Hosting and collaborating: from Pioneer to job creator in Estonia

After a positive Pioneers 2017 experience – which included a Placement in Cyprus and a plastic waste awareness-raising Group Project in Estonia – Kerli has been supervising Pioneers at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Office in Estonia since 2018. Adil Aslam, a 2020 Pioneer, arrived in Estonia for a six-week Placement and has since been hired by SEI, following his collaboration with Kerli on a successful tender to analyse Estonia’s hydrogen energy potential.

I enjoyed the entire Pioneers process – it was a refreshing “jump in cold water” which I really appreciated – and gained a lot of knowledge and experience. The programme is a great asset for your future career path and if you are thinking of applying, there may even be a chance to get hired – or become a coach or host – as well as making lifetime connections.

Kerli Kirsimaa, Pioneer 2017, Host 2018-2020

Kerli Kirsimaa first heard about the Pioneers programme two years into her job at the  Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) Office in Tallinn. “I saw Pioneers as a great opportunity to  further improve my climate and energy knowledge. I had previously enjoyed living abroad during my MSc in Urban Environmental Management at Wageningen University and was also keen to find out more about other countries’ energy systems.”

A one-month Placement at the Cyprus Energy Agency (CEA) was Kerli’s first choice when she applied: “It was a totally different setting, a contrast to Estonia in many ways. I worked mostly with the Covenant of Mayors collecting energy data for Cypriot mayors and with CEA on a Sustainable Energy and Climate Action Plan (SECAP) project to develop potential climate adaptation measures. I learned a lot about EU policy during my Placement and I was also happy to contribute to the project with my climate adaptation knowledge, having worked on the National Climate Adaptation Plan in Estonia.” 

The Placement led to further collaboration – SEI is now a partner alongside CEA on the European YENESIS project which aims to reduce unemployment by creating green jobs for young professionals based in islands. “This collaboration likely would not have happened without Pioneers,” adds Kerli.

Kerli also enjoyed her Group Project during Pioneers 2017: “We wanted to raise awareness of plastic waste issues in Estonia and decided to launch a campaign at an annual flea market in Tallinn. We got in touch with a company called Eesti Pakendiringlus who created and delivered 500kg plastic waste cubes, which we used to construct a labyrinth into the market.” The eye-catching cubes meant people couldn’t avoid the issue, says Kerli: “Attendees had to go through the maze to get into the market, which we deliberately made difficult to navigate. We also created informative signs so people could find out more about the topic. The project required a lot of collaboration – we even made a video of the campaign – but it was very satisfying to build and motivate a whole network of people.”

The Group Project was a success and led to further collaboration between the team and Eesti Pakendiringlus: “They asked us to work on another campaign, we visited various supermarkets around Tallinn for the “what can be made out of plastic waste” campaign, interviewing people and handing out flyers. A video of this campaign was also created.”

Her positive Pioneers experience led Kerli to apply to the programme as a host. Since 2018, Kerli works with Pioneers who complete their Placements at SEI in Estonia. “The interns that have come through EIT Climate-KIC have all been very smart, motivated – and we have also learned a lot from them,” she says.

Adil Aslam, a 2020 Pioneer, only planned to stay for the six-week Placement, but ended up being hired by SEI. “When Adil arrived, a national procurement call to analyse Estonia’s hydrogen energy potential had been put out. Adil had experience in hydrogen and energy modelling, which was also required,” says Kerli. “Adil and I worked together on the tender and won. He is an asset to the SEI team and we would have likely hired him even if we hadn’t won,” she adds.