The results of metalworking can be instantly seen
What first comes to mind when you think industrial metalwork? Perhaps you think of grimy sweaty work best done by brawny men with coarse hands. Or maybe an image of a monotonous shift at a conveyor belt. Get ready for a surprise – you might be wrong.
That is, if what Kari Jokela and Andrei Svetliski say is right. The pros in the field say metalworking has more variety than its reputation. For example, robots do the hard physical work nowadays while metalworkers can concentrate on other things. With production techniques being continually innovated, the nature of metalwork is in a period of rapid change.
For this reason and more, Jokela and Svetliski have gotten into adult continuation training in the field of metalworking at Amiedu in Helsinki. At Amiedu, a specialist in vocational adult education, you can complete an upper secondary, further, specialist or competence-based vocational qualification, as well as a variety of vocational licences, permits and certificates.
Training through testing
Though Jokela and Svetliski have different backgrounds, working with the machinery has struck a common chord. Kari Jokela is a lathe operator who has worked in the field for some 30 years. After becoming unemployed, he heard about Amiedu through the employment office.
“I wanted to learn about programming,” says Jokela. “I also wanted to keep up my job skills.”
For his part, Andrei Svetliski moved to Finland from Russia. He had already graduated with a polytechnic degree in metalworking. Since immigrating, Andrei has also learned Finnish. He already speaks it quite well. He came to Amiedu when a Masa Yards job was discontinued due to workforce reductions.
Both men passed the lathe turning component of Amiedu’s further vocational qualification programme. The two-day competence test wasn’t easy. First they were given a workshop drawing that they had never seen before. Their assignment was to plan its fabrication on a computer. Each had to return an implementation plan on disk to the exam monitor within four hours. The next day they started in on the actual manufacture, making two finished metal products according to their own approved plans and under the supervision of outside evaluators.
“Social skills also counted in the test,” remarks Jokela.
Employment a main objective
Images of mind-numbing boredom are far from the truth. Before the machines start to rumble and roll, the metalworker does drafts and calculations. The planning is a rewarding part of the profession, and it brings more variety to the job. For metalwork, it helps to have a head for math and the ability to visualise forms. Language skills for the basic machine commands are also needed. Working in the machining and metalworking industry also requires a bit of creativity.
“The robots do the actual physical work. The human’s job is to tell them what to do,” Jokela explains. “By itself, the robot is stupid; without people, it can’t do anything.”
When the robot is given the correct instructions, however, the work flows without a hitch.
“For me, one of the best things about this work is that you can immediately see the results and they’re concrete,” explains Andrei Svetliski.
When asked what fields they are interested in besides the metal industry, both Svetliski and Jokela answer “electronics”.
“I like fixing things,” says Svetliski. “Repair work interests me.”
The Amiedu course has succeeded in activating Svetliski and Jokela. Kari Jokela is in good spirits, for he has just received employment.
“I have to thank our production training chief, Teuvo Kukko,” Jokela says. “If he hadn’t given the moral support and prodded me forward all the time, nothing would have happened. Now at least I know that studying pays off. People talk a lot about ‘marginalization’ nowadays, but that stuff doesn’t happen here.”
Andrei Svetliski’s goal is also to get work in his field.
“My dream is to become employed as soon as possible,” he reports. ”This is important so that my job skills don’t start to get rusty.”
The industrial outlook for skilled workers in the field is quite good. According to forecasts, there will be an ever greater need for metalworkers in the future.
After their break for the interview, the two took me to their workstation to see what their job really involves. Embedded in the side of a large contraption was an array of monitors and switches, completely incomprehensible to an outsider. Behind its protective glass, a robot bustled to fetch tools and go through the stages of its job. At the end of it all, a smooth flawless metal product is found inside. Quite amazing!
Laura Friman 23.3.2005