They are the professionals required for the industrial and technology projects in northern Sweden to be able to grow as intended. Ny Teknik has spoken to four people – from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Poland and Stockholm – who made the infamous move to Norrland.
From South Africa’s mining areas to Pajala
The difference in time zone is only one hour. But the two geologists Elsabe Cloete from South Africa and Alan Johnson from Zimbabwe have in a way moved as far as possible – from South Africa to a mine at the Arctic Circle.
The couple met at work in the industry in which they have both been active for more than ten years. They had become accustomed to having jobs at mines located tens of miles apart when Elsabe Cloete was contacted on Linkedin by Kaunis Iron, the company that runs the Kaunisvaara mine since 2018.
The economy was not an important factor when they said yes, but it was that both were offered jobs in the same place.
– Since then, we have always had an openness to new challenges, privately and professionally. And when we understood the company’s visions and the management’s values, everything felt right for us, says Alan Johnson.
They see Pajala as a boost compared to other mining communities.
– Pajala is a “real” place where not everything revolves around the mine as it is in many of the mining towns we have lived in before. It is not big, but there is the possibility of a life outside of work.
– We like the proximity to nature. Pajala is very beautiful, says Alan Johnson.
In the Kaunis mine, Elsabe Cloete works as a resource geologist to analyze geological data from the mine, while Alan Johnson is an exploration geologist, looking for new deposits to extract. Both feel that they have experienced a positive change in work culture.
– Here you can say what you think and come up with suggestions and feel that it is appreciated. It is very professional, everyone wants to care and wants the job done in the best way possible, he says.
The plan is to stay in Pajala, and Sweden, in the future.
– You never know, but we have no other plans. Our plan is to learn Swedish and become Swedish as possible, says Elsabe Cloete.
From Stockholm and Poland to Northvolt in Skellefteå
Both have made the move to Skellefteå and Northvolt. But when Anton Ekeström and Magdalena Bochenska are photographed with the battery factory in the background, it is the first time they are seen.
Anton Ekeström is a veteran of the company compared to most others in Skellefteå. He started at the head office in Stockholm in 2016 and in the autumn took the step from the capital to work as a Supply chain manager in a team consisting of about fifteen people and a handful of different nationalities.
– To be involved in building a battery factory is a great experience and good to have on the CV when they are to build similar factories around Europe, says Anton Ekholm who himself, however, sees Skellefteå as a permanent residence.
The view of the desolate Norrland is not true at all in Skellefteå, he says.
– A thousand people with families are currently moving to this place. It is like an expat society with people who want to build a new social life at the same time, he says.
One of those who came from Europe to Skellefteå is Magdalena Bochenska who trained as a product engineer at the University of Technology in Wroclaw, where she then worked at a Korean-owned battery factory.
Via an introductory year in Västerås, she came to the factory in Skellefteå in September 2021. There she is responsible for the process when the batteries are charged for the first time.
– This is when the battery cells come to life, and the last step before the customer, she says.
That it took three months to find housing never felt like a problem.
– On the other hand, it was a small shock that apartments in Sweden come completely without furniture, not even a curtain is included, she says and laughs.
Like the two geologists, Magdalena Bochenska got her first recruitment contact on Linkedin. She too experiences a less hierarchical work culture where her ideas, and she as a person, are treated with greater respect. In addition, the move means a significant economic boost.
She intends to stay for at least “a few more years”. Now she enjoys being able to skate on the lake, see the northern lights and has surprised herself by becoming a hockey fan.
– I had never thought of Sweden as a destination. But the opportunity came and I took it.