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The 6th generation Dale Factory worker – Vegar Sellevold

The 6th generation Dale Factory worker – Vegar Sellevold

Vegard Sellevold has worked at Daletec since 1990. He has had different jobs in the factory and has always enjoyed what he is doing.

Vegar grew up at Stanghelle in the 70’s and 80’s. At this time there were a lot of people working in the factory that moved from small apartments in Dale to houses in the nearby town Stanghelle. It was a down period in the factory. Everyone had the same type of house and the same type of car -if they had one.

In the 70’s, there were around 600-700, maybe also 800 people at the start of the 70’s that worked in the factory. When he got a job in February 1990 there were around 300-400 employees.

He continues explaining how easy it was to get a job, especially if you did not want a longer education. Vegar went to school at the gymnasium at Voss and after that he chose what he always believed he wanted to do which was electrician direction, but he soon got tired of school. That was when he decided to get a job in the factory in 1990.

So, a lot of people moved to Dale when the factory came?

– Yes! From all over the country. At least before and after the war. They needed a lot of workforce back then!

If one person in the family had got a place to live in Dale, it was easier for another family member to live there and get a job in the factory. But the paycheck was probably not that much.

And this is where we come back to why so many people moved to Stanghelle in the 70’s and 80’s because the apartments on Dale were too old and worn.

Did they need any professional competence to work here?

– In general not. Of course, there were a lot of people that had to have some competence and a lot of places they needed people that knew a lot about textile as well as electronics because there was a lot of different tasks to solve. When I started, I worked at the packing division at the cotton factory and finished packing the yarn. The yarn cones were big and mainly got shipped to England and other costumers abroad. You needed some training, but mostly it was physical work. Lifting and packing and that sort of stuff. It was an easy job. It was actually a lot of my friends that also started working there that year when I started. 5-6 of them. I was 19 years then.

When Vegar started in the factory he had the task to pack the yarn before shipment, manage it in the warehouse and take it out so that it could be used for weaving and warp later on. He also had the task to maintain the spinning machines. After that, he went in the military and when he came back, the weaving mill was not doing well. One of the seniors told Vegar that he should try to get a job some other place. He applied for a job in the finishing department, and there he could start already the week after he applied.

The year after he started, they closed the weavery. It resulted in people moving and some of them lost their job. He then stayed at the finishing department for some years before he decided to get more training in the company. He applied for engineering education in Germany, which the company paid for. In Germany he took technical education together with a colleague. They were in Germany for some years before he went back to Dale. When he came back, he first worked some years in the technical hall and after that he got moved to the laboratory. He got the job as dyeing assistant where he tested different colors and adjusted them. At the same time, he also went to night school and took some courses at the university; business and quality leadership to get more than just technical courses.

When the laboratory engineer retired, he got his position. About a year later he ended up in the product development.

– Now I have been working in this area for 12-15 years. So I have done a lot of different things. Both working with machines and done a lot of heavy lifting as well as working in the office.

The last years he has been spending most of his time in the lab office. That is when he is doing the product development.

When he started working in the factory, the working hours was 8 hours and he had four weeks of vacation. After a while it got shorten down to 7,5 hours and he got one more week of vacation and still is like that now. He has never had any long-obligated workdays, which he is happy about. He has also never worked in the weekends unless he has worked overtime or traveled.

– I have always been excited about work. If I was not happy to go to work, I would probably quit. It was a particularly good community in production and you knew most of your co-workers. I think it was great fun to work at the mill and in the yarn storage. The ladies in that department were all so unique. Every time there was someone’s birthday, they made a cake a brought it to work with them. It worked around 20-30 people in that department, so you can only imagine there being cake there every other week. This tradition I am trying to maintain, so every year on my birthday I take cake with me to work. It is a nice tradition!

Whether you started in the 50’s, 60’, 70’ or 90’, the environment was always good and nice colleagues. There was no one who was better than the other

– This is how it is still, even though we are only few people left!

Was it a big difference in age?

– In the department that I started in, I got the job because one of them retired. I worked together with one employee that was 65 while I was still only 19! The others were around my parents age, about 45 years old. It was a mix of young and older staff. It was not only my generation there, and that is how it was in the other departments I worked in as well. I was starting to get older at some point as well, and the people over me started to retire. So that was a bit weird I remember. The company started to shrink. Some young people started working in the factory, but not in the same way as when I started. There were more people going out than in.

When you look back from the time in the factory, what kind of thoughts do you have about your work-life?

– Very varied! Incredibly fun! I feel like I have been incredibly lucky. Maybe I was just lucky for being the right man at the right place at the right time? I have a good education that costed me nothing as I was paid to live in Germany without having to lend any money or anything like that. At the same time, I have competence in a subject which is exceedingly rare, at least in Norway. In Norway there are almost no textile process engineers. Most of them do design, sale and purchasing so there are very few people that do what I do here. But around the world there are a lot more! If I would have wanted to find a similar job in a different company, I would need to go out of the country.

Has it been a good job?

He tells us that it has been a fun and exciting job! When they closed the production it of course was sad because they lost a lot of their colleagues only being 15 left.

– It was of course incredibly sad, and I had a lot of grief inside. I thought a lot about how the others were going to manage. You lost the environment and the social part at work. We are of course still social at work, but there used to be bigger groups before. You can’t tell the joke over again, because now the few others you are working with has already heard the joke. Before you could tell the same joke the day after, only to another person.

The current owners of Daletec after the move of production to Pakistan is investing a lot of money and resources and lets the staff take part in fairs and travelling to costumers. They are now more free to travel around and get new impressions for the product development.

What does it mean that you are the 6. generation factory worker?

– It means that in my family I have worked in the factory as well as my brother, my father and his brother have worked there, my mother and her three siblings have also worked there. On my father’s family side both my grandmother and grandfather worked there as well as my grandmother and grandfather on my mother’s side. My grandfather on my father’s side has worked there as well as the father of my grandfather. And so on. But the first was my great great grandfather, Johannes Rønhovde. He moved in 1879 from Arna to Dale. He was one of the people whom consul Jebsen brought from Arne Fabrikker when starting up Dale Factories. They needed people with experience to open the factory in Dale. And this is how I become the 6. generation factory worker.

What a heritage.