Around a thousand Finnish young people are employed yearly to work at UPM saws, veneer, pulp and paper mills and offices. Henna Vanhatalo has worked for two summers at the UPM Korkeakoski saw mill. On some days nothing can stop the production, everything flows smoothly and suddenly the whole shift has floated away like a feather. On other days nothing seems to go as expected – at that point there’s no point in lamenting.
Henna Vanhatalo is a second year student of bio and process technology at the Tampere University of Applied Sciences. She found her field of study partly by chance as she was accepted for her studies straight after high school in the additional search period. She had also considered studying chemistry, pharmacy, biology and midwife studies. Henna began her studies in the fall of 2013 and has worked in the saw mill in the summers of 2014 and 2015. In between these summers Henna took a break from her bio and process technology studies and spent the two semesters studying to be an x-ray nurse.
“I got the idea for applying for a job at a saw mill from my teacher. I am originally from Orivesi and I knew of the saw mill nearby in Korkeakoski. I applied for the job through the UPM application portal. I was invited for an interview and I got the job. You had to apply for five positions in the portal and I remember applying to UPM Raflatac in Tampere as well. I had met people from Raflatac at the yearly Forest Based Industries fair”.
Henna stayed with her parents in Orivesi for the summer. It took her almost an hour to drive to work each day. In the beginning of her first summer Henna was trained for four weeks. After the training period Henna was ready to work on the seven different stations independently. Right after the training, Henna worked briefly in registering and then moved on to the mill’s seven work stations. All the other employees on Henna’s shift were men.
On the shift every employee spends about an hour at a time at one workstation. The team stays the same all through the summer and there are two ten minute coffee breaks.
”Every station has its good and bad sides. A troublesome plank is difficult to run at every station and in packaging. We always try to avoid packages that are too low or somehow obscure. My mental calculation skills have really developed.”
In a couple of the heavier tasks Henna got help from her co-workers. The second summer it only took Henna a few days to get into full swing at the stations.
Getting to know the other sides of the forest industry in the future
According to Henna, the mill environment is easy to get used to.
”On the very first day I got used to the fact that I actually have to handle the wood and, if necessary, climb on top of the machines. In the situations where the production is at full stop there’s nothing to do but wait. Of course it’s a good opportunity to tidy the place. Everything doesn’t always go according to plan, machines and machine parts break, it’s a part of the business and there’s no need to worry about it,” Henna says.
Henna has learned a lot during the summers. In the future she would be very interested to see some other part of the wood processing industry.
“I’ve learnt to work together with other people, and also in an all-male environment. I’ve learnt to think ahead, plan ahead and be pedantic about a product’s appearance. From a wider perspective, I now know what sort of organization runs behind a mill.”
After finishing her studies Henna can work as manager.
“My next goal is to move from one part of the forest industry to another. Perhaps work at a pulp mill? I at least feel that this could be the industry for me.”