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A week in the life of a trainee site supervisor

July 15, 2018

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Monday

I’m starting a week-long mini-blog on a slow Monday morning. I’ve been in the job three weeks, and have had no time for blogging. My training began, as I hoped it would, by jumping right into the job at the deep end. From day one I was given responsible tasks, and have been kept so busy that time has flown by.

I have many new skills to learn, and have had to be constantly outside my comfort zone. My tasks have included handling material invoices for partitions and intermediate floors, organisation of cleaning and clearing work, organization of security locking for the work site, handling various orders, not forgetting the numbing but necessary lettering of invoices.

The property is a block of serviced apartments and apartment hotel that together form a residential complex in Tikkurila, Vantaa. The buildings are at the skeleton stage, and between them will be a two-storey parking facilitywith a yard and green area on top of it. The buildings will have eight storeys.  The construction site offices and social facilities are located in a nearby office building.

The work team is highly varied, to put it mildly, but at the same time dynamic. For example, the Helsinki metropolitan area, Ostrobothnia, Estonia and southwest Finland are all well represented on the building site. Everyone does their own work in their own way. A certain person’s day-to-day Zen and can-do attitude might well irritate someone of a more pessimistic nature. There are many northern Finnish workers on the site, and their gift of the gab can leave the quieter sorts from Helsinki struggling to get a word in edgeways. All the same, everything gets taken care of, in good spirits.

The foreman responsible for the outdoor casting on the work site transferred to another site just before the car park and yard deck were completed. That supervisor felt that they were really good at their job. I got to follow his supervision of the casting of the car park area from up close, and saw the close attention to detail that a large-scale casting process demands from the job manager. For this week, I took on his area of responsibility. This is a terrifying prospect. Luckily I have two more experienced supervisors and a site manager to help me, if they only have the time.

Tuesday

My work is by no means limited to the supervision of outdoor casting. I must also actively seek out matters on the site that need to be taken care of. The most urgent tasks recently have been clearing things away from the walls to make way for the levelling and painting work on all the floors. I have also marked reserved spaces on walls for fixed equipment and fittings, and have been in close contact with the supervisor from the surface treatment contractor to make their work run as smoothly as possible. I’ve also been trying to familiarise myself with the work of the engineers, and to take on as much of their work as possible for myself. In addition, I have been asking construction workers about what they need.

So in general, I have been acting as everyone’s servant. That doesn’t bother me – to me it goes without saying that I’m making myself most useful when I’m facilitating the work of more highly-skilled people.

Wednesday

Most of my workday has been taken up with logistical organisation, which was already familiar from my training placement. I was able to order and arrange the cladding work for around the parking facility. At the same time, I became acquainted with a new contractor who I got along with very well. Every single one of the workers on the site has been very approachable. Or maybe it’s just that I’m an irresistibly likable sort… Whether I am or not, I have not had any conflicts at all on the work site so far. Under the control of Fira things seem to be going along pretty diplomatically, even if there have been a few difficulties.

I have also received good feedback on how I’ve handled things briskly. I try to ensure that the required drawings, plans and deliveries are handled on time for the workers who need them. It’s precisely these little things that had not previously been sufficiently resourced, with under-staffed work supervision.

Thursday

The only access so far to the unfinished parking facility is by the stairs, and the removal of larger loads from the hall must be done by crane.Erection of separate structural elements is underway at the apartment complex, so a crane is needed continuously. My experience in site logistics has proven to be useful when hoisting needs to be arranged on a tight schedule for the right place between element installations. I’ve gotten to know the contractor for the cast-in-place work over the last few days when casting supports have had to be lifted for pickup from the parking facility to the parking deck.

The supervisor of the cast-in-place contractor is also a contact person I’m currently working with, since parts of the parking facility will be cast under my watchful eye tomorrow. My job is to arrange the framing and arrangements, and to monitor the working methods and quality of work.

Friday

For the first time, I was Fira’s only head of line construction on the site. I noticed my popularity increasing at once: almost every third employee on the site was approaching me with something to be ordered or arranged. I felt for the first time that I was really an essential cog in the work site machine – and hopefully one that didn’t jam the workings rather than keep things running.

My most responsible job was to arrange and supervise the small castings in the parking facility. It soon turned out that not enough concrete had been ordered, and so more had to be obtained right away. Fortunately, the emergency order didn’t take long to show up, so the slight delay didn’t dramatically affect the course of the work. I recalled the words of the outdoor work supervisor before they left, simple yet comforting words: “It’ll turn out well”.I held the reins and gave answers to questions just like taking them from a pharmacy shelf. I had done my homework and created a clear vision in my mind beforehand, but I was also mentally prepared for surprises.

Handling this new task, which brought a lot of responsibility with it and had the potential for presenting many unexpected situations, was the most important work of my life in the field of construction. And in construction, as in everything else, new things seem to be mysterious until you’re suddenly in the position of simply having to deal with them. My ability to work under pressure was sorely tested, but after completing my work I found that I had developed some completely new skills. Nothing is too difficult as long as you don’t make it so.

I understand of course that the field of construction involves matters that can require even tens of years of experience. However, I believe that after this summer I will honestly be able to that I am skilled in construction.

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