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Okanagan College instructor shares her passion for leadership
Indigenous education advancement: learning from the Maori success
Heska appointed Director of Human Resources at Okanagan College
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Okanagan College instructor shares her passion for leadership
Okanagan College Media Release

Carolyn Gibson Aug 2017When Carolyn Gibson first moved to Revelstoke in early 2014, she had no inkling that she would soon find an outlet for combining two of her biggest passions: teaching and leadership. Over the past three years, she has listened to and worked with the region’s business owners to develop and share strategies they need to support their teams and grow their businesses – a collaborative process she’ll continue this fall thanks to a unique and ever-changing course at the College.

Gibson is currently teaching the Leadership Essential Series, a five-part series consisting of one-day seminars focused on specific leadership skills required in today’s workplace.

It’s a course that continues to grow and develop with each semester, as Gibson continues to integrate the latest trends and challenges she encounters from her students, who range from CEOs to those entirely new to leadership.

“The series is ideal not only for seasoned workplace veterans, but also for those leaders looking to identify and develop new leadership skills,” says Gibson, who holds an MBA from Queen’s University and has a Certificate in Conflict Management from Conrad Grebel/University of Waterloo.

Gibson’s students benefit from her wealth of educational and practical experience, acquired over a 20-plus-year career in business, which has seen her start up her own business and consulting firm. She is also an advisor on the MBA program at Queen’s University.

“I love teaching in general as it’s so exciting to see people start to look at things differently,” says Gibson. “It’s great to watch them think about and apply different ways of handling a situation, different ways of looking at their jobs, different ways of communicating.”

Gibson’s path to Okanagan College was fortuitous.

A glance at an Okanagan College Continuing Studies brochure ultimately led her to becoming an Instructor for the College. In the brochure she saw an ad indicating Okanagan College would be open to discussions from professionals in the community regarding potential new course offerings. The rest is history as she celebrates three years and counting as a College instructor, sharing her love for leadership across the College’s campuses from Revelstoke to Penticton.

As a business owner herself, Gibson is quick to point out the value of creating a solid foundation of leadership skills and constantly building on that foundation as trends change – a point echoed by one of her students.

David Murray, Corporate Safety and Environment Manager at Gorman Group, also has the role of coordinating leadership training for his company with Okanagan College and Gibson.

“I can say that Carolyn has been exactly what we were looking for and needed to have regarding an outside trainer for our company,” says Murray. “In order for our management team’s education in leadership essentials to be effective, the instructor not only needs to have expertise in current business and performance management theories and tools, but also needs to be able to tailor the delivery with the challenges that our group faces, and content specific to our high-value wood products manufacturing business. Carolyn and the Okanagan College team did this competently and with the necessary flexibility to our needs.”

The Leadership Essentials Series is just one of the hundreds of Continuing Studies courses and certificates that is offered at Okanagan College campuses. To find out more about the series, or to discover a new career path, check out Okanagan College’s newly released fall 2017 Continuing Studies Brochure.


Indigenous education advancement: learning from the Maori success
Okanagan College Media Release

An international scholar and global leader at the forefront of transforming Maori and Indigenous education will be in Kelowna this week to share insights into how communities can benefit from fostering meaningful relationships with Indigenous peoples.

Dr. Graham Hingangaroa Smith will share his expertise during a free public presentation on Friday, Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. in room H115 at the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College.Dr. Graham Smith

Dr. Smith’s life work has been dedicated to building up the emergence of Maori Education Studies through the development of immersion schools (elementary to post-secondary level). He has played a key role in negotiations and settlements with the Maori and New Zealand government and has worked to ensure that Maori knowledge and presence is pervasive throughout New Zealand.

“Dr. Smith's commitment is not only to Maori interests but to the transforming potential of Indigenous knowledge and praxis globally,” says Dr. Bill Cohen, Indigenous Studies professor and Okanagan-Syilx educator at Okanagan College. “He has resolutely, and respectfully, worked to ensure that actual positive change was, and is, occurring.”

The Okanagan visit is a return one for Dr. Smith: in 2005 he received an honorary Doctor of Literature from Okanagan University College (OUC).   

Okanagan College proudly operates on the traditional territories of the Syilx and Secwepemc peoples. An Indigenization Task Force was created to fulfill the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan’s vision of the institution’s ongoing commitment to working with, and learning from, the Indigenous Community.

“The College has a demonstrated strong track-record of engaging with the Aboriginal community and of supporting our Indigenous students with their educational goals,” says Cohen, who leads the task force. “But we can do more. That’s where the task force comes in. Our goal is to take a good look at the College’s offerings and how we can develop meaningful knowledge relationships across departments, programs and courses.”


