18.09.2019

From student life in Trondheim to working life in Svelgen

A year has passed since I started as a Trainee in Elkem, and I can definitely say that a lot has changed during the last twelve months. Not only did I go from student life to working life, I have also gone from city life in Trondheim to quite a different lifestyle in the small village of Svelgen. 

This blog post has been written by our trainee Sarah Warloe

I must admit that I was sceptical at the beginning, but I realise now that I had nothing to worry about.Let’s start at the beginning, which for me was the crushing plant in the Foundry division at Elkem Bremanger, located in the small village Svelgen. “Crushing plant? What is that?” was my initial thought, and I quickly realised I had a lot to learn. Not only was this my first experience working at an industrial plant, everything related to crushing and sieving of metal was new to me too. My first weeks were therefore spent together with the operators at the crushing plant. They were very kind and helpful, and these weeks gave me an insight to the daily life in the plant and what challenges they had to deal with. In addition, in spending time with the operators I also made new friends – a very positive outcome as I knew close to no one when I arrived. My further tasks involved daily follow up of production, and I worked closely with the process responsible for the crushing plant. Another task I spent a lot of time on was trying to implement a machine for particle analysis. The size distribution of our product is very important for the customers, thus a large part of the work in the crushing plant is related to sampling and testing of the material. Today that process is manual. However, with the new machine it would become more automatic and quicker. While working with the machine, I encountered several problems, which in one way was positive since I got a trip to the manufacturer of the machine in Germany for some training, but on the other side the problems also resulted in me not being able to finish the work before my time at the crushing plant was over. This was tough learning so early in my career; that things don’t always work out as planned, even though one tries one’s best.

Me working at the packing station in the crushing plant

As I mentioned earlier, I was quite sceptical before I moved to Svelgen. Given the fact that I grew up in the middle of Bergen, and studied in Trondheim for the last 5 years, I did not know if I would like to live in a village with only 1300 inhabitants. However, I received a warm welcome both from colleagues and neighbours – which, believe it or not, you actually talk to and know here. Elkem being the largest employer in Svelgen, is also a good starting platform for getting to know people. In addition to nice people, the beautiful surroundings offer great possibilities for outdoor activities. After spending a lot of time inside while studying, I really enjoyed being outside and going for hikes after work.

The beautiful mountains surrounding Svelgen

The fact that I liked it so much here in Svelgen early made me think about staying for a second period at Elkem Bremanger. You see, Elkem Bremanger is quite unique in the way that two divisions operate at the same plant; the Foundry division and the Silicon Materials division. I wanted to switch division for a potential second period at the plant. Therefore, when I heard about a large project called Hornelen starting up in august at the furnace in the Silicon Materials division I made my decision to stay. I wanted to work close to a furnace and learn more about furnace operations, since it is so important for Elkem’s business. And that was it, after Easter I started at furnace 5, and thereby I think I am the first Trainee ever staying two periods in Svelgen. Even though I still go through the same gate as before, my tasks have completely changed. For the first couple of months at furnace 5 I learned about silicon production and got a couple of weeks together with the operators here as well. A lot of time, however, was also spent in preparing for the start of the large project. During the Hornelen project furnace 5 will be rebuilt. The old furnace has outlived its time, and as I am writing this the furnace has been demolished, and the process of building the new one will start soon. It is really special to be able to see inside the furnace during the demolition, and luckily, I will be able to watch the process multiple times since one of my tasks during the 3-month long project is to make timelapse videos of the demolition and construction phase of the furnace. Now I am eager to see a new furnace come to life during the next couple of months.

 A peak inside the furnace during demolition where the material is still so hot it’s glowing

In august, I left for the yearly Trainee gathering. This year’s gathering was held in Kalvåg, one-hour drive from Svelgen. Here we met the new Trainees, and had a week filled with lots of delicious food, hikes in typical weather for this part of the country, meaning a lot of rain and wind, boat trips and introductions to various parts of Elkem as well as a plant visit to Elkem Bremanger. We were also lucky enough to be joined by the “old” trainees for one day. I really enjoy these gatherings as we quickly become good friends, and it feels nice to know people who are in the same situation as yourself that can provide help and support when needed. I wish all my fellow trainees the best of luck at their current locations and look forward to future gatherings and my last year as an Elkem Trainee.

 

All the trainees on a very windy boat trip with Elkem Bremanger in the background, and Haris, Mia, Lene and Daniel in Kalvåg on the one hike we had without rain.