My orientation in the beginning of the summer was held by an experienced summer employee. The tasks were quite routine and didn’t change during the summer. I also had some free moments during my shifts and I spent them well, learning about other mill functions and lines with the permanent employees. There was no noise impact on my work station which made it easy to have a conversation too,” Christina says.
The steady run of the mill was interrupted now and then by surprising events such as a great summer tempest and the thunderbolts that once stopped the whole mill altogether.
The statistical male domination of the forest industry did not bother Christina – in fact, the atmosphere was even surprisingly good.
“I blended in well. When my colleagues heard that I ride they introduced me to a stable in Pietarsaari. I ended up visiting the stable the whole summer. I also enjoy spending time alone, reading books and cycling,” says Christina.
Christina chose chemistry as her field of study because of the industry’s versatile possibilities. Next summer she wishes to work in another section of the forest industry. “Our studies prepare us for many possibilities. From my experiences at Pietarsaari I can say that the forest industry could be the right industry for me”.
How should one prepare for the application period of summer jobs?
“First things first: start early and apply for as many jobs as possible. Last year I spent many evenings typing the applications. Jobs in smaller towns and cities are easier to get and I also believe that they can be more interesting than the most popular places. You should definitely apply for jobs in other towns,” encourages Christina.