By partnering with ambitious businesses and organisations to offer innovative teaching materials and courses, The Verdancy Group is fully engaged in helping young people and the current Scottish workforce gain sustainability skills that are vital to reach net zero targets. By Andrew Collier

There is one critical thing we need if we are to win the fight against climate change – knowledge. Only by educating ourselves will we all be able to tackle the challenge and put in place the positive actions needed.

The key to this lies in coherent, engaged and motivational learning. Through this we can build the skills and attitudes required, investing in people to give them the ability to succeed.

One Scottish company working in this dynamic and exciting area is The Verdancy Group, based in Livingston, which offers a highly varied range of teaching materials and courses in order to build the sustainability skills needed for the future.

It has taken the view that the best way to understand how to apply the learning is to bring in someone who has spent years working within the education sector and who understands exactly how it works. 

As a result, the business has engaged educationalist Susan McSeveney as a Director.

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She originally trained as a secondary school teacher before moving on to work in the further education sector in a Scottish college where she started as a lecturer teaching core skills before her latter role as Learning and Skills manager leading the Construction and Automotive Faculty.

She was introduced to Verdancy Group founder and Director Steven Kiakowski through a sustainability contact. “At the time, one of my main responsibilities was to find curriculum materials to ensure that learners were equipped to move into the world of work,” she recalls.

“We quickly understood what they were trying to do and used a few of their courses. Two years later, I decided to join the company myself.”

It is the fact that Ms McSeveney has previously worked with the business as a client which now gives The Verdancy Group an advantage over competitors. In the world of tertiary education, she adds, the curriculum must ensure it delivers innovation to keep up with the pace of change.

“There’s a delay between what learners need to know and what content is available within frameworks and qualifications – it's the difficult task of matching the pace of change that leaves some form of delay unavoidable, but we and our partnerships are doing all we can to make it work. Being able to outsource to a private training provider in order to get those resources was a big attraction for me. 

“They had a background in the waste management sector and that for me gave real credibility.

“They knew their stuff and could adapt very, very quickly. The speed that the business was able to react and respond to my needs as a customer was fantastic and this experience played a huge part in the decision to make the move. Their ideas were up to date and they were on trend with what was happening across the world in terms of the news and political agendas.”

The main reason she decided to join the company was her passion and ambition to influence and create change.

 “I wanted to potentially be able to influence decision makers within education and policymaking and that’s an exciting thing to do.

“I loved my time in the FE Sector, I met some incredibly inspirational people and learned so much along the way.  

"When I had the opportunity to join a private sector organisation that was dynamic and young I felt that I would thrive in that environment and would be able to use the skills and experience I had gained in my previous roles. I felt that I had reached a point in my career where I wanted a fresh challenge and it has certainly lived up to my expectations.”

Much of her work with The Verdancy Group is leading on curriculum design and delivery.

“It’s a growing and diverse team, so it's in my nature to get involved with a bit of everything. The educational experience and knowledge I have brings further understanding and that’s really important.

“One of our ongoing goals is to continually develop our online courses and look for further opportunities.”

The change from working within Further Education to a growing SME has been different but leaves with the thought: “That’s my biggest challenge but also my biggest opportunity.”

She now works with educational, community and corporate clients. “Of course, the natural fit for me was the education sector, but I’ve actually found that I’ve contributed a great deal on the business side.

“I think people in that sector appreciate and respect that to help staff to learn and get to where they want to be in terms of net zero, having someone with an education background is quite a strong fit.”

How does she see the future? “In a way, I hope that what we are doing now with our education support is in less demand five years’ time.  

“If we can influence and drive change in the sectors that we work in, there should be less need for us to fill the gap.  

“Sustainability education should be embedded throughout all courses and qualifications, much like how core and meta skills are just now. 

“We would still be here, but we would have evolved naturally into a skills sector council for the green skills and environmental sector.  There are organisations driving great change in this field, but what is missing is that one trusted partner that pulls it all together.”

theverdancygroup.com

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New college partnerships build a strong foundation for growing future economy

THE Verdancy Group has forged its reputation as a leading provider of sustainable learning by building strong relationships with partners and delivering learning efficiently and effectively.

It has worked with Edinburgh College for a number of years and has taken students from the construction faculty through its SCQF Waste in the Circular Economy Award. 
College Construction Curriculum Manager Garry Maxwell has committed to enrol all construction apprentices to one of its courses. This amounts to a huge commitment in terms of teaching green skills to learners.

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The Verdancy Group has built a tailored version of the learning that will develop apprentices’ core skills, including ICT and numeracy, while at the same time they will learn about key sustainability topics.

The mandatory outcomes for the core skills units will be woven throughout the learning and evidence will be gathered naturally and holistically.  

Mr Maxwell is keen to ensure that all apprentices entering the industry are equipped with the right mindset to influence positive change and support others to reduce their waste and carbon footprint.

“As a College, we are committed to embedding sustainability and green skills across our curriculum. We are delighted to work with The Verdancy Group to ensure our apprentices have access to contextualised learning which has sustainability at its core.” 

The Verdancy Group has also built a strong partnership with Borders College and this year has partnered to co-create modules of learning that will be made available to more than 2000 students as part of their induction process. During these modules students will learn about the impact of climate change, how to live more sustainably and how to reduce their own carbon footprint.  

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The learning is completed with students pledging their own commitment to net zero, considering their life at college, at home and in the workplace. 

David Lowe, Assistant Principal at the college, describes The Verdancy Group as an important partner. 

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“Last year saw us launch our Sustainability Strategy at Borders College and our commitment to work collaboratively to respond to the global climate emergency and Scottish Government's 
target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2045.

“Our approach to sustainability will be  underpinned by the collective of three themes – the Circular Economy, Behaviour Change and Global Citizenship.

To allow us to set the tone from the start of the student journey at Borders College we had noted the excellent work that The Verdancy Group have been undertaking and there expertise in this area so we decided to approach them to see if we could work collaboratively to develop an induction module for all students at Borders College as well as developing a CPD package for our own staff.

This work will be instrumental in instigating Behavioural Change for all students and staff at Borders College as well as influencing the wider community allowing us to deliver on our Strategy and helping us reach that goal of net zero by 2045.”