Studied: Functional Skills Level 2 English, Functional Skills Level 2 Maths, Pre-Access Skills for Further Study and Access to Higher Education: Social Work
Progression: BA Hons Social Work at Staffordshire University
The Rachel Millington of 10 years ago would never have imagined passing her English and maths qualifications, let alone getting on to a university course. But this, she says, is her time.
After completing her Access qualifications at Walsall College, she is now a social work undergraduate.
“University had always been a pipe dream. Now it feels amazing to be in a position where I’ve achieved qualifications and I’m pursuing a career where I can give back to others,” said Rachel.
Social services have played a crucial role in Rachel’s life. They supporting her when she fled an abusive relationship in her early 20s, moved away and was isolated from family and friends.
“Having experienced an intervention process from social services, I know that when I become a social worker myself, I’ll be able to understand both sides of a situation,” continued Rachel.
“I’ve gone through the fear, anger and then the feelings of safety and security when things start getting better. I’ll be able to bring those insights to the people I’m assisting and to those I’m working with.”
When Rachel first came back into college and was applying to university, imposter syndrome was rife. She had left school without her GCSEs and her career background was in manufacturing, including a 15-year role with Jaguar Land Rover.
Her support network helped alleviate this.
“I’ve had lots of encouragement from my parents and my children,” said Rachel. “And my lecturers have always been there for me to talk to.
“I was also caring for my terminally ill father while studying. My son wasn’t well either. Unconditionally, they would regularly check in on me and see how I was doing.”
Rachel continued: “I had a big fear of applying to study social work at various universities and not getting responses from any of them. My lecturers encouraged me to aim high and not doubt myself.
“I’m grateful they saw my potential. Without them, I wouldn’t have made it.”
While Rachel says her Access course could be demanding, she believes she gained a lot from it academically and professionally.
“There are a lot of transferrable skills in the way the Access course is formatted,” said Rachel. “You’re taught essay writing principles, PowerPoint presentation skills and how to use Harvard Referencing.”
While Rachel Is hoping to work with children once she qualifies as a social worker, she is aware of the broad range of opportunities across the sector and beyond.
“My plan is to start out working with children, potentially as a court worker,” said Rachel. “There is a CASCAF law conversion course that supports this and could lead to me working in family court law.
She added: “I know my degree doesn’t confine me to one specific thing. I can also go on to represent people in a wider health and care setting or even go into the education sector.
“What I’ve achieved as an Access student has me in a strong position to keep moving forward.
“I’ve seen that by putting the work in, you can find yourself in a much better position long-term.”