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We talk to Dr. Monica Chavez, Director of Social and Cultural Curriculum at The City of Liverpool College about social mobility and its importance…

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

We talk to Dr. Monica Chavez, Director of Social and Cultural Curriculum at The City of Liverpool College about social mobility and its importance. We learn how social and cultural capital brings benefits to your career. Monica also tells us how The City of Liverpool College is working to become a centre of excellence in social mobility, building it into its core.

The 15th May was Social Mobility Day nationally. Raising awareness of sociable mobility, this year’s campaign encouraged people to talk about their experiences across social media channels. But, what is social mobility and why should you be bothered? “Social Mobility is about building people’s social and cultural capital. That means helping people to improve social skills and broaden their cultural experiences. This enriches people’s lives and ultimately helps them find and get more rewarding jobs and careers,” explains Monica.

More on Monica

Monica is leading the team at The City of Liverpool College responsible for embedding social and cultural mobility into the heart of their teaching. She is ideally suited to the role that was created a year and a half ago and is already delivering results. Following her first degree in Mexico, she came to the UK to study her doctorate in linguistics at Liverpool University. Her career to date has taken her to a number of countries delivering educational development and includes working as a consultant for The British Council, who help build prosperity by creating understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. “I’m bringing the culmination of a wide range of experiences and skills to this role in Liverpool, a deprived city full of skilful people, I regard as my cultural home,” reveals Monica.

Breaking Down Barriers

Education is at the heart of social mobility. “Social mobility is ultimately about breaking down the barriers that prevent equal opportunities. That’s not accomplished by legislation and businesses creating equal opportunities policies. It’s actually a cultural shift in perspective combined with building important social skills, we call soft skills, that students need. Education is the very core of social mobility and the college is committed to building all these soft skills and experiences into every course we teach. The quality of someone’s education builds academic capital. Couple this with social and cultural capital, through things such as parental engagement, social networking and real life experiences and you start to build tangible social mobility,” reflects Monica.

Building Social Status

Dr. Chavez tells us that true social mobility is about building social status. It is about being able to reach your full potential from where you start in life. That means educating people that their socio-economic backgrounds should not hold them back and that they can achieve their dream jobs. “Like us, there are businesses across the Liverpool City Region that embrace equality and diversity and the advantages that brings to their organisations. We are committed to developing that diversity of talent through accessible high-quality education across our diverse student body,” affirms Monica.

While education is the cornerstone of social mobility it isn’t just about academic achievement. It includes personal development, mind-set and community engagement. Monica is embedding teaching initiatives and support systems across the college to build these soft skills into course content and the way students are taught. “The soft skills are important. They are the tools students need to continue to be socially mobile when they leave college. Social mobility is a journey that builds experiences and rewarding careers. We are equipping them to significantly improve their careers and open doors to exciting opportunities on their future career paths,” Monica says.

It’s all in the mind

“Mind-set is very important in a student who has come from a deprived background,” Monica continues. “It’s like the Star Wars quote: ‘I don’t believe it: That is why you fail.’ A student needs to have confidence, resilience, and persistence. This is built through acquiring the social and cultural capital that I mentioned before.  We work hard to instill the right mind-set for our students, so they are confident they can step out into the working environment and succeed.”  

Successful Framework

In consultation with teaching staff and the executive team, Monica created a social and cultural framework. In May she produced a pilot toolkit for teachers that was implemented across the college. This has shaped how courses are taught to incorporate the soft skills students need. They are seeing results already both inside and outside the classroom. 

From networking opportunities, that build social capital, to site visits that build cultural capital, the approach is paying dividends for students who are being offered jobs as a result of the way they are implementing their newly found soft skills. “When businesses who are engaged with the social mobility agenda meet students who have the passion, social and cultural skills they find that refreshing. Magical things happen, including opening new doors to high-quality career opportunities,” concludes Monica.