Train the Trainer
I believe that getting young people attracted to ham radio is quite a challenge in every single country. It is not that kids don’t like to experiment with new things, it’s just that Estonia overall is extremely IT oriented. It all started in late 90ies with government funded projects. The aim was to have special computer classes in every single school. That of course led to special computer classes that gave overall introduction to computers, software, programming etc. As it has been growing over the years it has been now adapted as mandatory class in every single school. So basically what we are creating is a lot of software developers from early ages. And this is something that kids actually like. Now the big question is how to take those enthusiasts and introduce them to ham radio?
What comes to licensing in Estonia it is quite simple and easy. We do have 3 different possible license classes from Rookie to Expert. Rookie class requires an easy exam with basic questions about ham radio, radio waves etc. We do not have any age limit, so basically even a preschool kid can have a license. Of course at first everything will be supervised and making a first QSO is also taught by an elder. Those who like it, usually keep going and growing into it. But those who like IT technologies more, they just eventually stick to software developing.
At this very moment we have approximately 4 schools with possibility to experiment with ham radio. 2 of them in capital city Tallinn, 1 in Tartu and one in southern region. Not only making QSOs and pure contesting, they teach soldering, making receivers, antennas etc. So there is some sort of youth work going on, but it is the lack of children. If you can choose from creating phone apps or talking to old people over the radio, most would choose the first.
We also have an agreement with ES5TV (ES9C station), that whenever all youngsters are always welcome to use his station. We are participating in JOTA projects. We constantly invite them to major contest, also YOTA coordinated events such as ARI contest, which brings some foreign youngsters here. So long story short, we do have something, not everything. We have schools and superstations to use, we just don’t have children. And this is the biggest problem we face right now. Because licensing is easy, we have no age limit, we have stations from where we could work. We just don’t have ideas how to get more youngsters to join.