Chemical engineer Mervi Seppälä works as an apprentice trainee at the chemical plant of Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta Oy. After the three-year apprenticeship, she will become a process operator and will be offered a permanent job at the nickel plant.
Mervi likes the three-shift system and varying tasks of process operators.
A process operator job via apprenticeship
Chemical engineer Mervi works as an apprentice trainee at the chemical plant of the Russian-owned nickel manufacturer Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta Oy.
Norilsk Nickel produces nickel chemicals mainly for the electronics and battery industries, and the majority of its products are exported.
After her apprenticeship period, Mervi will become a process operator. The training is practical and allows her to carry out a wide range of tasks and acquire the required skills and knowledge while working.
"I monitor and control production and material processes, take samples, maintain equipment and pack finished products according to package size preferences of our customers," Mervi describes her work.
Mervi spends a good part of her working time at the plant's control room monitors, but her shifts also include visits to the production areas and periods at the packaging department.
"We do control rounds at the plant and visually check that all is ok. Packaging shifts, instead, are physical work as we pack the products into bags and transport them to the warehouse with trucks," she continues.
Mervi's work is based on a three-shift system. A shift cycle is composed of two mornings, two evenings, two nights and four days off. This rhythm suits Mervi very well.
"The shifts alternate quickly, and therefore my body doesn't have time to get too stuck on one shift. And four days off always feels nice," goes on Mervi, who has a six-year old son.
In addition to the shift-based work rhythm, Mervi's work is given more variety by shift types that change every two days. At times she spends more time in the control room, at other times mainly in the production areas, and sometimes nearly all her time is spent in the packaging department. Mervi does not have a favourite shift type because all three have their positive aspects.
"Control room work is interesting and a good opportunity to learn a lot. The production areas are always busy, and the packaging department is a good place just to work away listening to music, for example, as there is no need to think too much."
Because Mervi belongs to the apprenticeship group, she also has one training day a week. The teaching takes place either at the plant or at WinNova in Pori. It includes both theoretical and practical content covering various areas of process operator work. The apprentice group is 19-student strong, and at the moment Mervi is the only woman.
"It has all gone very well with the men of the group. We have people with different educational backgrounds, and the team spirit is great," she says.
"For the first two years we study for the basic processing industry degree and then do another year for the vocational degree. We will graduate as process operators in 2015 and will then be offered permanent jobs at Norilsk."
Salary even while studying
Mervi has always been interested in mathematics and natural sciences. After upper secondary school, she wanted to study in the Pori area and chose the chemical engineering course at the Pori Campus of Satakunta University of Applied Sciences (SAMK). She also considered a career in healthcare or business economy but is now happy with her choice.
"My earlier studies provide a good theoretical basis for process work. I did summer work at Norilsk already during my engineering studies and liked it enough to want to learn more about the practical side of process work, too. This is why I applied for the apprentice trainee position when I saw the announcement last autumn. I felt lucky to be chosen because this apprenticeship is an excellent way to acquire the skills and information while working – and for a decent salary too!" she explains.
Mervi believes she is likely to stay at Norilsk for a long time, because it is such a stable and progressive company. Another plus are the benefits of a large company.
"We have clear rules and agreements here, and the company promotes well-being at work and strives to make this an accident-free work environment."
For Mervi, the future may hold further studies after the apprenticeship period. She can see herself studying while working, for a Master’s Degree in Engineering, for example. However, she does not plan to change the workplace.
"I'm sure Norilsk Nickel Harjavalta will be able to offer me interesting tasks and opportunities in the future as well."