A summer job in large-scale industry attracts young people in Oulu
Year after year, Kraton Chemical Company in Oulu succeeds in getting eager young workers as substitutes and trainees. Effective cooperation with the local schools and colleges, and looking after the needs of the young people pays off.
Saku Kurtti is one of the summer trainees at the Kraton Chemical factory. This is his second summer.
– I originally applied to Kraton because a college friend recommended it, and the experience has been positive. Working as a trainee gives a realistic picture of work. It reinforces previously learned stuff, and also gives a new perspective to future studies.
According to Saku, Kraton Chemical has shown a positive side of the entire chemical industry as a workplace.
– My work guidance was thorough and very useful. I got all the necessary instruction and guidance for the job. And the guidance hasn’t stopped, I continuously get more knowledge by just asking. If I’m not sure about something, I can ask for advice. Here everybody greets each other, and the work climate is friendly.
Saku Kurtti’s work training in the factory’s pine oil distillery has gone well and without any mishaps.
– Safety is the number one priority here. It was emphasized to everybody already in the first work orientation session, so that we will all be able to get home in one piece, he says.
Have there been any surprises?
– I was surprised to see how different the work environment in big industry is compared to any other workplace where I’ve been. I could certainly see a big chemical plant as being my future workplace. In any case, next year I will apply again as a summer trainee to Kraton, says Saku Kurtti.
Young people are now more interested in factory work
Kraton Chemical refines pine oil into various products used in industry. About 100 people work in the factory. Every summer the factory employs young people from vocational institutes and the University of Oulu as trainees and as substitutes. This year there are 15 summer employees, 12 of whom are working in production.
– Young people are easy to recruit, says Elisa Tuhkanen, who is occupational safety chief at Kraton.
The company’s personnel are making the factory known in different institutes of learning.
– Several of our people have given lectures, and I too have visited the university to talk about occupational safety. It is important to let young people know that there is an alternative workplace like this in Oulu. And of course students speak with each other and spread the word.
According to Elisa Tuhkanen, the trainees at the factory are really awesome.
– Young people have a fresh way of looking at hazards and near-accidents. A hazard may have existed at the factory for 30 years. Then a young summer trainee comes and asks “Why is that like that?” On a couple of summers we have rewarded young persons for informing about hazards, she says.
Safety comes first in work guidance
This summer Saku Kurtti works in the control room of the pine oil distillery. His supervisor is shift manager Sami Holtinkoski.
– A young employee is first given a certain task entity. After a few summers as a trainee, he will be given new more demanding tasks, he explains.
The products at the Kraton Chemical factory are processed at a high temperature, so there are several hazardous phases. All of the instructions related to working are very tight.
The same attention to details is emphasized in the work guidance of young trainees.
– Because the young people are in a real workplace, the guidance lasts at least three weeks, possibly longer, and proceeds step by step. We also make sure that the trainee has learned what he has been taught. We are in contact with the young person’s supervisor and the production manager, checking to see if anything still has to be repeated, Elisa Tuhkanen explains.
– When the young person’s work guidance is completed, we make sure that he isn’t left by himself to wonder, “How on earth should this be done?” Before starting a work task, the trainee is given instructions, and another employee comes along so that no accidents occur simply because he doesn’t know what to do.
Every young person who is applying to be a trainee at Kraton Chemical in Oulu is interviewed personally. The interviewers are shift masters, in other words those who supervise the young persons.
– Already in the interview one can see if the applicant has the right attitude to safety. The summer job lasts maximally five months. In that time it’s not possible to change a person’s attitude, if it’s poor. The young person must understand that safety is the number one priority, and he can and should ask if not sure about anything.
An award for overall responsibility
For three years the Kraton Chemical factory in Oulu has been granted an award for the best summer workplace in the ‘Responsible summer job’ competition. The summer employees of the enterprises taking part in the campaign answer questions on the internet and assess their employer. The answers are scored, and the enterprise getting the most points wins.
– A good summer job experience is composed of several elements. Safety is number one at Kraton, and we keep our promises. The young people get to be members of the work community and they do real work. We take care of them and we give them feedback, Elisa Tuhkanen explains the reasons for getting the awards.
The enterprise is also one of the winners of safety awards in the chemical industry.
– A few years ago we started to develop our safety culture with the aim to reduce our accident level to near zero. It’s a worldwide phenomenon that the last effort tends to be left undone. This is a deeper attitude problem, which isn’t solved only by directions and orders.
Elisa Tuhkanen is pleased to note that employees today have more initiative when it comes to safety matters. Safety has become the highest priority at the factory – in word as well as in deed. Defects are tackled together, and they are remedied. Development ideas are implemented together.
– I believe that the safety prize was granted to us namely because of our comprehensive actions and the active participation of the whole work community.
School children visiting a mini-factory
Kraton Chemical is also taking part in the ‘Safety Companion’ collaboration within the chemical industry. Students have ‘learning at work’ periods at the factory, and they do study demonstrations.
Kraton is also active in the ‘Enterprise Path’ action model of the vocational institute of Oulu region. Its goal is to tailor the institute’s courses to correspond better to the needs of enterprises. For two years the enterprise has also collaborated with schools in the ‘Enterprise Village’ project of Oulu. Senior students in comprehensive school are the target group.
– Kraton has a miniature factory where all sixth graders (12–13-year-old children) practise applying for a job, managing a factory, purchasing raw materials, and starting a production process, Elisa Tuhkanen tells.
– Not many children have any idea of what factory work is like, unless a close relative happens to have a job in industry. Many youngsters who have tried out an industrial “job” in the miniature factory are enthusiastic at the end of the day about the “best workplace in the world”.
Kraton’s cooperation with ninth graders (15–16-year olds) in the Enterprise Village is in the form of a game. The young people are divided into small groups, and the task of each group is to assume the role of the factory’s “executive team”. The aim of the game is to get points from different operations. It may come as a surprise to the participants to find out on what basis the winner is declared…