Tararua is way ahead of the Manawatu with its innovative festival of adult learning, says Margaret Kouvelis, chief executive of Talent Central.
"Education liberates and empowers us to make wise choices and points us to our future," she said at the celebration of adult learning in Dannevirke last Friday.
"Adult learning is a launching pad. You've put in the hard yards, battled and made mistakes and your achievements represent the process to success."
Education was all about the journey, Kouvelis told the achievers attending were told.
"Getting there is far more rewarding than arriving, but what will you do next?" she said.
"Aim for the stars and, if you miss, you'll land on the moon.
"You've been discovering the greatness in you and this journey is about building resilience and overcoming adversity."
Kouvelis, the former mayor of the Manawatu District, said her father always told her to reach for the stars.
"We can use our skills, knowledge and passion to create a future for ourselves," she said.
"Employers want people with attitude and a willingness to learn. They don't want people with a sense of entitlement.
"They are looking for those who are driven and committed, with ethical behaviours and values."
With the number of younger people in the local workforce dropping, adult education was about students playing a more important part in the employment market, Kouvelis said.
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Despite her Bachelor of Science in Marine Biology, Kouvelis realised she didn't want to be a scientist and went teaching instead, spending more than 30 years as secondary teacher, heading biology, art and music departments.
She then owned and managed the award-winning independent bookshop Poppies in Feilding and Poppies Whanganui before heading into local government politics.
"Now I am in the most exciting job of all," she said.
And while she wasn't knocking university, Kouvelis said she believed people shouldn't go to university straight from school.
Certificates and awards for achievement at the festival of adult learning celebrated a wide variety of success, including the determination to get a driver's licence, learning sign language and computer and cooking skills.
The Manawarangi Activity Centre learner's group made an exceptional commitment to their learning journey and their drive to give it a go was exceptional, those attending the celebration were told.
Johnson Harrison of Tararua Community Youth Services worked closely with the youth of Dannevirke, providing exceptional support in helping 65 young people get driver's licences.
The exceptional adult educators award was won by a group of tutors from Tararua REAP, with the Workforce Development catering group taking out the adult learners award.
"Adult education requires a lot of commitment," Allan Benbow, the Tararua District deputy mayor, said.
"It's a challenge. I failed to achieve once I left school, but with the right attitude and doing the extra yards, you can be what you want to be."