Heska appointed Director of Human Resources at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

Linda Heska August 2017Okanagan College will welcome a new Director of Human Resources next month. Linda Heska, a post-secondary administrator with nearly 30 years of management and consulting experience in the public sector, will step into the role on Sept. 18.

Heska brings considerable expertise in the areas of workplace conflict resolution, collective agreement administration, collective bargaining, performance management, recruitment, onboarding and orientation. She honed this expertise while serving in a number of Human Resources leadership roles with Kwantlen Polytechnic University (KPU) over the past 27 years, most recently as Director, Employee Relations – a role she occupied for almost 10 years.

She holds a Master of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University and a Management Certificate, major in Human Resources, from BCIT. Heska has also published a book on organizational practices that contribute to employee engagement. 

“I’m looking forward to working with the Human Resources team to help create and enhance engagement across all our employee groups and every corner of the College community,” says Heska, who hails from Port Moody originally and recently moved to the Okanagan from the Lower Mainland.

“I believe in supporting individuals to be the very best they can be, and that their successes drive organizational success. I’m excited to get to play a role in empowering people to success in their careers at the College.”

“We’re so pleased to have Linda’s depth of knowledge and experience in human resources in the B.C. post-secondary sector without making an understatement,” says Roy Daykin, Vice President Employee and Corporate Services at Okanagan College. “On top of that, she brings a track record of inspiring enthusiasm and motivating those around her that I expect will make her a welcome addition to Okanagan College in short order."

Heska is well versed in the challenge of helping employees thrive and feel engaged across multiple campuses and regions. In her time at KPU, she helped guide policies and practices that affected instructional and support staff at the institution’s four locations in Metro Vancouver. She has also provided coaching services to individuals in the areas of career and transition, performance, leadership and legacy.

“I’m passionate about understanding the bigger picture, but I also pride myself in having the ability to respond quickly and efficiently to situations and needs at the individual level,” explains Heska.


Markin twins challenge College alumni to support next generation of learners

Allison and Quentin Markin have launched a donation-matching challenge to alumni of Okanagan College to help raise $20,000 towards the College’s new child care centre.  

markin family - web

Both attended the College for the first year of their post-secondary education and are appealing to Okanagan College and Okanagan University College alumni to raise funds for the new child care centre, which is currently under construction at the Penticton campus.

The siblings were inspired to donate to the child care campaign in honour of the family’s long-standing ties to the College, and for their parents Allan and Evelyn, on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary.

“We wanted to recognize our parents and their connection to the College,” says Allison Markin. “Our parents gave us an appreciation for the transformative power of education and we wanted to pay it forward to the next generation of learners.” 

The siblings are prepared to match donations from alumni who contribute before the centre opens this fall, up to a collective total of $10,000. The matched gifts go towards the College’s “Bright from the Start: Building for the Future” campaign goal of $700,000.

“It takes alumni to support College students and the next generation of learners,” adds Markin, who also volunteers on the campaign committee. “By doubling the donations, we hope to raise $20,000 to give the child care centre a boost and our future students a bright start." 

The new child care centre will serve families in the South Okanagan, including Okanagan College students and employees. It will be operated through a partnership with the Penticton and District Community Resources Society.

The siblings originally moved to Penticton with parents Allan and Evelyn in 1988 when Allan took on the role of Campus Director for the College. Both parents are well known for championing many educational, fundraising and community-based initiatives in the Penticton area, including the Mad Hatter’s Ball, a fundraising event for the College.

Due to their parents’ involvement at the College, when it came time to consider their post-secondary options, both siblings chose to get their start at the Penticton campus, before going on to complete degrees elsewhere.

Allison Markin is an in-demand marketing expert with her own consulting business and has previously utilized her expertise at the College as an instructor and a communications specialist. Twin brother Quentin is a highly-regarded international lawyer.

“It’s wonderful to see our alumni taking active roles to make a positive impact for our students and the broader community,” says Kara Kazimer, President of the Okanagan College Alumni Association.

“We hope Allison and Quentin’s generosity will initiate a momentum among the 3,000 alumni in the South Okanagan and they will rise to the challenge by maximizing the funds raised to benefit families in the region.”

Alumni can donate at and share their support online using the hashtag #BrightStartChallenge.

