Susan McSeveney (she/her)
Education Director, The Verdancy Group Ltd.
After school, I went to college for two years and then university for a further two to study product design. Unfortunately, I had a car accident at 22 which seriously injured me and changed my career trajectory. I went back to university and completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and became a qualified teacher in technological education at 24.
I taught for a year as secondment cover and then moved on to a summer job where I taught programmes for learners in secure settings. I was delivering education to everyone from those on remand to people serving life sentences. The contract was held by a further education (FE) college and after that summer they offered me a year’s contract.
After almost six years of lecturing in core skills, employability and personal development, I moved into a promoted post as Deputy Centre Head for the construction and automotive engineering education department. The department produced significant volumes of waste and that’s what sparked my interest in environmentalism. I realised that sustainability knowledge made people more employable, so I knew it was important to pursue.
Whilst in this position I was tasked with designing and supporting innovative curriculum offerings, while also supporting the delivery and support staff in their roles. During this time, I researched and investigated ways to supplement the traditional curriculum with added value units and awards, mainly around sustainability education.
“I foresee lots of career opportunities opening up. The sector is becoming less siloed, and sustainability is increasingly a critical skill.”
I then made the switch to my current company where I’m a director. When I came into contact with the company, it was an education training provider focused on waste management, but in the process of my joining we rebranded and turned it into a 100% sustainability focused training and consultancy business.
The company is called The Verdancy Group. ‘Verdancy’ is old French for the transition to becoming green – which represented both our identity as a company and the type of changes we’re facilitating in the economy.
As Director, I am involved in most areas of the business, from customer support and the creation of bespoke learning programmes, to delivering courses to learners. We work in the education sector and act as providers of high-quality learning and teaching materials, trainers, assessors and verifiers, and trusted advisors. We also work supporting private sector organisations on their journey to net zero.
We have colleagues with experience in the third sector and we provide training to charities and non-profits, giving us access to the full breadth of organisation types. We’re effectively creating a bespoke sector by filling a gap in the training and consultancy sector, so it’s a really interesting area to work in.
I directly manage a small team. One person on my team was brought in after successfully completing a graduate placement scheme with us and has a background in sustainable development. Another has a background in community projects and runs online training sessions. Supporting a diverse workforce is important to us, and we warmly welcome people from a wide range of backgrounds.
We’re an SME (small or medium enterprise) which presents challenges because we have big ambitions but relatively few resources. Our power is in our networks and IEMA has helped us a lot with that. Our partnership with IEMA has helped with our integrity when approaching new clients. Our employees’ continuous professional development (CPD) has been made possible by IEMA’s courses and support. Everyone at Verdancy is IEMA certified.
I foresee lots of career opportunities opening up. The sector is becoming less siloed, and sustainability is increasingly a critical skill.
In Scotland, where we are based, there is a big focus on promoting sustainability education. The intent is fantastic, but whether there’s sufficient time or resources is another question.
The main challenges we face in improving green skills and training are time and money. Many organisations, including colleges, now must report annually on their sustainability metrics. That includes staff development and embedding sustainability across curricula. We are working hard in this area to support these organisations; it’s a slow process but it’s all moving in the right direction.
IEMA is the membership body for environment and sustainability professionals