Professional behind professionals – Principal Lecturer Merja Mäkelä supporting Ontec

Principal Lecturer of automation engineering, Merja Mäkelä from the local South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences XAMK is the trusted go-to person of Ontec. Fruitful collaboration has been going on for almost two decades. Due to the lack of competent experts in automation, Mäkelä has been a great contact in the education sector in Ontec’s search for new talent. Besides presenting Mäkelä, this article also deals with the cooperation between Ontec and XAMK.

Senior Lecturer Merja Mäkelä has personally taught many of Ontec’s current employees. As a lecturer, she is deeply respected for her wide knowledge of the field. Mäkelä is not known to be interested in lecturing for the sake of lecturing. She is genuinely concerned for her students and wants them to have the needed knowledge-base and skill set to be able to make it in the working life, as well as to bring actual real value to the companies employing her students. Ontec has noticed this a while ago, which has led to beneficial cooperation.

Due to her international experience, Mäkelä has been developing study programs in English for a long time before it became a national requirement. This has benefitted local companies, such as Ontec, involved in international business. Work methods introduced to many in pring of 2020 was not something new for Mäkelä, since she has already been giving lectures and courses entirely online for years. As she already mastered the technique and had the materials ready for online studies, was the transition to Teams sessions an easy one for her.

Cooperation with Ontec

Ontec and Mäkelä have been collaborating in practice during the whole existence of the company. Ontec has been participating in XAMK organised events, and the Managing Director Kare Kupiainen of Ontec has been visiting XAMK lecturing on entrepreneurship in the field of automation. This has been a real inspiration for many students according to Mäkelä and has boosted their interest in automation, as well as business studies. “Cooperating with Merja has been incredibly fruitful for us as a company. I cannot stress enough how grateful Ontec is to Merja for her help in recruiting some of her students,” states managing director Kupiainen.

Universities and work-life

Mäkelä has been keeping up her professional skills in many ways. Those include personal studies, membership with the Finnish Society of Automation, working with companies like Ontec and an engineer husband, working in the private sector. “Automation really is not just work in our family – it is a way of life”, states Mäkelä.

According to Mäkelä, it is customary for Finnish universities to work actively with the private sector, which is not the case in many European countries. However, small-scale automation study projects with companies are very difficult to organise, as industrial companies tend to have only large-scale automation projects intended for actual production.

Future of automation

Mäkelä sees the future of automation as very bright. Even if 60-70% of the industrial workforce has been cut during the past 25 years, it is not possible to have any kind of significant production without automation. To be as effective as possible, decreasing number of employees need to be supported by modern intelligent control solutions and systems.  Economies based on providing services need energy, which in turn also has to be controlled by automation. With the introduction of AI, IoT and other new fields of application, Mäkelä finds that the need for automation experts will be growing. Her professional opinion is that to keep up with these new trends, automation studies must include more programming and IT-related disciplines.

Merja Mäkelä

Education
  • M.Sc. (Electrical Technology)
  • Pedagogy qualifications
  • Licentiate in Technology, Automation Systems
Career
  • Long career in South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences as Principal Lecturer of Automation Engineering
  • Has worked in the leading companies of automation in the private sector, including several years in Germany
Hobbies
  • Sewing and making jewellery
  • Sports (running, swimming)
  • Motorcycling