How the University of Sheffield is nurturing sustainable leaders

Jan 31, 2024 | Attraction & marketing, Case studies, Home Featured

The University of Sheffield explains its commitment to education for sustainable development with advice for employers.

In the ever-evolving landscape of global challenges, universities play a pivotal role in shaping the leaders and innovators of tomorrow.

At the University of Sheffield, we recognise our responsibility to contribute to the development of sustainable solutions that address pressing environmental, economic and social issues.

Our greatest impact comes from the research we conduct and from the students we nurture to become the change-makers and leaders of the future.

Equipping students across disciplines
Irrespective of their degree, we believe that all students should be equipped with an understanding of the challenges and opportunities related to ensuring ongoing sustainable development.

Our commitments include providing a well-rounded education that equips our students and graduates with the knowledge, skills, and values to become ‘conscious and informed global citizens’ capable of navigating the demands of a sustainable future.

Education for Sustainable Development framework
To achieve this, we are actively working towards embedding Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into the Sheffield student experience, both within the formal curriculum and in their broader university experiences.

ESD, aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, takes a holistic approach to sustainability, ensuring that it is relevant to students across all disciplines.

Our goal is to produce well informed global graduates who can contribute meaningfully to environmental, economic, and social wellbeing, whether that be in the area of climate justice, disaster risk reduction, biodiversity, poverty reduction, sustainable consumption, human rights, social equality or responsible citizenship.

To implement this vision, we are working within a five-step framework we have devised for embedding ESD across all academic disciplines.

Integration into careers education
How does this translate into careers education? Sheffield integrates sustainability across various touchpoints:

  • Curriculum Integration: Sustainability concepts are woven into our courses, for example, engineering students might design sustainable energy solutions, while marketing students may explore ethical consumerism campaigns.
  • Skills Development: Students gain practical skills including life cycle analysis, environmental impact assessment, and sustainable project management through workshops, simulations, and real-world projects. 
  • Employability Support: The Careers and Employability Service has developed enhanced resources, actively promotes ‘green and sustainable jobs’ and equips students with interview skills and job search strategies tailored to sustainability-focused roles.
  • Employer Engagement: The University of Sheffield partners with an increasingly wide range of organisations committed to sustainable development. Through panel events, networking opportunities, challenge-based activities and careers fairs, students can access opportunities and gain insights into how they can make a difference in the world through their chosen career.

Challenges and responses
However, we acknowledge that this ESD and sustainable careers journey is not without challenges.
The demand for professionals capable of accelerating change towards more sustainable outcomes is on the rise, especially in sectors like energy and power generation.

Whilst we understand the importance students and graduates place on pursuing careers that positively impact the planet and its inhabitants, there is a range of thought amongst the student community about employers and the extent to which they might be considered sustainable.

Striking a balance between listening and responding to student opinion, ensuring that students are supported in exploring, accessing and progressing their career no matter what role or sector they choose, and managing employer relationships and expectations can present challenges for university careers and employability teams.

Our careers and employability provision offers impartial and unbiased guidance which is at the core of our professional practice. Our goal is to enable all students to make informed choices about their future careers, considering their values and the impact they wish to have on the world, regardless of their degree subject.

Advice for employers engaging with universities
We encourage student and graduate recruiters to:

  • Be as open and transparent as possible about your organisation’s approach to sustainability to help students make informed choices about who they wish to work for. Students are well aware of greenwashing and can see through PR campaigns!
  • Be prepared to talk to students about your work on sustainability at careers fairs and other events and be ready to answer questions and be challenged.
  • Let universities know about any roles you have that provide students and graduates with opportunities to contribute to your organisation’s sustainability. These roles are much sought after.
  • Consider offering projects for students to work on that will help you make progress towards your sustainability goals. These can be done part-time alongside studies, during vacations, as a placement year or undertaken as part of a degree programme.
  • Showcase any sustainability certifications that your organisation possesses, such as BCorp
  • Enhance your business’s green credentials by undergoing more formal accreditation such as ISO 14001 for environmental management or Carbon Trust accreditation schemes.
  • Liaise with university employer engagement teams who should be able to let you know if they are aware of any potential for negative press or protest activity that might be directed at your organisation – do check with them if you are unsure.

Shaping a sustainable future in collaboration with employers
By embedding sustainable development principles across our academic programmes and providing diverse opportunities for engagement, with the help of employers, we are shaping a community of graduates who are well prepared for their future careers and equipped to contribute meaningfully to a more sustainable future.

The University of Sheffield shared its programme at ISE’s HE Conference.

Read more content from the event.

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