King of the Courses: What Your Harrogate’s Nick and Pete learned about adult learning

11 August, 2023 11:03 am

Navigating an environment you’ve been out of for so long is no easy task. It’s therefore understandable why you might feel apprehensive about enrolling in an adult learning course.

But you’re not alone in wanting to take the plunge. According to one study by the Learning and Work Institute, as many as 44% of adults have taken part in learning in the last three years.

At Harrogate College, we’re on a mission to let adults in our region know that it’s never too late to hone a new skill or build on an existing one.

So to put our money where our mouth is, we invited two local legends, Nick Hancock and Pete Egerton from Your Harrogate radio, to test out our adult education provision in a head-to-head showdown to be crowned King of the Courses.

They battled it out over six weeks, with Pete clinching the title with a score of 4-2. We caught up with the pair to find out what they’ve discovered about adult learning.

“I was a bit sceptical”

Interest in adult education has enjoyed a rise in recent years, but its new-found popularity means that there are still misconceptions about what it means to be an adult learner.

When we asked Nick about his preconceptions he said, “I must admit, I thought adult education was mainly about people already in jobs attending conferences and training sessions to tell them how to do the job they were already doing!”

Many of these misconceptions arise from the assumption that learning as an adult is just like school, something that Pete found less than appealing.

He said, ”Admittedly, I was a little bit sceptical! School to me always seemed a bit limiting.

“I never felt truly free to pursue my passions and be independent. Stepping back into a classroom as an adult was a bizarre and somewhat unsettling concept.”

“A whole community under one roof”

But soon it was time for Nick and Pete to brush their nerves aside, set their alarms and arrive for their first day at the college. 

On their initial tour of the college, the pair were in awe of the facilities Harrogate College has to offer. Boasting over 40 courses, it’s important that our students have the best spaces available to learn specialist technical skills.

Pete said: “The thing that struck me the most was the variety.

I couldn’t believe that under one roof you could find a beauty therapy salon, a motor vehicle workshop and a science lab. Crazy! It was like having a whole community under one roof.”

Nick added:  “In my time at school, you’d have to go somewhere and get work experience if you wanted access to the proper equipment. But now, learners have it all at their fingertips!

“The tutors were incredible”

In the first two weeks, the pair rose to the challenge of beauty and bricklaying – two subjects that require a steady hand and an eye for detail. 

In the beginning, the pair found it tough. But the support of the tutors meant they were able to see it through. 

Nick said, “One thing I really appreciated was that even when I was a bit clueless (which was more often than I’d like to admit) the tutors still spoke to me with dignity and respect. 

“I was nervous that I’d feel a bit like a school kid, but that wasn’t the case.”

When we asked Pete how he found the beauty challenges, he chuckled, “I live in an all-female household so I’m surrounded by lots of nail and hair care, and let me tell you, it’s not as easy as they make it look! 

“I was rubbish at first, but the tutors were incredible. They teach all ability levels and their clear direction and patience really boosted my confidence to get stuck in.”

“I might be the next Van Gogh!”

Lots of people use adult learning as a way to upskill in a field they’re already familiar with, but there’s no reason why you can’t give something new a go. 

The average UK worker changes career every five years, so it’s never too late to find something you’re good at, which is exactly what happened to Nick.

Nick said: “I tried to keep an open mind going into the challenges, but naturally I thought I was going to be better at some than others. 

“What surprised me is that I actually did well in areas I’d never considered my strong suit. I was delighted to win the art challenge,who knew I might be the next Van Gogh!”

Pete added: “I completely agree. If you’re browsing the catalogue of courses and don’t see one that jumps out at you, I’d encourage you to try something new. 

You might unlock a talent you never knew you had. Although, if you do, try not to get as smug as Nick!”

“Take your skills to the next level”

As the curtain fell on King of the Courses, we asked the pair to reflect on their learning journey, and how it had changed their understanding of adult education. 

Pete (or His Majesty as he now prefers!) has learned that adult education is a far cry from traditional schooling. 

He said, “Speaking to tutors and current students made me realise that adults can learn in their own way, in their own time. 

“If you’re considering adult education, but you’re worried about what you can commit to and if you’ll be able to do it, just get in touch! 

With full, part-time  and online courses on offer at Harrogate College, there’s something to suit all abilities and schedules.

For Nick, the quality of the facilities and the expertise of the members of staff have transformed his perception of studying in later life. 

He said, “I had this vision of adult courses taking place in stuffy conference centres or over boring online calls, but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

“Harrogate College was buzzing with staff and students eager to learn, and it certainly had the facilities to take your skills to the next level. 

Want to find out how adult learning could open doors for you? Find out more at