Non-alumni can make a donation or learn more about the innovative project by visiting the Okanagan College Foundation website at

New apocalyptic lit course comes to College’s Penticton campus

A new English course is sure to bring much-wanted doom and gloom to students at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus this Fall.

jeremy beaulne fall 2017 lit class webWhen English Professor Jeremy Beaulne discovered he was teaching English 231: Studies in Popular Narrative this September, he immediately set out to create a unique course that has never before been offered at the College. 

After scanning a wide array of first-year English courses at the College and across the country, he decided to focus the course on a topic popular from highbrow literature to Netflix – the apocalypse.

“Recently, I’ve seen many first year English classes talk about technology and the thought of technology potentially surpassing humans,” explains Beaulne. “I was interested to see how this cataclysmic thought manifested in popular media and quickly saw it’s something people are obsessed with. There are constantly new movies, TV series and literary works about apocalyptic scenarios.”

Beaulne’s course will provide an in-depth study on apocalypse through a series of classic texts, contemporary works and modern films. Students can expect to delve into materials spanning over two centuries, from 19th century poetry to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which has recently seen new life and a surge in popularity thanks to a 2017 TV series adaptation on Bravo.

“I have always loved to imagine end-of-the-world scenarios, especially zombies,” says Beaulne. “This course will look into different types of apocalypses including alien and technological invasions, zombies, ecological decimation, and other doomsday scenarios.”

Another unique feature of the course sure to delight students: Beaulne’s end-of-the-world reading list is open-ended.

“Students will have the chance to bring their favourite—or new—apocalyptic literature and complete an assignment based on their chosen text,” says Beaulne. 

Beaulne has been a member of the Okanagan College English Department since 2008. When he is not teaching, Beaulne is active in amateur theatre and can often be found in the director’s chair helping to craft the next production for Okanagan College’s Red Dot Players.


A better way to build: College grad constructs net-zero family home

In search of an innovative building solution, David Sawatzky discovered much more than a new perspective when he enrolled in Okanagan College’s Sustainable Construction Management Technology diploma (SCMT): he adopted sustainability as a way of life. 

“I had worked in the building industry for years and was dissatisfied,” says 38-year-old Sawatzky. “I knew there had to be a better way to build.

Sawatzky David“The SCMT program was exactly what I was looking for,” explains the recent graduate who was part of the program’s first graduating class last month. “It was unique in Canada, a first of its kind. Right away I knew it could give me the leg-up on the industry competition.”

Inspired by the skills and theories learned in the classroom, he set out to build his own net-zero energy house.

“My wife and I wanted to go beyond the need of a house, it had to be sustainable,” explains the father of three. “We had to be pragmatic but also visionaries. We said let’s make it a size we need, but not more, we don’t want excess nor wasted space.”

The family moved into the custom 1,700 square foot house in Lumby earlier this month. It boasts the most sustainable and industry innovative features including: LED lighting throughout, a super insulated concrete form foundation (as opposed to the conventional uninsulated concrete), Energy Star compliant fixtures and appliances, low flow plumbing fixtures, and a heat recovery ventilator (HRV) and mini-split ductless heat pump. The latter two are essential for heating and cooling in energy efficient ways using existing airflow, especially for the seasonal temperature range experienced in the Okanagan. 

“The icing on the cake though is the solar panels on the roof,” says Sawatzky of the 7.4 kW photovoltaic array (28 panels that generate 265 watts each). “We needed a new car, but we preferred the house to be energy zero, so in they went.”

The ultimate goal is to be energy net-positive, meaning the house would create energy that the Sawatzkys would sell back to the power grid, but they will have to wait a year to measure their success.

“If it all works out, hydro will actually write me a cheque every year,” adding that the only utility bill they will have is a small water bill. “It pays to be green.”

Sawatzky is confident his College education will also help him succeed as an entrepreneur in his new sustainable construction business.

“I learned that it’s not just the solution that matters – the process to the solution is equally important,” he says. “We need to build in eco-conscious ways and find a balanced triple bottom line approach: people, planet and profit.”

This type of thinking is one way the SCMT program proves it’s in-line with Okanagan College’s recognition as a leader in post-secondary sustainability. 

“It enriches the students’ experience to study in buildings that represent the exact sustainable features we teach in the classroom,” says Dr. Amy Vaillancourt, Chair of the SCMT program at Okanagan College. “The College is committed to building green, as exemplified in buildings on multiple campuses, and continues to approach future construction with this in mind.”

The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation at the Penticton campus (where the SCMT program is taught) achieved LEED Platinum status, was built with the intention to meet petals of the Living Building Challenge, was named the greenest post-secondary building in Canada in 2016 by Corporate Knights Magazine, and has the largest solar panel array on a non-utility building in Western Canada. 

