Article Maintenance, Projects, Railway services

International traineeships offer new insights into the infrastructure industry

When Louison Lemaitre made the trip from France to Finland in early July to start her internship at Destia, she did not know what to expect. Louison is an engineering student involved in a training programme at Colas. She had long been interested in the Nordic culture and working life, but had very little knowledge of Finland prior to 2021.

“That was the first time I read about the Finnish company Destia, which had recently become part of the Colas Group. Even before that, I had long been curious about working life in the Nordic countries. When the opportunity came to complete my internship abroad, I started to do more research especially on Destia. The company’s values matched those of Colas and the projects seemed interesting, so I submitted a free-form application and waited, ” Louison says.

The answer came, and at the beginning of July, Louison started her internship in Destia’s maintenance services in Rovaniemi. Her job involves assisting supervisors with various projects and carrying out other tasks as needed.

“By following the supervisors, I get to learn in practice how construction sites are managed and controlled here in Finland. In addition to the actual site visits, I also do office work and, for example, go over plans, agreements and other documents related to specific contracts. I am learning a lot, although the language barrier poses its own challenges. Fortunately, Finns tend to speak fluent English, so we understand each other during conversations and in face-to-face communication. However, I hope to learn at least some Finnish during these months, and I have already downloaded an app on my phone to help me,” she laughs.

Louison works in Destia’s maintenance services in Rovaniemi.

Alliance contracting offers an education on Finnish infrastructure construction

At the same time, Tristan Lautrette, also from France, arrived on the other side of Finland to complete an international internship included in his engineering studies. He was headed to work on Destia’s Kalasatama-Pasila alliance project.

“I became interested in Finland when planning my future internship, and luckily I got the opportunity to discuss my plans with a project director working on the Kalasatama-Pasila project. Back home in France, I worked on a tramline project at Colas, so this project offers me an excellent opportunity to observe the implementation of a similar project in Finland,” says Tristan.

Like Louison’s, Tristan’s job also involves assisting the supervisors, monitoring their work and offering help in different situations. Moreover, regular meetings, discussions and site visits also offer a great opportunity to learn about the local work practices and operating models. However, in addition to the everyday tasks, the job also involves a versatile range of different duties and a great work community, which make the work meaningful and educational.

“In practice, half of my work takes place at the office and the other half at the construction site. All of my co-workers have been great, I have been welcomed to the group and I am enjoying my time in Finland,” he rejoices.

During his internship, Tristan has been able to observe the project in the office and on the site.

International internships open up new doors for the future

Louison and Tristan are part of Destia’s extensive team of interns. Every year, Destia employs nearly 300 trainees, and thanks to the extensive network of Colas, opportunities are now becoming available for the trainees to also move within the company across international borders. Until now, international interns have only been coming to Destia from abroad, but the goal is to make sure that in the future, Destia trainees can also seek international career paths through Colas.

Louison and Tristan both approach their own internship with curiosity and interest. An international perspective on their own tasks has made them better prepared for the future and strengthened their views on what they want that future to be like.

“I want to develop my technical competence and language skills, and learn about the Finnish project management practices. It is interesting to observe in practice the differences between the Finnish and French working life. I believe that my internship at Destia will be a unique professional experience that will benefit my future career. This opportunity means a lot to me, and it allows me to gain unforgettable experiences also outside of work,” Louison says.

“Working in Finland has been very different from working in France. This internship provides me with valuable experience in the field and in project activities, but at the same time I also get to develop my language skills. I would like to work abroad again in the future, and I believe this experience will be valuable in terms of my entire career,” says Tristan.

Fascinated by Lapland, nature and sauna

Both Louison’s and Tristan’s internship at Destia lasts for approximately three months. The past few weeks have already offered unforgettable experiences also outside of work – including ones you cannot get anywhere else.

“When I started my internship, my co-worker took me to see Santa Claus. I did not expect it at all! It was a great day and one that I will surely remember forever. Everyday life and, for example, the environment are also very different here compared to France. Life is peaceful and pleasant in Rovaniemi, and in my free time I often take bike tours to admire the surrounding landscape. I cannot wait to experience and learn more about Finland, its history and traditions. My goal is to visit as many places as I can – especially in Lapland,” Louison says.

Tristan has been equally impressed by the nature, environment and culture of Southern Finland.

“Before my internship began, I hardly had any expectations for my time in Finland. However, I have really enjoyed myself and the Finnish atmosphere. I have seen many places, but it was the excursion to Lake Saimaa that made a particular impression on me. I spent a night alone in nature by the massive lake, and it was truly an unforgettable experience. Before I go back home, I would still like to spend a traditional cottage weekend and see the autumn colours in Lapland. I also aim to visit a Finnish sauna as many times as possible – I have been to one almost every day, and I am really going to miss it in France,” Tristan laughs.

At the beginning of her internship Louison got to meet the Santa Claus.