The story of the man who had never seen a snowflake

PEOPLE

Sweden


As the political situation heated up in Chile in the 1980s, Alejandro Flores and his family chose the cooler climate of northern Sweden to start a new life.

Alejandro Flores was just seven years old when he and his father fled the Pinochet regime in Chile and came to Sweden. They had to leave his mother and two siblings behind at first, while they forged a new existence in Scandinavia. Things weren’t easy to begin with. From having to get accustomed to the new climate and staying in various small appartements to learning about a new culture. But Alejandro has fond memories of the family feel of the big Chilean refugee community that lived in Kiruna in northern Sweden and how even adults would play in the snow, which they had never seen before.

Climate contrast Valparaiso in Chile & Kiruna in Sweden

Going south

Later, Alejandro’s mother and siblings were finally able to join and the whole family received permission to stay permanently. However, they decided to move down south to Lysekil, where it wasn’t quite so cold. Alejandro’s father found work in a fish factory, where his son would later work as well after finishing school.

Sometimes, you need take a risk to find your true calling and Alejandro did exactly that. In 2001, he quit his job at the fish factory to become an apprentice scaffolder. “I finally found my true passion,” he recounts, “I got to work outside and experience a real sense of freedom. I also didn’t have the smell of fish on my hands every day, which I must say was a big bonus as well.”

Moving steadily upwards

Alejandro worked hard and was fortunate to meet people on his journey who took notice of his ability and helped him. In 2005, the scaffolding company he was working for was acquired by a competitor and a colleague there needed supervisors for a shutdown project at the Preem refinery in Gothenburg. He jumped at the opportunity and was eventually promoted to site manager. “My philosophy was always to work as hard as I could, since you never know who is watching you at any given moment,” he says. This work ethic would pay off, as Alejandro would soon find out.


The client trusted them regardless and KAEFER in Sweden has managed to hold the contract ever since.

Becoming part of a dynamic duo

In 2012, KAEFER in Sweden wanted to establish a scaffolding division and needed good people to run it. They came upon Jonas Wetterberg, who was a colleague of Alejandro’s and KAEFER managed to attract both specialists to supervise the establishment of the division. One of the first pitches was the maintenance contract for Preem, which the team won, despite being made up of only three people. The client trusted them regardless and KAEFER in Sweden has managed to hold the contract ever since. Preem is Sweden’s largest refinery with two plants in Gothenburg and Lysekil. They account for 80 percent of the Swedish and 30 percent of the Nordic refinery capacity. In total, nearly 18 million cubic meters of crude oil are refined every year at both sites.

Jonas Wetterberg is now scaffolding manager at KAEFER in Sweden and Alejandro is site manager, splitting his time between the two refineries in Lysekil and Gothenburg. The division has grown under the dynamic duo’s stewardship, with 20 in-house scaffolders and between 35 to 50 subcontractors.

Alejandro today and back in the old days

One big, happy family

“Why KAEFER? It’s simple: it’s a family thing,” Alejandro comments. “I’m reminded of how I felt when I first came to Sweden and the sense of being part of one big family up in Kiruna. I have that at KAEFER now too and I feel like I belong and that I’m part of something special. We built the scaffolding division from the ground up and I was supported by my colleagues and the company during the entire process.” KAEFER feeling like a family to Alejandro could also come from the fact that his father and brother work there as well. One is a forklift driver and the other is a scaffolding supervisor. And who knows, perhaps his 18-year-old son will follow in his father’s footsteps.

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