Bjørn Sommer started his career in StS 40 years ago. Then at a department StS had in Trondheim. He is a scaffolding fitter and took the certificate in the scaffolding builder profession 24 / 9-1993.
Bjørn has been site manager at Aker Stord for many years as well as at Aukra, planner for Aibel in Haugesund, foreman, site manager and discipline manager at Coast Center Base (CCB) at Ågotnes and supervisor for Transocean in Ølen. In short, Bjørn has been an important role model in most of the projects StS has had during the last 40 years. He is now working at Goliat for Vår Energi.
Feedback from colleagues is only positive – he is a mood-spreader, is fair, enormously skilled professionally and a very well-liked supervisor and colleague.
We had a little chat with Bjørn to hear his story from when he started in StS more than 40 years ago until today.
Can you tell us about yourself?
Live in Trondheim and has 3 grown children, two girls, a boy and 3 grandchildren! Have always lived in Trondheim, with the exception of a few years in Stord and Bømlo. So it has been many years of commuting!
Can you tell us about the start of StS and how you see the development has been?
Before I started in StS, I worked as a carpenter. Was only supposed to join Bjørn Mundal and Geir Eriksen for a weekend at work as scaffolder – but got paid so well that I just quit my job as a cerpenter and started with Scaffolding.
Started in Trondheim on the façade departement in May 1981.
Gunnar Strand, who was behind the company BES, was sent to Trondheim for Stillas Service to start a facade department there. I worked there for a few years. I was fired 3 times during the months May-Sept- It was completely justified- I took some liberties- Still gained renewed confidence because I had made a good impression when I was actually at work.
Got a permanent job 7 September 81. The department went well and there were a lot of assignments.
In the period 1981-1984 I had started to travel to rigs with departure from Kristiansund – together with Bjørn Mundal and Geir Eriksen.
I remember that Odd Strand was always present, visited often and followed up!
When Odd was there, you felt that you were a person who was taken care of – a good person and good at treating individuals.
The impression I got from Odd after the first meeting was that he is a really nice person! Yes, I want to say unique! He was really concerned about the people personally and of taking care of them.
I traveled to Stord in 1984. Have been to Stord for 10 more or less consecutive years.
Coming to Stord was a new world! With someone who thought they were world champions and that we were a necessary evil!
Here I met some good old trotters who had their charm. Also met my ex-wife at Stord- she worked for Kvaerner. We lived in Stord and had our first child here. “That’s how the day goes”. When she got pregnant, she got an apartment from Kvaerner and we lived there together until 1991 – then we moved to Trondheim after No. 2 was born and built a house.
You never considered moving to Western Norway?
No, that was never an option for me. I have been so lucky to be able to travel through work- land and beach around and get to know many nice people – but it is always nice to come home again.
When did you first travel offshore?
The first time offshore was in 1985 and I traveled on occasional trips – on Statfjord there were already many of the good old trotters I had become acquainted with at Stord.
Working offshore was a whole new world – a real AHA experience – getting to a fixed table. Earned well with money! We were used to hard days – and there was a lot of work offshore as well, but in a completely different way.
In 1997 I traveled on Njord and was on that project for several years. When Njord left Stord, I traveled offshore- Then I have been to Brage, Oseberg C and Øst and the field center as well as the Troll platforms. Was a few years on the Aukra project in the period 2005-2007.
How was the focus on HSE and risk at the time?
There was a lot of talk about various accidents and incidents and there were a kind of re-memories of safety, which became more and more prominent. But there have been few incidents with StS – especially considering the injury potential that belongs to the profession and the industry!
I worked on platforms where survivors from the Alexandre Kielland accident also worked.
Those people were always first out in the lifeboats when there were exercises – they had been hit hard! But they stayed in the profession after all!
What would you say about the work environment during your career?
The work environment has always been incredibly good! Lots of good management.
The reason for the good working environment I think is that everyone was interested in doing a good job! To always deliver quality. So that we could ensure that we got more assignments with the same customers. And that way secured a good and safe job!
But I do not think it is positive with personnel hiring. You suddenly get challenges with the culture because you mix people who have a pride and loyalty to their workplace and their employer with others who have a different starting point and not the same foothold and continuity.
Why have you chosen to stay in StS for so long?
Was offered several jobs, in BP at Statfjord and different drilling companies, but StS paid well so I did not even consider it.
What has kept me going is the good working environment.
We lost all our offshore contracts in 2010, but we still had faith and did not give up.
Have been kept in work all the time with the exception of a few short periods of redundancy.
StS got jobs because the people did a good job with pride – represented StS in a good way.
What in your opinion is required to maintain a good culture?
Times change, we who have been at the core for many years, have taken with us the younger generation. They have received good training. And we, the core- have been role models.
We old trotters in StS got a strong loyalty due to Odd Strand- that was where it started-Odd taught us how to be! That we should take care of others and not be an egoist. To pull the load together.
Things have changed after Odd’s death. It was a bit like old school and now everything is so modern and efficient. It is important with individual follow-up – talking to people – hearing how things are going. The simple is often the best!
What are your most important tasks and what is exciting about your job?
When you work in a service industry, it is important to be present – every single person is important. To be honest- I’ve come a long way with that. Have been rented out to other companies – including Kvaerner and Aibel. Have been asked various questions about doing this and that – but said no. You should do the job you are supposed to and with pride.
I’m learning something to this day – incredibly varied profession – that’s a contributing reason why I’ve been here so long. I’m a type who gets restless – I’ve traveled a lot all my life – because I like to travel to different places and to get to know more people.
What do you think is good about StS?
The good working environment! And that it is a stable workplace.
Very good focus on HSE and competence – our people are proud. There is a lot of internal justice, we take care of each other!
Have a very good time socially both at work and in your free time.
Before you hung out more – today it’s not like that- Now you sit with a PC, phone, etc. – before you only had each other!
I am part of the StS senior group. This is a group of StS personnel who are over 55 years old. Both current employees and retirees- I participate from time to time – on trips etc. – but it’s a little unpractical with meetings in Bergen when you live in Trondheim.
According to Frode Bødtker, I am the only approved Trønderbergnser! And maybe that’s something for the Guinness Book of Records?
My son, Simon Sommer also works at StS. Simon needed a summer job and got to travel at CCB on Ågotnes and earned so well that he decided to stay!
What are your dreams?
Hold out for a few more years as long as my health lasts! Do not have any special dreams- have traveled a lot when I have had time off- Maybe travel more to warmer regions- and experience new things.