Lilli Puntti: EtäTET remote traineeship week – What an exciting learning experience!

At the beginning of this year, I and the rest of a working group in charge of increasing the appeal of the Finnish chemical industry discussed ways of reaching young people who could be the chemical-industry professionals of the future. We agreed that a TET traineeship week (familiarization with working life for junior high school students in Finland) would offer a great opportunity to provide information on various jobs, tasks and industries. 

The challenge we faced in the implementation of the TET traineeship week in chemical-industry companies was ensuring the safety of the students. Due to the hazardous chemicals and equipment used in the industry, underage students could not be involved in chemistry-related tasks, while any other available tasks, such as cleaning and organisation, would not give an accurate picture of the work. For this reason, we decided to try a remote version of the TET traineeship week.

A total of five different industries participated in the EtäTET remote traineeship week. Wednesday was selected as the day for the chemical industry. Kiilto, and the Siilinjärvi plant of Yara decided to participate, and the theme was “Maailmaa pelastavia töitä” (work that saves the world). Then, Antti Pasanen from Yara, Auli Piiparinen from Kemianteollisuus and I started the planning.

At times, we wondered in our planning meetings whether we had taken on more than we could handle and whether the technology would function with the load, as the number of participants increased to over 3,500 students. Fortunately, thanks to the aid and expertise of TAT and Stremia, the day was successful.

If the goal of the EtäTET remote traineeship week was for young people to learn about the chemical industry and environmental issues, then at least I can say with certainty that I learnt so many new things. What I learnt in particular was how to perform to an audience of teenagers, from what kind of a view they look at this world and how to implement immersive assignments and create captivating videos.

Before that, I hadn’t even appeared on video in public. Now, the first thing to do was to make a TikTok-style video to promote the event and the chemistry day, and I also had to take the audience on a virtual lab tour. Fortunately, the lab personnel even helped me with tasks as simple as which way to hold the phone and how to upload the video to the computer.

Then the November day arrived, and Auli and I took an early-morning train from Pirkanmaa. Once we arrived, we received a warm welcome at Stremia. We got a tour of the studio and went through the script for the day. Some were more nervous than others, and the closer the awaited moment came, the more important the emotional support was. The day went almost as expected, with the exception of making a blunder with a few slides. All in all, everything went well, if not even great.

We tasked the students with designing a “green adhesive” that had to involve at least two green aspects, such as raw materials, packaging, production or energy. We have already seen the answers and presentations of a few schools. They contained many great insights, such as adhesive production in the vicinity of raw-material sources, visual packaging solutions and local production of green energy in sparsely-populated areas.

Some of the students asked tricky questions in the chat, but what delighted me the most was the question a student asked about the increase in fertiliser prices over the past year. It was easy even for me to answer that, as Antti was giving his presentation on how there is a shortage of raw materials all over the world and how this situation has led to unprecedented price increases not only in fertilisers but in all industries. Another question that also sparked a debate behind the scenes was “Can chemical solutions help solve overpopulation?”. And the answer is “Yes, it can”, as the chemical industry includes several pharmaceutical factories that manufacture hormonal coils and other hormonal contraceptive products.

Even though I felt quite exhausted at the end of the day, I also felt that I had gained many exciting new experiences. All in all, this was a nice experience, and we are looking forward to receiving the rest of the feedback from the participants and the assignments completed by the students during the day.

Lilli Puntti, Head of Product Safety and Sustainability