Established by Pekka Kovanen in 1990, KPA Unicon has grown from a one-man consulting firm into an international business with more than 240 employees. Today, Pekka Kovanen, who holds the honorary title of Senior Adviser, Industrial Affairs, acts as the Chairman of the Board of Directors, while his son, Jukka-Pekka Kovanen, is the company’s Managing Director. Pekka’s daughter, Jonna Kovanen, is in charge of the company’s marketing and communications. This means that KPA Unicon is genuinely a family company.
“To be perfectly honest, the reason for KPA Unicon being an international company is a promise I made back in 1976. When I proposed to my wife, her father — who was a military officer during the war — asked me how I planned to provide a livelihood for my family. I told him I’d build a business that engages in international trade,” Pekka Kovanen says with a laugh.
Keeping his promises has always been important to Kovanen. International operations and expertise are the cornerstones of what KPA Unicon is today. Should they wish to do so, the company’s employees can pursue opportunities in Europe, South America or Africa, for example.
International negotiations and employee well-being
During his career, Pekka Kovanen has been involved in a breathtaking number of negotiations around the world. His sharp business instincts have led to contracts for KPA Unicon in various areas, including a chemical weapons destruction facility developed in cooperation with the Russian Federation’s Department of Disarmament and the U.S. Department of Defense. Kovanen has closed deals in Russia, Europe, India, various African countries and South America.
“There have been many successes along the way, but it has taken a lot of work. When you deal with really large players, the processes are very long. You need to be resourceful and resolute. And you need to have passion for what you do,” Kovanen says.
Today, Pekka Kovanen is the Chairman of KPA Unicon’s Board of Directors. He is still closely involved in developing the company’s operations and participating in negotiations around the world. Jukka-Pekka Kovanen now has the main responsibility for the company’s customers, but his path to becoming the Managing Director was not entirely straightforward.
“I previously worked as the Finnish country manager for a different company. That job would have eventually made it necessary for me to leave Finland permanently. I talked to my father about my future with KPA Unicon. He agreed to bring me in, but first he sent me to Siberia for a year to learn a few lessons,” Jukka-Pekka Kovanen says with a laugh.
KPA Unicon is a family company with strong family values. Pekka Kovanen says family is the most important thing in the world for him. KPA Unicon is putting more and more emphasis on employee well-being. The management recognizes the need for flexibility when it comes to the important things in life, and this perspective is reflected in everything the company does.
“I have told our employees that family and well-being are always the first priority, followed by work. I don’t want our people to exhaust themselves, which can create problems at home. It’s crucial for us to be flexible and understanding about challenges related to work and life outside of work. Our employees are our most important resource and we want to take good care of them.”
KPA Unicon’s industry is highly sensitive to market cycles. Stability is sought by developing both employee expertise and technological solutions. KPA Unicon has also accumulated expertise through acquisitions and recruitment as well as cooperation with educational institutions. The development of employee competencies and training alongside work are important elements in engaging the employees’ commitment to the company.
“We have several people who have been with us right from the start, for nearly 30 years. It means a lot to me that we’ve been able to have a positive impact on our employees’ lives. For that same reason, I’ve felt a heavy heart when we’ve been forced into temporary layoffs due to cyclical fluctuations,” Pekka Kovanen explains.
Temporary layoffs are always very difficult situations for companies. The management needs to be completely open and honest when they happen. Some of KPA Unicon’s experts have moved on to other companies during the layoffs. We are prepared to welcome back those who have left us whenever the market cycle improves and new contracts are signed.
“Since the early days, one of my principles has been to get around and meet our employees face to face. I listen to their thoughts and feelings and think about how we can develop and improve our operations. When our business is good, I try to motivate the employees to stay with the company for the long haul. I’ve always told them that they can call me directly if they want to discuss anything about their work, or even something personal,” Kovanen adds.
Temporary layoffs were made at KPA Unicon’s Kiuruvesi unit in 2018. At the time, welder Pasi Lonkila decided to find out how it would feel to work for a different company.
“I worked for another employer for two or three weeks. I came back to KPA Unicon because being a welder here is very diverse and flexible. I had gotten to know Pekka Kovanen over the years, so it was easy for me to call him and ask if I could come back. He said I could, and since then I’ve even gone on assignments outside Finland a couple of times to learn more about my craft,” Lonkila explains.
From Kiuruvesi into the global market
KPA Unicon is a significant company for the Kiuruvesi area and, conversely, the Kiuruvesi unit’s strong expertise is vital for KPA Unicon. The company’s management is very satisfied with the unit’s personnel and the business premises leased from the municipality to complement the company’s own facilities. The company works closely together with the municipality of Kiuruvesi.
“KPA Unicon is a very important company for us. The company has found success in an international growth industry. KPA Unicon’s environmental values and energy solutions based on biological raw materials are a great fit with the current global situation, and they are held in high regard here in Kiuruvesi. The company is a calling card for “the Capital of Eco-Finland”. Our cooperation with Pekka and Jukka-Pekka Kovanen is smooth and seamless,” says Jarmo Muiniekka , Mayor of Kiuruvesi.
Highly skilled employees drive KPA Unicon forward
KPA Unicon’s future looks bright and the company is continuously recruiting new talent. Expertise related to the production of environmentally friendly and renewable energy is a particular focus area for the company, along with the development of various digital solutions to support the operation and monitoring of plants.
As the company’s turnover grows, KPA Unicon is building its future on highly skilled employees. The company’s investments in new clean energy production have proved to be a sustainable solution. As the company grows, it has a growing need for skilled employees in various fields. KPA Unicon’s Chief Human Resources Officer Sisko Kivistö is the best source for the latest information on the company’s vacancies and internship opportunities.
There is a wide range of jobs at KPA Unicon. Employees can make moves within the organization to find new opportunities to develop themselves. The company operates in several locations in Finland and much of the work can be done flexibly on a remote basis. Jobs at KPA Unicon adapt to people’s changing life situations and international assignments are also within easy reach.
“At KPA Unicon, we have fantastic opportunities for experts. You should evaluate your skills relative to the company’s operations. Figure out where you might fit and send us an open application. Then contact me and let me know what you are interested in specifically,” says Sisko Kivistö, Chief Human Resources Officer at KPA Unicon.