Scotland's United Nations Recognised Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development

Blog: It’s Not Just About Learning – We Need Better Sustainability Careers Advice

Rebecca Petford lives in Fife and works for the Environmental Association for Universities and Colleges’ Scotland Office, based in Queen Margaret University in Musselburgh. EAUC support universities and colleges to meet their sustainability obligations and push further to make their environmental and social impacts increasingly positive, through training and networking events and development of tools and resources.

In this blog post she talks about her own struggle to find job opportunities after being bitten by the sustainability bug at university, and introduces the Careers in Sustainability resources her team have developed to support students and job-seekers facing the same problem.

I studied sustainable development at University, making me a Jack of all trades but master of none. To explain, I know a little about a lot of things and how they interact, but have no focused area of knowledge.  That might seem to be quite useful for society (and you would think perhaps pub quizzes, but unfortunately that hasn’t worked in my case) but it does make job hunting, and explaining my degree to others, quite difficult.

In my final year at University I started to think seriously about where I might be headed after graduation. I really struggled to find jobs that I felt prepared for, despite the wide range of skills developed through assignments over my degree, which would also allow me to apply the breadth of knowledge I had developed to make the world a better place. Everything was organised into discipline areas, from job websites to careers guidance, and “saving the world” just doesn’t count as a profession. The choice for a job in sustainability was often environmental health or social work, with nothing between combining social and environmental aspects.

The way guidance and job hunting was set up just didn’t work for me, or many of my classmates. But actually, as I’ve learned since from colleagues and friends also working in sustainability, people with a disciplinary background and strong sustainability values also struggle to find careers advice and opportunities to support them to move into jobs in this area.

Luckily, because of opportunities I had developed while studying, I didn’t struggle for too long to find a job which was both relevant to my degree and personally fulfilling, and since then have worked in a variety of sustainability and creative community development roles. I now work for EAUC-Scotland where I am able to wear the ‘Jack of all trades’ hat quite happily, given the variety of sustainability activity we support in colleges and universities.

At EAUC-S I found the perfect avenue to pour my sustainability careers guidance / job hunting angst – the Careers in Sustainability project. The project aim was to train careers advisors to understand sustainability as a learning topic and job area better. Over a couple of years, lots of meetings, intense trawling of websites (given the number of jobs with interesting titles and job descriptions I’ve seen over the past two years, in everything from community food growing to research into renewable energy, it’s a miracle I’m still happily working for EAUC!) and a lot of support from my colleagues after role changes within my team, things have significantly progressed, and we are now nearing the end of the project.

I’m pleased to say that sustainability job hunting options have also progressed over the last few years, with the rise of dedicated websites and Twitter handles such as Goodmoves and EnvironmentJob, and also an increase in tagging of listings making finding relevant roles slightly easier to find despite the sector-focused structure. But to take advantage of this you need to know where to look, and resources supporting understanding sustainability jobs and how to prepare for one are still lacking.

With this in mind, we have compiled a series of resources, aimed a careers and student advisors but also students and teaching staff, which explore three different areas of jobs and careers in sustainability:

  1. Understanding
  2. Preparing for
  3. Finding and Winning

Each area is available to all as a downloadable PDF from the EAUC’s Sustainability Exchange, supplemented by a webinar (turned into a video resource after the date). We hope that students and their advisors will download them, read them, share them, and better understand what jobs in sustainability are all about.

If I was asked to pull out a key message from the resources which also harks back to my own experience, it would be that although jobs in sustainability might seem hard to understand or find given the breadth of the subject, if you are interested in developing your understanding or working in this area then there are so many varied opportunities, no matter your educational background.

However, these resources are just a small drop in an ocean structured by discipline and job sector. Sustainability teaching is beginning to gain traction in breaking down disciplines and making learning more holistic, but if we are to develop a more sustainable society it is vital we don’t lose students or school leavers (or mid-career job changers) with an interest in sustainability by not providing the resources and opportunities they need to take the next step towards a career in sustainability.

If you are interested in discussing this further, and perhaps joining an LfSS Working Group on Learning for Sustainability and Employability to plan action we can take to support this process, then please get in touch.


LfS: Connections with Nature conference 12 May 2017

The 12th of May is getting closer and closer but it’s not too late to book your place if you haven’t already done so.

We now have a confirmed Programme for the day – have a look at it HERE.

And if you would like to book your FREE place before it’s too late – have a look at the event booking page HERE.

Summary of Open Education Practices Workshop

Learning for Sustainability Scotland (LfSS) and Open Education Practices Scotland (OEPS) jointly hosted a workshop around Open Education Practices to continue with the work of the Open Education Task Group. The workshop was held at Moray House School of Education on Friday 3 March 2017.

The session was attended by over twenty Learning for Sustainability Scotland members. For detailed notes & images from the session please click here.

You can view the slides from the session by clicking this link.

There was a strong view that the work of the task group should continue and more information about future events / meetings will be sent to the membership. If you would like to join the task group or find out more about it, please email Abi Cornwall, Development Officer at Learning for Sustainability Scotland.






Blog: How Open Education materials can enhance the practice of learning for sustainability practitioners

Ronald MacIntyre lives and works in the West Highlands with his family. He has a long term research education and social justice background and balances working for the Open University with voluntary work in the community and running a small croft. In 2016 Ronald developed the Open Education Practices task group with other interested members of the Learning for Sustainability Scotland network and is the current group convener. Here he talks about how the task group developed and what is in store for the task group’s first event, which takes place next month.


