Hundreds of shoppers in Leeds have been discovering more about adult education – thanks to a mysterious-looking visitor.

Zoltar, a mechanised fortune teller (best known for his appearance in the hit movie Big), was a star attraction at the White Rose Shopping Centre on Tuesday, May 31, and then Trinity Leeds the following day.

At both venues shoppers who approached the ‘genie machine’ were rewarded with a card bearing a message about their future – and how skills training could boost their prospects.

Zoltar’s appearances were in support of the Festival of Learning, a national campaign which promotes and celebrates the benefits of adult education and reskilling.

Leeds City College and University Centre Leeds – members of Luminate Education Group – teamed up with West Yorkshire Combined Authority, University of Leeds’ Lifelong Learning Centre, Leeds City Council, the National Careers Service and Leeds College of Building to stage the events.

A fun way to highlight the benefits of lifelong learning

Vice Principal of Adults at Leeds City College, Ann-Marie Spry, said: “We were delighted to talk to so many enthusiastic people over the two days about the many advantages of learning a new skill, or upgrading an existing one, as an adult.

“Adults who reskill or upskill can gain new career opportunities, increased salaries and boosts to their wellbeing.  

“Zoltar was a big hit and certainly provided shoppers with plenty of food for thought, in terms of their future training and education options, through the cards he dispensed.

“The Festival of Learning is all about raising the profile of lifelong learning, and the benefits of upskilling, and these events certainly did that.

“We are grateful to Leeds Trinity and the White Rose Shopping Centre for providing us with such great locations, and hope that lots of the shoppers we had the pleasure of meeting will get in touch to take their next exciting step.”

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, also applauded the events. She said: “I am delighted to support the Festival of Learning, as improving skills for adults is one of the most powerful and effective ways we can make a real difference to people’s lives and help them reach their potential.

“One of my main priorities as mayor is prioritising skills and training, to ensure everyone in West Yorkshire has the skills they need to secure work, by creating and supporting inclusive opportunities like the Festival of Learning.”

Zoltar delighted hundreds of people over the two days while the organisers handed out 2,000 Festival of Learning branded tote bags, each packed with information about local adult learning opportunities.

Collaborative effort creates a buzz

Careers advisers from the National Careers Service also spoke to shoppers about their potential next steps. A spokesperson said: “We were so pleased to team up with Luminate Education Group and to support adults with impartial careers advice.

“Supporting adults to access education and learning is at the heart of what the National Careers Service does, and it was fantastic to see such a buzz around the Festival of Learning event.

“It was also such a positive experience to see local education providers working together – many thanks to those involved, and to Luminate for organising it.”

Fiona Chapel, from the Lifelong Learning Centre at the University of Leeds, said: “We were delighted to be a part of the Festival of Learning information events! As a member of the Festival of Learning partnership, the Lifelong Learning Centre is committed to helping support the promotion and celebration of adult learning in West Yorkshire.”

Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Economy, Culture and Education at Leeds City Council, added: “We were delighted to attend the Festival of Learning celebrations and to speak to so many potential learners from across the city.

“Leeds City Council has delivered adult learning for a number of years and our teams are passionate about teaching quality courses in partnership with a wide range of organisations, including Luminate Education Group. This event was an opportunity to celebrate learning and talk to residents about the great opportunities and benefits that adult learning can bring!”