Parking, ironing, surfing the Net: lessons in life for the adults

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Hour-long training courses are being launched to help banish some of the little difficulties that can turn everyday life into torment - such as how to iron a shirt or politely cut short a conversation.

A week of the courses is being offered by colleges and companies in North Yorkshire in an effort to tempt people back into training and further education.

Dorothy Pearce, 66, is taking a course to help her crack the art of parking a car. She said: "I'm an embarrassment to myself and a laughing stock to other people because I don't know how to park. I never park in a city centre or if it is busy because it would be at the expense of another car. I'll drive out to quieter area and walk back into town rather than try to get into what looks like a tight space.

"My husband tried to teach me but the lessons almost ended our marriage. I don't know what the problem is. I passed my driving test first time but I was never taught how to park.

"It is hugely frustrating and not at all practical so when I saw an advertisement for these courses I signed up."

The North Yorkshire Training and Enterprise Council, which is co-ordinating the project, asked more than 1,000 people what little everyday things they could not do which really frustrated them.

The suggestions came pouring in. A group of young men who had just left home wanted to know how to iron a shirt; staff at a local college were baffled by the art of politely cutting short a conversation; other respondents wanted to learn how to choose the right wines for a dinner party, write a winning curriculum vitae, put on eye make-up, trim their own fringe when they had no time to go to hairdresser, and surf the Internet.

Lucy Adams of North Yorkshire Tech said that the idea was aimed at easing people back into education and training. The courses are free, and the teaching expertise is all voluntary. She added: "We want people to learn something relevant to their daily lives in an hour. The idea is to encourage people who would not normally think they are interested or capable of doing qualifications.

"Some employers have signed up to offer training in the hope that it will motivate some staff who are worried about using computers or learning new skills and show them that these days learning is easy and fun."

Paula Lonsdale of the British School of Motoring, which is helping Mrs Pearce learn to park, added: "Our idea is to lay the foundations for drivers to become an expert at this manoeuvre. If all motorists were able to park quickly and safety it would save everyone time and grief and lead to less congestion and fewer accidents on our roads."

Organisations taking part in the week of courses beginning in June include Darlington College, Craven College, Playford Ross Wine Shippers, North Yorkshire County Library and North Yorkshire Careers Guidance Services. And others are still being signed up.