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Responsible Futures Support Afternoon II : Employability and ESD

April 19, 2023

The second Responsible Futures support afternoon of the2022-2023 academic year took place on 23rd March. The 3-hour session brought together students and staff from Responsible Futures partnerships to explore how education for sustainable development (ESD) can influence and contribute to employability agendas in Further and Higher Education Institutions (FHEIs). The session involved:

·        discussing on how ESD skills and competencies relate to employability/career services

·        how we can empower student to take sustainability values with them into jobs

Wordcloud titled: What values, attributes, competencies/skills should students carry into future carers to contribute to sustainability?  Answers: Critical thinking, Empathy, Commitment, Systems Thinking, Problem solving, Role model, Kindness, Dealing with uncertainty, Carbon numeracy, Intersectionality, Confidence, Commitment to change, Ability to influence others, Passion, Solution focused thinking, Justice, Listening Skills, Work Ethic, Resourcefulness, Proactive attitude, Interdisciplinary approaches
Word cloud about key student attributes, competencies and skills.


The session started with a discussion around what values, attributes and competencies/skills can we carry with us into sustainability related careers. Participants were asked via the slido app, and the most common answer was ‘critical thinking’ and ‘empathy’. These attributes amongst many others can help those who enter sustainable related jobs, guide them into being successful in their future careers.

The next part of the support afternoon explored how sustainability is covered in institutions and student unions. In breakout rooms, participants explored the links between the career services at their institutions and how they incorporate sustainability along with students. These discussions also revealed the challenges some participants were familiar with such as measuring the impact of long-term benefits and outcomes of students. For example, are the courses/modules that students learn about sustainability meeting the expectation of what professional bodies/employers are looking for.

Breakout room discussion activity


Later in the afternoon, J Clarke from People & Planet joined the group to speak about the fossil free careers campaign. This campaign is all about getting universities to divest from fossil fuel industries. The focus on fossil fuels is due to the climate crisis and how fossil fuel companies will keep continuing to burn fossil fuels and accelerate the climate crisis. We had a Q&A discussion around the campaign and one question was how do we define fossil fuel companies? People and planet define that “in this campaign, as the carbon underground 200…the 200 fossil fuel companies that currently own the largest fossil fuel reserves”- J Clarke.

Furthermore, in relation to Responsible Futures, and engaging with the criteria, the conversation around sustainability is often faced with closed doors. The advice/suggestions from J Clarke were making the sustainability case and talking about getting your institution to become a sector leader and use it as a reputation opportunity for other universities to follow. Also, if universities have changed their investment policies against fossil fuel companies, then this should also be reflected in their career services.

During the second half of the afternoon, we had 2presentations from our 2022-23 host partnerships. The University of Derby and the union of students presented the Community Chesterfield Initiative. This initiative was a partnership between the University of Derby and Derbyshire Voluntary Action. Their aim is around working together to strengthen the not-for-profit voluntary/community groups across Derbyshire through shared learning. Derbyshire Voluntary Acton has created positive change through creating and supporting students on placements through the initiative ‘by bringing people together, to learn together, across different sectors.

UWE Presentation on ESD Competencies for Employability


The University of West England and the Students Union explored the skills gap and ESD competencies for Employability. The activities around competencies and employability have been focused on how we can equip students with the skills needed for them to develop their future career. This is linked to what can FE/HE courses do, to change this in the classroom to help students.

The list of competencies that students can learn and acquire can benefit their understanding, skills and knowledge. However, in terms of assessment and management it is difficult to align it with competencies. For example, the suggestion of placement type opportunities, portfolio type assessments or multi-modular based assessments could be a possible solution. As ‘one module cant tick all of the boxes’ when meeting all the competencies and enhancing student development.

Thank you to all our host partnerships and to all staff and students that attended the session and contributed to all the discussions.


Our next Responsible Futures webinar, by one of the 2022-23 RF Host Partnerships the University of Derby and Derby Union of students, will take place on 26th April, 2023 1:30-3pm and will explore about nature connectedness and the student learning. Staff and students from RF partnerships are welcome to register here.

For more information on Responsible Futures, check out our website