Open Education Practice Scotland and Learning for Sustainability Scotland are co-hosting a workshop early next month which will explore the role of free open online learning material in supporting the work of Learning for Sustainability (lfs) practitioners in Scotland. The idea of the workshop arose after a meeting held in 2016 which brought together a broad range of lfs practitioners to discuss the use of open educational materials and how their practice could be enhanced by accessing and using them.

At the meeting we were all struck by the overlaps in our approaches to educational practice. On the surface there is a sense that questions of sustainability and open education are questions about practice itself, and about how that practice is changing. Our sense of educational practice as something social and situated, and then a broader sense of values, a commitment to equity and social inclusion informed our approaches at an even deeper level.

It is always pleasing to spend an afternoon with people who share similar interests and ideas about educational practice, but in the end one is left wondering – So What?

In this case ‘So What?‘ resulted in the development of a Learning for Sustainability Scotland Task Group – where members interested in open educational practices (OEP) can explore the topic further. For full information on the group and the workshop itself click here.

At the workshop next month we will – very briefly – share some experiences of working with free and open materials and our thoughts about those overlaps. However, most of the day will be given over to discussion and exploring the opportunities and challenges around free open online learning materials and to support learning for sustainability.

If you are interested in joining the discussion then we look forward to seeing you on the day, here is a link so you can book your place.

Photo details: [Walk in] Patrick Geddes Steps, Patrick Geddes was an Edinburgh based architect, planner, and early green thinker often cited as the source of the term “Think Global Act Local”.
Image Source, Jones Bob, (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Blog: Exploring learning for sustainability and the Sustainable Development Goals in youth work

Emily Beever is the Senior Development Officer (Policy and Research) at YouthLink Scotland, the national agency for youth work in Scotland. Emily co-ordinates YouthLink Scotland’s Members Network. The most recent Members Network took place in December 2016. As a valuable member of the Learning for Sustainability Scotland network, we asked her to update us on the latest YouthLink event which focused on why learning for sustainability is important in youth work; how it can enhance practitioner’s and young people’s experiences and how practitioners are already working towards the Sustainable Development Goals agenda in their every day practice.


Youth work plays a critical role in all aspects of young people’s learning. Far from being a complementary add-on to formal learning, in reality youth work is crucial for supporting many young people in their learning, health and wellbeing, and with future prospects. Youth work contributes to positive outcomes for young people in many areas including attainment, mental health, employability, youth justice, and child poverty.

YouthLink’s quarterly Members Networks events are designed for youth practitioners to share best practice, network and learning more about specific topics, with the latest one taking place in December. The theme was dedicated to exploring Learning for Sustainability. Using the  Sustainable Development Goals as a framework to open discussions around LfS, we hoped to show youth work practitioners that they do not need to add new elements to their practice or embark on different projects to contribute to this agenda.

The event began with an introduction to Learning for Sustainability with Betsy and Abi from Learning for Sustainability Scotland. Attendees were encouraged to think about all the elements involved in getting a cup of coffee, focusing on the often unseen and unconsidered elements of the environment, human labour and the power structures that support production and trade.

This planted the seed for the rest of the day as well as giving us a useful tool for our own practice.

Next we heard from three organisations focused on outdoor learning: the Field Studies Council, Woodcraft Folk Scotland and TCV Scotland. The speakers provided attendees with useful information about encouraging outdoor learning within their practice. Helen Jones from the Royal Zoological Society Scotland bridged the gap between conservation efforts at home and globally, telling us about their efforts to engage young people in conservation using digital and pop culture trends. She gave us examples of how Edinburgh Zoo have used Pokemon Go!, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them, and Minecraft to involve young people in discussions about conservation.

The event ended with a vibrant discussion on youth work and the SDGs facilitated by Robbie Cheyne from Y Care International, a global youth work organisation. Robbie helped attendees to recognise the elements of their practice that were already working towards the 17 SDGs.

The very nature of youth work means that current youth work provision in Scotland is playing a part in working towards achieving many of the 17 SDGs at home and away. You don’t have to look far to see how youth work’s approach to engage young people in learning, in their communities and to eliminate equalities helps to achieve goals 1, 4, 8 and 10. Our members also engage in targeted youth work contributing to goals 2, 3, 5 and 13.

In fact, youth work practitioners at the event were able to identify examples of ongoing youth work practice that contributed to achieving 16 of the 17 goals. Thanks to the mapping exercise completed at the event, we now have a comprehensive picture of youth work’s current contribution to achieving the SDGs. The youth work outcomes clearly demonstrate how experience in youth work facilitates young people to realise the Global Goals.

It is clear that youth workers must be involved in the journey to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Not only does youth work itself help to achieve the goals, but youth workers also facilitate young people to be change makers themselves, equipping them with the tools to create change in their communities and further afield. This is the key difference between the Millennium Development Goals and the SDGs.  These goals are no longer for someone else, they are for us. Designed with us. Delivered by us.

As the national agency for youth work in Scotland, we would like to see our members in the statutory and voluntary youth work sectors engaged and included in the wider dialogue of the SDGs and recognition by decision makers and partners that youth work contributes to achieving them. YouthLink Scotland would welcome partnership opportunities with expert agencies as well as funding for professional development so youth work practitioners can continue to lead on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

For more detail about the Members Network event, please see here.

If you have an interesting update that you would like to share with the Learning for Sustainability Scotland network, please get in touch with Abi Cornwall here.