It’s never too late to raise the educational level of good employees

If there’s scarcity of skilled workers, you have to take care of their training yourself. This is exactly what is done at Pressalit right now. At the same time the so-called IGU-project contributes to the integration of refugees.

Ulf Sørensen has not had an exam for 43 years. It was no success at all. His average grades were never very impressive, often he was close to flunking.

Recently he has had an exam again. As part of the training to become a skilled industrial operator he had to pass Science and Engineering.

“Did I perform well? I did. Never performed better,” he replies modestly and then smiles: “I passed with flying colours. Got a 12”.  

Ulf’s outstanding result marks a good start of the education and integration project which is going on for the time being at Pressalit. 

A total of six companies from the central Jutland region take part in the project in collaboration with the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration. It combines integration and education in order to meet the shortage of skilled industrial operators: One refugee and one company employee share the same kind of job and then work and go to school by turns.  

The goal is training and a job for everyone. One with full employment that is. When it comes to skilled industrial operators, there simply are not enough.

Motivation is important

Ulf likes that formula very much. He has helped to train Helen - a refugee from Eritrea - for the job at Pressalit, but he spends more time with Omar from Syria who shares a job with Torben. The reason for this is that the two of them go to school at the same time.

“I find it very rewarding to help other people. I think of that a lot. I can help find the solution to quite a few of the challenges facing the refugees and I’m happy to do it.”

59-year-old Ulf came to work with Pressalit eight years ago as an unskilled worker. Before that time he had had a long career with the Danish Defence. He worked both at home and abroad and for some time also had a job with a special unit in NATO.  He resigned when he no longer felt enthusiastic about the job. It’s important for him to feel highly motivated in everything he does, be it his job or his physical training.  And he is always striving to make everything as close to perfect as possible no matter what he is dealing with.

At Pressalit his job is to splice stainless steel hinges for toilet seats.  While doing it he sometimes becomes completely absorbed in his task.

“I like working with stainless steel. It’s a fascinating material,” he confirms. “It’s flexible and may be shaped into almost anything.”

Retirement? Not for some time to come

After eight years, Ulf still finds it challenging to ensure a certain quality of his work. He likes to adjust his tools in accordance with all the drawings for the various hinge models he produces.  Nevertheless he looks forward to replacing his title as unskilled worker with skilled industrial operator.

“I enjoy to learn more, so I had no doubts that I would like to become a trained industrial operator when they asked me, even if I would be the oldest in the class. I have no intention to retire in the near future, far from it, I would like to keep working as long as I possibly can. I would have turned down the offer though, if it meant that I would have had to accept lower wages as a trainee, but that’s not the case.”

A win-win situation

Production Manager Henriette Blichfeldt doesn’t consider Ulf Sørensen’s age a problem either.

“Ulf may have many fine years ahead of him in the workforce, and if we don’t raise the educational level of our employees we will never become any better. This is a way to meet employee recruitment problems. First we offer training to our good employees and then we see to it that they stay with us. Upgrading good employees is a win-win situation.”

Becoming a more skilled worker is certainly the incentive for Ulf. For instance, the idea of lean manufacturing has really attracted his attention.  He has learned about the various waste types, a very important field in his opinion, and he has written a paper about excess production and cannot help thinking about possible new procedures.

More influence, please

“My employer shows respect for my work, I really feel that, but I also hope that I will gain more influence when I’m a skilled industrial operator. On new procedures and finding better solutions for instance. Whatever is beneficial to the company is beneficial to me. A good result makes me happy, too, especially If I have had a say in the matter.”

Henriette Blichfeldt has noticed his enthusiasm, too.

“The whole idea is that the skilled employees will bring back the knowledge they acquire to their colleagues. They look upon our conditions of production in a whole new way. And if we see to it that working her stays interesting and stimulating, well, then we will be able to keep a good employee for much longer time.”