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Berthus Hijmersma

Age: 36, assistant manager, Funderingstechniek Noord, the Netherlands

This article is also available in: Dutch

My love for the profession has grown
It certainly wasn't love at first sight. My love of the profession has grown. When I used to travel by train down to the machinists' school and passed a pile-driving installation, I knew for certain that I had no interest in this work. Now, after having worked for 17 years in the foundation engineering sector, I know it's a profession that you can really get your teeth into.
Berthus Hijmersma, assistant manager of Funderingstechniek Noord at Marum (Groningen), joined the profession more or less by accident. After finishing his education at a technical school, he started working in the road and hydraulic engineering business. He took a course at the machinist's school, and in his spare time he worked at Wiertsema & Partners engineering consultants, which carries out sounding surveys. As time went by, Wiertsema carried out more and more specialised foundation work.

Training is very important
You could say, that Funderingstechniek Noord arose from a sort of hobby. From the start, the company specialised in installing specialist pile systems where the space is limited. We employ methods that result in little or no vibration in applications including renovation and restoration work, but we also create foundations for machines in buildings used by the petrochemical industries and other industries. We mainly work with small machines. The first was built by us. These machines that are under the 10 ton/metre limit form as it were a grey area in the regulations as far as training is concerned. When the NVAF started the training and education working group, I joined immediately.
All of Funderingstechniek Noord's employees, as the first in the Netherlands, have followed the training for Foundation workers who work with small foundation machines, because I find training to be very important.

A lot of freedom and a great job
A good and well-trained employee must be a real jack-of-all-trades. He must be able to do everything himself. He drives the truck to the place of work himself. This means that he must have a commercial vehicle driving license. When he arrives at the work site - and in our case that is often in a housing estate or the inner city - the people in the neighbourhood sometimes show concern. He must be able to handle them in a diplomatic manner. And he must be able to carry out minor repairs to the machines. He is our company's representative to the outside world.
Moreover, he must do his job in a safe and neat and tidy way. We demand quite a lot from our people. An employee must be capable of working in a small group, sometimes of only two. If the job is far away, the boys take lodgings. In this situation, it is important that you can get along with each other. And what is in it for them? A lot of freedom and a great job. But in general I think that the outside world often undervalues the foundation trade.

Excitement and satisfaction
Funderingstechniek Noord employs fourteen people permanently, two of them in the office. The others prefer to work outside as much as possible. We prefer to employ people who have worked for us before, people we already know. The relationship must click. After all, we are specialists. We concentrate on pulling steel piles using hydraulic jacks and hydraulically pressing and rotating piles. Or on steel tubular piles of varying diameters, which are installed using an internal falling weight or a pneumatic hammer. These are difficult jobs that must be carried out with extreme care. And they're exciting as well. But when we succeed, we get a great deal of satisfaction.