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Holding up the ladder

27 Aug 2021

Abbie-Lee is part of our Youth Advisory Group. Here, she reflects the opportunities that influenced her career path and how she now helps give back to other young people.

I am the type of person to attribute any successes I may have to luck. If I got the internship, the job or even the degree - it was all down to ‘luck’. Which discredits not only my hard work, but the work of people who invested time and energy to support me and provide me with opportunities that mean luck didn’t have to play a part. But it seems much easier to tell people it’s luck rather than delving into the complexities of social mobility.

I was classed as disadvantaged when entering school, and I live in an area that is still disadvantaged. A quick read through reports and news articles explains that this impacts my future for a number of reasons, but by navigating the uneven playing field in the correct way I can mobilise myself and move up a social status. In real terms, it means that I can access opportunities that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to access due to my social standing. 

Holding up the ladder

The difficulty with social mobility is that it requires others to give you a chance so you can move upwards. My secondary school teachers were experts in knowing what opportunities were available to support young people like me, because a huge part of social mobility is knowing where to look for them. Alongside my A Level studies I took part in the Social Mobility Foundation’s APP programme and worked within the Home Office in London for a week in summer, coming back to finish my final essay to complete the University of Liverpool’s Scholars programme. Both of these programmes targeted young people like me, holding up the ladder as we attempted to climb it.


Abbie-Lee Rendell, Youth Advisory Group

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Holding up the ladder as we attempted to climb it.

Abbie-Lee Rendell, Youth Advisory Group

Seeing things in action

I achieved my grades and began my degree in Sociology and Criminology at the University of Liverpool in 2016, where I spent my free time working for the Widening Participation and Outreach department. Working here, meant I could see it all in action; people with the connections and knowledge of the area working to support those who didn’t have that, through no fault of their own. The department continued to give me chances, allowing me to deliver my own sessions to support young people entering Higher Education as well as helping me figure out where I go after my degree. 

Giving others the chances I was fortunate to get myself

Nobody in my family had experience of white-collar work, as it’s traditionally called. I graduated in the summer of 2019, and thanks to the chances I’d been given as a student, I took the next step of moving to the Shaping Futures programme that September. My role has been working with young people in Merseyside and to help level the playing field for them. I create and deliver sessions on student finance, pathways into higher education, and how to write a personal statement. I want to give them the same chances people gave me, so I signpost, support and explain all the things that I didn’t understand when I was suddenly in this new world of education and work. 

Being the first

I was the first in my entire family to get a degree, and the first to understand about UCAS. Just the other week I had to sheepishly ask my manager what to do when I have a doctor’s appointment in the working day. I’ve not had anyone explain these things to me. I rely on the patience and experience of others that have navigated these professional fields longer than I have, those who understand and support me in learning to navigate them myself.

Big wins require little wins

It’s easy to focus on the big wins, the opportunities granted to us that feel like a breakthrough in our career journey that tell us we’re on the right path which is suddenly a lot easier to travel down. But the big wins require little wins, and the opportunities provided to me throughout my education and career create a yellow brick road, leading directly to where I am now. I thank myself for taking advantage of those opportunities too. I doubt I’d be here, having achieved what I have and doing what I love, without them.

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