Story | 06/19/2024 11:31:30 | 8 min Read time

UPM volunteers support school kids in learning about work life and society

Sara Steensig

Editor, Tulus

Meet the sixth grader, who might become UPM’s future leader – and the UPMers who helped him and his mates learn about working life, the economy, and society.

UPM’s Business Director Oskari Lampinen and Sales and Marketing Manager Simo Raiskinmäki sit down at the end of a hectic workday to discuss the firm’s earnings with factory worker Jani Koskinen

These UPMers are sixth graders from Virrat in Pirkaanmaa, Finland. Today, they have left their books at the Virtain Yhteiskoulu school to learn about adult life in Pirkanmaan Yrityskylä in Tampere.

Yrityskylä – meaning enterprise village – is a mini society run by 12-13-year-olds. Before the one-day visit to the site, the children learn about working life, economy, and society and apply for the jobs they get in Yrityskylä. 

“I've always felt I have a bit of leadership material in me,” explains Oskari, when asked why he applied to be UPM’s boss for a day. His colleague on the floor, Jani, says that although his work today mainly happened on a tablet and not in a real factory hall, he has a good perception of what production work is all about. 

Sales and Marketing Manager Simo wanted the job because his mother has the same title. “Today, I’ve sold terrace decking and I’ve been interviewed. It’s been a good day, we’ve made good deals, and now I understand my mom’s job much better,” he notes.
 

The young UPM team from left: Simo Raiskinmäki, Jani Koskinen, and Oskari Lampinen.

Factory worker Jani Koskinen fills out an occupational safety plan for UPM.

Deeply involved UPM volunteers

Jari Hahl joins the meeting at the UPM stall. In his daily job he is operating the coating machine at UPM Raflatac’s factory in Tampere and has decided to volunteer at Pirkanmaa Yrityskylä.

Through the Biofore Share and Care program, UPMers can do eight hours of volunteering a year. When Jari heard about the chance to help in Yrityskylä, he immediately grabbed it. 

“Both of my children went here in the sixth grade, and they loved it. So, if I can enable another child to have such a nice experience, of course I will. It's a no-brainer.”

Four other people, who usually work at UPM, are volunteering at Pirkanmaa Yrityskylä today. They are spread around the village’s many company booths and have quickly become as involved in the role play as the children are.

“After a little debate about the leader role, we got off to a good start, and the highlight of the day was our first deal,” says Financial Controller, UPM Fibres Aku Seppälä, about his day at the local bus company. 

Process Lead, Finance & Control Maarit Leskinen-Stoyanov is proud of the great and well-prepared speech that the CEO of “her bank” held earlier. “It is nice to follow how the young people work,” she notes about the bank clerks, who were busy advising on payment matters, granting bank cards, and helping other companies manage their finances.
 

The possibility to volunteer at Yrityskylä through the Biofore Share and Care program was extremely popular among UPMers. This quintet helped in Pirkanmaa on April 17th, 2024. At the back from the left: Aku Seppälä and Jari Hahl. In the front from the left: Maarit Leskinen-Stoyanov, Katja Kivelä, and Armi Kauppila.
 

“It's interesting to see how the youth of today are doing. This day has brought variation to my working life, and I've always enjoyed mentoring,” says Aku Seppälä, who supported Yrityskylä’s bus company.
 

Maarit Leskinen-Stoyanov at the bank. In the front, a customer from the water supply company.
 

Through the Biofore Share and Care Programme, Maarit Leskinen-Stoyanov (left) has earlier gone on walks with the elderly, and she is very happy with the support from the employer. 

Inspiring encounters

UPM was the very first company to partner with Yrityskylä in 2010. Since then, a couple of hundred companies, organizations, and institutions have joined. 

Working for well-known, real companies is motivating for the children. It also makes it possible to give them an experience very close to real life, stresses Kaisa Sälke, Partnership Manager at the non-profit behind Yrityskylä, Junior Achievement (JA) Finland.

“The role scripts and their tasks come from the companies. It would be impossible for us to know all the newest trends in the forest industry, for example, without UPM’s help.”

Sälke also welcomes the helping hands of UPM’s volunteers. Thanks to the support of them and others, the kids get an unforgettable experience that many of them describe as “the best school day ever.”

It is, however, not only the children that reap the benefits of this special day. UPM’s volunteers seem to be equally excited about the change of environment and the encounters with the sixth graders.

“The pupils are very open-minded; they truly want to make contact. Some of them have shared surprisingly personal thoughts about the future,” highlights Katja Kivelä, Business Director for food, home and personal care labelling end-uses at UPM Raflatac. She spent the day at the forest management association which – among other tasks – provide Yrityskylä’s UPM stand with raw materials. 

Supporting the journalists at Yrityskylä’s state television newsroom has opened new perspectives to Armi Kauppila’s daily work as a Senior Specialist in Communications and Marketing in UPM Forest and Timber. “At work, we adults are always busy and focused on getting things done as quickly as possible. Here, I noticed that the children read the instructions thoroughly and check them several times, which I find inspiring.”
 

At the city hall, Yrityskylä’s citizens vote about how they want their taxes to be spent. Partnership Manager Kaisa Sälke shows the ballot with three alternatives: A swimming hall, a youth center, or a playground.
 

Katja Kivelä sees voluntary work as an energy boost to her daily work and an important part of her well-being at work.

The joy of helping local kids

Back at the UPM stall, Oskari, Simo, Jani, and Jari from the real UPM Raflatac begin to tidy the place, as this – for all of them – special working day is coming to an end.  

”It’s been a joy to do something for the local kids. I’m happy to have the chance to help and support the local community,” says Jari, who hopes that the children have a positive impression of UPM today. 

That wish seems to be fulfilled. Oskari, Simo, and Jani all state that they would consider working with the company in the future. 

The boss, Oskari, has spent the day sourcing logs, signing contracts, and paying his employees on time. “I’ve learned how to take care of finances and business deals. I feel like I understand society and working life better now.”

So, could Oskari be UPM’s future leader? “Yes!” sounds his short and direct answer.
 

The pupils are both workers, consumers, and citizens. They get paid and pay taxes, and when they are off, they go out to spend their money.
 

“Yes, cardboard fibers are used to produce toilet paper rolls,” says the bin when fed with a cardboard box. Sustainability and circular economy are high up on the agenda – especially at the UPM stall and generally in Yrityskylä.
 

Today, three people are working at UPM. If there are more pupils, a fourth gets the position as a researcher testing labeling materials.

 

Text and photo: Sara Steensig

Main image: A meeting at the town square. Between 70 and 80 pupils visit Yrityskylä at a time.

 

Yrityskylä

  • An awarded Finnish learning concept for 6th and 9th graders.
  • The program starts at school and culminates in a day spent working for real firms in a staged mini-society.
  • The pupils apply for the jobs at Yrityskylä, and their teacher conducts the job interviews.
  • A total of 13 Yrityskylä can be found all over Finland.
  • 90 percent of all Finnish children go to Yrityskylä in sixth grade.
  • UPM is a partner in Helsinki, Lappeenranta, and Tampere.
 

Biofore Share and Care program

UPM’s Biofore Share and Care program reflects our commitment to building a sustainable, innovation-driven future by sharing our expertise and assets for causes we care about. The focus areas of the Biofore Share and Care program are Reading and Learning, Engaging with communities, and Beyond fossils initiatives. The program comprises of sponsorships, donations, and volunteering. UPM employees can do eight hours of volunteer work during working hours a year.

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