For the last fifteen years Eva Ohlsson has worked with maritime and work environment issues at SARF, the Swedish Confederation of Transport Enterprises. She explains that “soft issues” have been given more space in recent years, while her own duties have become less defined but with more responsibility.
Eva Ohlsson had worked as a personal secretary for over ten years when she looked for a job in the maritime sector in 1995. For the first few years she worked at the Swedish Shipowners’ Employer Association, later moving to the Swedish Confederation of Transport Enterprises, SARF.
“I enjoyed working there right from the start,” she says. “It’s an exciting sector with a lot of action and a wide variety of tasks.”
Questions about the work environment started to come up after the move to SARF through its participation in SAN, the Maritime Joint Work Environment Council, where Eva is the secretary and also the longest sitting member.
“Methods have been modernised at SAN during my years here. We have created a new website, worked with BAM maritime and published the manual online, but the main work at SAN is carried out in much the same way as when I began.”
One of the jobs at SAN she likes most is the work environment conference that is arranged every autumn, for which she has overall responsibility and ensures that everything runs smoothly.
“The board chooses a theme and appoints a working group that develops the programme. Right now I’m working on the final details for this year’s conference – which is the fourteenth in a row.”
Eva Ohlsson is also secretary of the Committee for Training and Recruitment, KUR. The committee gathers a number of HR managers from Swedish shipping companies who work together with training and recruitment issues.
“I am in charge of the recruitment fairs that we participate in and other activities we do to attract young people to maritime professions. We have already done a lot to increase recruitment, but it’s not enough and we need to put even more work into this area.”
A decision will be made later in the autumn on what extra measures need to be put in place.
Eva is convinced that the work environment on ships is an important part of job satisfaction as well as a recruitment issue, but she doesn’t believe it is shortcomings in this area that make young people hesitate.
“My impression is that the work environment on our ships is good, but I do believe that long periods away from home make things difficult. Young people today are not keen on being away from home. On the other hand, seafarers have long holidays that can be used for travel and leisure activities.”
“It’s important that the sector is seen in a positive way if it’s going to attract young people,” says Eva, and notes that many people she meets at recruitment fairs have never given shipping a thought. She also believes that the shipping industry needs to be clear in its reactions and responses to criticism that sometimes flares up in the media.
“We must respond to criticism, and do it calmly with facts.”
Working at SARF not only means that she is involved with different issues than previously, but Eva Ohlsson’s job as personal secretary has become more independent. At the beginning of her career she took shorthand, wrote texts from dictaphone recordings and kept the manager’s schedule, but she now has much more freedom and can take her own initiative in different projects – which suits her very well.
“Generally I get good support for my ideas and I really enjoy this way of working. After 35 years in the profession I feel confident and have plenty of experience to lean on. I know my strengths and weaknesses, and I am still the person who keeps order and structures things. It’s second nature now, which is a great asset, not least when arranging conferences.
Family: Husband and two children, 20 and 17.
Lives: House in Landvetter outside Gothenburg. .
Currently: After 15 years, she is the longest sitting member on the SAN board.
Background: Economics programme at upper secondary school and studies to become a personal secretary. Gothenburg Patent Office, Consafe, SEB, AB Volvo, Volvo Trucks, Tetra Pak Stålvall, Swedish Shipowners’ Association and the Swedish Shipowners’ Employer Association.
Work environment tip: Don’t forget that work environment management is an ongoing process. It can never be finished, even though some individual measures can be completed.