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Vocational rehabilitation helped an entrepreneur find a new path

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Sauli Saari’s 30-year entrepreneur career was about to end in a cycle of sick leave. Elo’s vocational rehabilitation gave Saari the opportunity to earn a vocational qualification, and his company found a new path that was better for the entrepreneur’s health. 

Entrepreneur Sauli Saari has rediscovered his passion for work. Saari works for a construction company through his own company, Ukin Erikoismetalli Oy. In early 2021, he graduated from Rastor-instituutti as a qualified technical supervisor (työteknikko), and his strenuous physical work became administrative work at construction sites. Saari’s new education was made possible by Elo’s vocational rehabilitation for entrepreneurs.

“Even though I still mostly work for the same construction company, the qualification has brought me more responsibilities and made my work more varied. My studies took 18 months and required a lot of effort, but it was all worth it,” Saari says.

Saari’s future did not always look so bright. He had been doing different construction and engineering work for over 30 years, but a few years ago, his work ability began to falter and he was caught in a cycle of sick leave. Saari did not want to quit as an entrepreneur, so he looked for another solution. He began to examine whether he could continue his career as an entrepreneur with vocational rehabilitation.

The cycle of sick leave put a stop to everything

Saari is a career entrepreneur. He founded his first company specialising in sheet metal and air conditioning work in 1987 with his father. In 1995, Saari founded Ukin Erikoismetalli Oy. He also ran a company specialising in electrical work for ships alongside Ukin Erkoismetalli for a few years with a business partner.

“The company for electrical work on ships could employ up to 30 people outside the company. However, the company filed for bankruptcy at the turn of the millennium when the shipping company that employed us faced financial difficulties,” Saari remembers.

Saari continued work with Ukin Erikoismetalli. Over the years, Saari has done roofing and sheet metal work, ventilation installations as well as repairs and reconstruction work. For the last six years, he has mostly worked for the same construction company.

However, he almost stopped working a couple years ago. The physically strenuous work had caused Saari his fair share of minor and major problems, and he had undergone knee and shoulder operations, for example. Saari was constantly at the doctor’s, but sick days piled up one after another.

“I didn’t want to give up, no matter what, but once the doctor said they would either give me rehabilitation or sign a B certificate for disability pension, I had to start thinking about how I could keep going,” Saari says.

 The physically arduous work was taking its toll. 

A vocational qualification provided a new opportunity

Disability pension was not an option for the determined entrepreneur so, his encouraged by his friend, he applied for Elo’s vocational rehabilitation. Together with one of Elo’s work coaches, Saari began to think about how he could keep working.

“The support and help offered by Elo’s work coach was very valuable. Discussing things with them helped me find the right path,” Saari says gratefully.

As part of his vocational rehabilitation, Saari received support in earning a qualification as a technical supervisor. Saari began his studies at Rastor-instituutti in autumn 2019. He first earned a special qualification for site management in the construction industry and then pursued a technical supervisor qualification, which he earned in February 2021.

“I already had decades of experience in the industry, so I didn’t want to change fields completely, but to develop and deepen my knowledge and skills. The training was a natural continuation for my career and company.

Saari was also fortunate to be able to work at a familiar construction site during his studies. He simply carried out different tasks that were better for his health. Saari was particularly happy with the fact that his company did not have to go out of business.

“I was happy to be able to cover the fixed costs of the company. Elo’s rehabilitation allowance also helped. Now I work as the responsible site manager at the construction site.”

 Elo’s work coach helped Saari to find the right path and keep working.

If you are struggling with your work ability, remember that you are not alone

Saari says that he is very satisfied with working together with Elo. Without rehabilitation, Saari would most likely not have earned a new qualification. Now, he is dreaming of his next studies.

“Studying definitely made me want to study more. I’m thinking of pursuing further qualifications to develop my competence,” Saari says.

Saari also encourages others struggling with work ability to explore their options and seize opportunities.

“Every entrepreneur needs to know that this is a possibility. Studying helped me find a completely new path.

An entrepreneur may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation if they are facing the threat of being forced to retire on disability pension in the near future and if their earned income from the preceding five calendar years totals a minimum of EUR 36,820.43 (in 2021). 
Read more about vocational rehabilitation.

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