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The Trainee Experience: What is it like to start your career as a trainee?

Trainee Blog 06.10.2023

Envision a world where all extracted materials are transformed into useful products without generating any waste. A world where every product and by-product has inherent value and is reused or recycled to create further value. This is the world of circular economy, and Elkem is at the forefront of this movement.

I was excited to be selected as a technical trainee at Elkem and found out that my first placement will be in Oslo. I had always been drawn to the country's stunning scenery (the reason I chose to study in Narvik for my Master’s), and I saw this placement as an opportunity to experience the vibrant and cosmopolitan city of Oslo, a major hub for business and innovation. I was eager to start my traineeship and learn more about Elkem's work in circular economy and waste management.

Before starting work in their placements, all trainees gathered in Trondheim for an enriching onboarding program. The program began with introductions and presentations about the company by various Elkem employees. It also included a variety of activities, such as group runs, padel tennis, guided tours, dinners at excellent restaurants, a boat trip to Munkholmen, and a unique trainee challenge. One of the highlights of my time in Trondheim was a visit to the Nidaros Cathedral, the world’s northernmost Gothic medieval cathedral, which was completed around the year 1300.

The amazing facade of the Nidaros Cathedral
The internal architecture of the Nidaros Cathedral

The unique trainee challenge was similar to those seen on MasterChef episodes, where chefs cook for guests in a limited time in an outdoor setting. The added difficulty here was that the budget for every group was limited and the overall group scores also took into account HSE, economy, tasks management, and waste handling. Trainees prepared fresh meals in groups and then enjoyed a lavish lunch at Munkholmen, featuring delicious dishes made by the trainees themselves. My group was judged the winner of this challenge, making it one of my favourite memories from the onboarding program. Munkholmen is a small island with a rich history. It has been used as a monastery, a fortress, and a defence station during World War II. Today, Munkholmen is a popular tourist destination, where visitors can enjoy swimming, sunbathing, hiking, and exploring the island's historical ruins.

Planning for the trainee challenge at Munkholmen. I am on the left, with the black cap
Happy trainees after successfully making excellent food for the trainee challenge


After that we moved to Bårdshaug Herregård, a beautiful 19th-century manor house.

A guided tour of the Bårdshaug Mansion

Next up, we had a few interesting tours. The group visited the Orkla industrial museum, a fascinating place that showcases the region's rich mining history and the challenges and triumphs of the workers who worked in the mines. This was followed by a Victorian-style lunch at the Orkla Gjestebolig, which was built as a hotel during the expansion of operations in the region. The building was used as a place for board meetings, and hosting guests. Following this, the group visited the Orkla mining site, a historic mine that has been in operation since the 17th century and contributed to the industrial development of the region.

The entrance to the Orkla mine
Fascinating deposits inside the mine

The next visit in the agenda was to Elkem Thamshavn, a state-of-the-art smelting plant where we observed the value creation process up close and were given a tour of the plant by the Plant Manager, Sondre Valle Hestvik. Later in the day, the trainees were given a guided tour of Bårshaug Herregård, followed by a formal dinner in the elaborately decorated dining room of the mansion.

An elaborately decorated corner in the dining room of the Bårdshaug Mansion

After the orientation, all trainees moved to their respective placements and I moved to Oslo to begin my placement at the Oslo HQ, where I started working on circular economy, waste management, and side streams mapping. Circular economy is a system in which resources are kept in use for as long as possible, extracting the maximum value from them while minimizing waste and pollution. It is important because it can help us to reduce our reliance on finite resources, protect the environment, and create jobs.

Elkem is actively working to become a more sustainable business by implementing circular economy principles in all aspects of its operations. This includes reducing waste and emissions, designing products for recyclability and reuse, investing in innovative technologies for recycling and waste management, and working with customers to develop circular solutions. Elkem publishes an ESG (Environment, Sustainability, Governance) report every year, which provides readers with information on the company's current environmental status, initiatives, challenges, targets, governance and much more.

To better understand the value creation, waste management and side-streams on plant level, I decided to visit Elkem Bremanger in September. The plant is one of the most sustainable silicon smelters in the world, thanks to its use of renewable energy, and efficient waste management programs. Elkem Bremanger is the producer of Silgrain. Most commonly, it is used as a starting material for making semiconductor chips used in a wide range of consumer electronics today. Elkem Bremanger is a leading example of how the silicon smelting industry can be more sustainable and environmentally friendly. The plant's commitment to circular economy and sustainable production is helping to create a better future for all of us.

Although the weather is usually rainy in Western Norway around this time of year, I was lucky to find a time window of clear skies after the rain, and decided to go on a drive to Kalvåg, which is about an hour’s drive from Svelgen, and the scenes along the way looked like they were straight out of The Lord of the Rings: majestic mountains, dense forests, and autumn hues in golden sunlight. Need I say more about how beautiful the place is?

A picture from the road trip to Kalvåg

In my leisure time, I enjoy exploring Oslo's vibrant and lively atmosphere. I have had the pleasure of visiting world-class museums, lush green parks, trendy neighbourhoods, cosy specialty coffee shops, and renowned restaurants serving delicious cuisine. Oslo is a city that has something to offer to everyone, and I am constantly discovering new and exciting attractions.

A sunny September afternoon at Karl Johans gate

Elkem's global reach and diverse workforce have fuelled my passion for exploring my potential and learning from others. As a former international student and now a technical trainee, I have the privilege of collaborating with people from all backgrounds, gaining insights into diverse perspectives and approaches. This rich tapestry of talent and experience encourages me to think creatively and develop innovative solutions to the challenges we face in circular economy and sustainability.

To the potential future technical trainees, I would like to sum up this blog with three key takeaways from my experience as a trainee so far:

  1. Be open-minded and willing to learn
  2. Be proactive and take initiative
  3. Be yourself and enjoy the ride