Young people living in remote regions, such as islands, often face unique challenges when seeking employment. High unemployment rates, particularly among young people, are exacerbated by limited job opportunities and a demand for experienced workers. The lack of job experience perpetuates a vicious cycle of unemployment. In smaller countries like Estonia, similar challenges affect youth outside urban centres, especially those in more remote areas.
To address this issue, the YENESIS (Youth Employment Network for Energy Sustainability) project aims to tackle unemployment among young professionals not in education, employment or training (NEETs). Running from 2018-2024, the project’s goal is to educate, connect and prepare young people for creating and taking on green jobs.
In April, 12 young participants from Estonian islands and remote regions convened to gain insights into sustainability challenges and explore the burgeoning green job market. Over five days, SEI Tallinn’s experts provided overviews of climate adaptation, sustainable food and water systems, and circular economy issues. A full day was dedicated to honing social skills, as explained by SEI Tallinn’s Senior Expert Kaidi Tamm, “to improve young people’s chances of entering and thriving in the job market.”
Collaborating with SEI Tallinn’s Programme Assistant Brigita Tool, the experts assisted young people aged 15-30 in identifying future in-demand areas, developing sustainable business ideas to support their local communities and pinpointing funding opportunities for future enterprises. Inspirational meetings with young professionals in related fields were also held, offering practical insights into entrepreneurship within the circular economy and sustainable water management.
“We got a pretty good overview of different opportunities to receive funding for entrepreneurship, and why green endeavours deserve attention,” shared YENESIS participant Romet Allmägi, who had some business ideas of his own. Growing up near a national park, Allmägi believes sustainable solutions should concentrate more on natural habitats rather than artificial environments like cities.
Some participants, like Vete-Mari Kuningas, who studies biology and biodiversity conservation, already possessed prior knowledge of environmental issues. “The main takeaway from the week for me was that most employers value personal qualities and teamwork skills as much as job-specific knowledge,” Kuningas said. While she currently sees limited job options in her field, she believes growing environmental awareness will create new opportunities across various sectors; “the most obvious choices are civil service or the academy,” she says of the future. “Biology and the environment are such fundamental topics that they should be integrated into different fields. Someone once said that every business should have at least one biologist or person who understands the environmental impacts,” she recalls.
“Significantly more jobs will come, not only the jobs we already know of, but also entirely new jobs based on the changing state of affairs in the world.”
— Kaidi Tamm, SEI Tallinn's Senior Expert
Kaidi Tamm from SEI Tallinn agrees on the importance of an interdisciplinary approach in organizations. She acknowledges that Estonia currently lacks experts with a comprehensive understanding of complex problems, as many individuals have specific positions with limited tasks. Tamm notes that green job opportunities in Estonia are scarce and the state has yet to develop a holistic approach to support a greener job market. “Significantly more jobs will come, not only the jobs we already know of, but also entirely new jobs based on the changing state of affairs in the world,” she explains. “These societal changes bring a vast innovation potential for young people – not only to create their own companies – but to develop new positions in existing organisations based on the emerging demands. Being more aware of these developments and better prepared through education and training for the upcoming changes will support the national just transition aim of leaving no one behind in this great transformation.”
Ultimately, the training week’s organisers aimed to inspire and empower young people to think beyond their familiar outlooks and disciplinary boundaries. They hope participants left with a broader understanding of emerging priority areas and positions in the future job market and feel encouraged to continue their education, enter jobs or create their own companies as pioneers in the green transition.
YENESIS is a project funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA and Norway Grants Fund for Youth Employment.