After nearly two years of studies, a group of twelve young people completed Koskisen Academy, a programme launched in spring 2014, and received a basic qualification in wood processing. During their training, the young students learned about various jobs in the sawmilling and plywood industry.
The training, realised in co-operation with AEL, started out with 18 young students who did not hold a qualification after completing compulsory education. The students ranged in age from 16 to 25. As Koskisen aims to ensure the availability of professional and skilled personnel in future, too, the company took it upon itself to train experts in the field. The training took the form of a Finnish apprenticeship programme, where the qualification was completed alongside paid work. Immediately upon finishing their studies, the graduates were ready to take the leap into working life and are already familiar with the company’s working methods.
“I am so proud of all our young graduates. It was a long road, and sometimes a bumpy one that demanded flexibility and a lot of work on both sides, but it felt good to reach the finish line,” says Koskisen’s HR Manager Tarja Turunen with a smile.
Especially in the early stages, the students had to learn the basic rules of working life, but most obstacles were overcome by talking things through. Koskisen appointed mentors at each work station for the academy students. The mentors worked closely with the students for the entire training period, offering both moral support and familiarising them with the work.
“The mentors also deserve big thanks. They were a big support and help to the trainers and students during the project. Their presence no doubt made it a lot easier for the young people to adapt and learn about the ways of working at the production facilities,” stresses Turunen.
Plywood mill employees Anne Baltzar and Tiina Koskela were mentors for the entire year-and-a-half journey.
“In the end, you could hardly tell the academy students from other new employees. And after a while, it was easy to forget that they were students – they were just like our regular colleagues. Naturally, in the beginning we had to reiterate some of the rules of working life a bit more often, especially with the underage employees,” says Koskela.
“The difference, of course, is that the academy students were familiarised with the work at the different stations much more thoroughly, since they were simultaneously learning about the industry. For example, we went through veneer grading and the entire plywood manufacturing process in greater depth,” adds Baltzar.
Many of the mentors will continue to work with the academy students in future, as nine of the graduates were offered a permanent job at Koskisen, either at the sawmill or the plywood mill. They remain at Koskisen as so-called existing employees, which means they retain their accumulated holidays, etc.
Nelli Elf and Tommi Härkönen are two of the recent graduates. They agree that the apprenticeship training was a more enjoyable and better form of learning for them than the traditional form of learning at a school desk. The learning was hands-on, and every moment helped to prepare them for real work tasks.
They have nothing but good things to say about Koskisen as an employer.
“There was so much flexibility at Koskisen. I developed an allergy in the middle of my studies, and I was unable to work at the plywood station. They solved that problem by having me go through the sawmill processes more broadly. They found a way to adjust to everything one way or another. I would definitely do it all over again,” says Elf.
Härkönen, whose work at the gluing line in the plywood mill continues, also praises his workplace:
“Koskisen is a good, reliable and secure employer. The work atmosphere is good, and colleagues and supervisors are always ready to help when a problem arises.”
Härkönen is interested in continuing his studies in future, either in-house or in co-operation with a school. Elf has also considered the possibility of undertaking a vocational qualification in the wood products industry. For now, however, both graduates are carrying on with their work at Koskisen and taking full advantage of everything they have learned on the job as wood professionals.