At its Kelowna campus, the Centre for Learning is certified LEED Gold and the recently completed trades building is targeting LEED Platinum. Meanwhile a new trades building under construction at the Vernon campus aims to achieve LEED Gold standard.

The College is now accepting applications for the next student intake in the two-year SCMT diploma program. Classes start in the fall of 2017. For more information, visit


College appoints new Regional Dean for South Okanagan-Similkameen
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College will welcome a new Regional Dean for the South Okanagan-Similkameen later this summer. Eric Corneau, a college administrator with a significant and diverse background in the sector will step into the role on August 28, 2017.

Eric Corneau July 2017Corneau comes to Okanagan College from Nunavut Arctic College (NAC) in Iqaluit where he has worked for the last nine years, most recently as Vice President. In that role, Corneau supervised a team of 44 across three divisions: Academic Affairs, Student Services, and Corporate Services. He was instrumental in the development of new partnerships and the delivery of new programs, involving extensive consultation with Indigenous peoples, community, industry and various levels of government. Before becoming Vice President, he served as Dean of the College’s Nunatta Campus and prior to that as Manager of Policy and Planning.

He holds a Master of Arts in Public Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Public Management and Governance from the University of Ottawa, and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Political Science with a Major in Community and Public Affairs from Concordia University.

“As a newcomer to the South Okanagan, I’m looking forward to immersing myself in the College and the region,” says Corneau. “I’m eager to work with and be a resource to our students, faculty and employees. I’m also very excited to build on the strong relations with community, local First Nations, industry, donors, government, alumni and other groups that enrich and empower the College’s mission and contribute to the overall vibrancy of the region.”

“We are confident that Eric’s depth of experience and proven track record for supporting learner success and empowering staff to excellence will enable him to thrive in his new role,” says Okanagan College’s Vice President Students, Charlotte Kushner.

“With his aptitude for innovative partnership and program development, and strong community focus, he is well suited to continue the outstanding work done by his predecessors to provide world-class learning opportunities for learners in the South Okanagan.”

Corneau also brings a strong track record of community involvement. He was President of the Association des francophones du Nunavut for more than eight years during his time with NAC.

Donna Lomas, the previous Regional Dean, retired in December 2016 from the role she occupied since September 2005.


Applied research project investigates injuries in tree planters

A chance meeting with a physiotherapist in Northern B.C. has led an Okanagan College instructor to a collaborative research project that examines common injuries in a distinct industry: tree planting. 

darrell skinner release 2017 web“There are thousands of tree planters in the province, and while we may think of repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or tennis elbow, imagine planting up to 2,500 trees each day for a number of months,” says Darrell Skinner, an instructor in Okanagan College’s Therapist Assistant program. “Injury is unfortunately sometimes expected with such physical work, but we wanted to examine possible preventative strategies.”

Bringing together a team of students, and with the support and expertise of the owner and staff of Total Physiotherapy in Houston, BC, Skinner is leading research into taping hands and wrists to prevent tendonitis in tree planters.

“More than 30 per cent of tree planters have tendonitis,” says Mike McAlonan, owner of Total Physio. “And it’s likely under-reported as planters don’t wish to take days off and lose income. Tree planters are like athletes. They have a short season to work, so we manage them like athletes to keep them going until the season comes to an end.”

Rather than treating tendonitis post-injury, Skinner and McAlonan’s research focusses on prevention. Control and test groups of planters are being closely monitored to determine if a specific form of taping can help prevent injury. 

“This is the first time I’ve been part of an applied research project,” says McAlonan. “It’s been exciting working with Okanagan College on a project that will hopefully have a positive impact in the industry.”

According to the B.C. Council of Forest Industries, in 2015-16, the forest industry in B.C. generated $833 million in direct public revenue, $12.9 billion in product exports, and trees planted in B.C. captured two billion tonnes of carbon. 

tree planting release“This is an important component to our economy and also supports the environment,” notes Skinner.

Windfirm Resources, based in Smithers, conducts tree planting in two camps. Each season, around 150 workers plant 12 million trees. Operations manager and field supervisor Ryan Zapisocki became involved in the preventive injury research through Total Physio, Windfirm’s physiotherapy provider.

“Mike has trained our first aid and crew members to do the taping, and the planters are now learning how to recognize the symptoms and prevent injury. Our veterans (those who have returned for several seasons), are almost injury free now. Everyone loves it,” says Zapisocki. “It’s made a big difference, and it’ll be great for the province once word gets out.”

Skinner and McAlonan has visited several tree planting camps this spring, and so far the research is showing great potential to help reduce tendonitis in planters in B.C. and beyond. Many tree planters have thanked them for coming up with the project. 

