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"I could get a degree without having to put my life on hold for three years,'' he says.
He found working towards his Bachelor of Culinary Arts really enjoyable.
"The lecturers were fantastic, really interested in you as a person and this made you really want to get into it,'' Al says.
During the programme, he even started to re-evaluate his work and life.
"My degree made me think. My job had become routine, and my studies made me step back and see things differently.''
Al was amazed that just by putting aside a bit of time each week, he could graduate with a Bachelor of Culinary Arts. He's convinced there is a degree in everyone - it's just a matter of bringing it all together.
"You can slot this process into almost any work system,'' he explains. ``This upskills the country, it gives people the chance to get recognised for all their years' experience, and opens new doors for them.''
His own change in outlook has led to a fresh start.
"It made me realise that I could be out in the world doing something a bit more `meaningful to me','' he says. ``It gave me the impetus to start my own eatery, The Running Duck.''
For more information about Otago Polytechnic's Bachelor of Culinary Arts or Capable NZ programmes, visit www.op.ac.nz