“It’s a great feeling when a crew member comes up to me and says thank you,” says Skinner. “They tell me that they feel their work and health are both valued.”

The project is funded by an Engage Grant from NSERC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. Student involvement, in addition to working with industry partners, is a key component of applied research at the College. Two students from the College’s Therapist Assistant program are lending a hand with the project. 

Alisha Lemke, who graduated from the program last month, has been assisting with literature research and compiling prior related research. 

“I was interested in the practical training at Okanagan College, and became interested in this project as part of my education. It’s helping me prepare for the real world,” says Lemke. “The idea of preventive taping has not been well researched. Most of it is sports-related, not worker-related.” 

Riley Orchard, another Therapist Assistant student will be helping with further analysis of the research results this fall.

Support from College and community helping Salmon Arm students chase their dreams

A year and a half ago, Syrian-born Mustafa Zakreet was in a refugee camp in Lebanon waiting to come to Canada. While there, he learned a valuable lesson about the power of education – one that has stayed with him as he and his family have built a new life in Salmon Arm.

Although trained as a railroad engineer, Zakreet – then only 23 – immediately put his university education to work teaching English to young children in the camp.mustafa zakreet web

“I was inspired at how, despite their circumstances, these Kindergartners were so genuinely excited about learning,” explains Zakreet. “I saw how learning gave them hope for the future, just as it did for me."

Eighteen months and a great deal of hard work later, Zakreet is one of nearly 40 students who were recognized at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus awards ceremony on June 21. 

It was a big night for students at the Salmon Arm campus. All told, more than $65,000 in scholarships and bursaries was awarded to 38 individuals that evening.

“This event is truly one of the highlights of the year for all of us at the Salmon Arm campus,” says Regional Dean Joan Ragsdale, who emceed the ceremony. “It is a chance to witness first-hand the impact that community support has on our students. I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the many donors who make these awards possible and congratulations to each of the award recipients.”

This year’s recipients spanned a vast array of programs – Arts, Science, Business, Health, Trades, Technologies, Continuing Studies, Adult Special Education and others. Equally diverse were their backgrounds, with some students living steps away from campus and diving straight into their first year of College fresh out of high school, while others – like Zakreet – took a longer route to reach OC.

After fleeing his war-torn birthplace of Homs in central Syria, Zakreet landed as a refugee in Salmon Arm with his family in 2015. Over the past year and a half, he has voraciously pursued upgrading at the College in pursuit of his lifelong goal of becoming an engineer.

SA awards group 2017 web

All that hard work has paid off for Zakreet. This fall, he’ll make another journey – a much shorter one this time – when he moves from Salmon Arm to begin the Civil Engineering Technology program at the College’s Kelowna campus.

“Being part of Okanagan College has been an amazing experience,” says Zakreet. “I have made so many friends here and have felt so welcomed. I feel connected to the community and feel at home here.”

Zakreet was one of six students who received an Al Neale Bursary this year. The warm welcome he has received in Salmon Arm was evidenced again in the eruption of cheers in the room when he was called up to the stage to receive the award.

A donor for more than a decade, Neale personally handed out his awards and spoke about his pride at being able to grow the award fund over the years from two bursaries in 2008 to six bursaries this year. He singled out Zakreet during his address, praising the newcomer to Canada for his hard work and dedication.

“I wish all of this year’s recipients the very best for their future,” said Neale. “And I would especially like to commend Mustafa on all his success and his goals for the future. I don’t think I’m alone in saying that I greatly look forward to hearing about what he accomplishes next as he chases his dream of becoming an engineer.”

It’s safe to say those words of encouragement have further motivated Zakreet in chasing that dream.

“To have someone like Mr. Neale support me in my studies feels wonderful,” notes Zakreet. “There are no words for how grateful I am.”

“I’m also incredibly excited for the next chapter. Getting the call and finding out I was accepted into the Civil program in Kelowna was an incredible feeling. I can’t wait to start.”

Okanagan College brings health care training to Revelstoke

Health care assistants are in high demand across B.C., and the Revelstoke District Health Foundation is supporting the education of students in its own community who choose to pursue this path to a career in health care.

Earlier this year, the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education (AVED) announced $64,000 in one-time funding for Okanagan College to support 12 additional full-time equivalent (FTE) seats in the Health Care Assistant program scheduled to start in August at the Revelstoke campus. 

Now, each student in the program is eligible for a $1,000 bursary toward their certificate, thanks to the Foundation.

HCA revelstoke June 2017“This is a collaborative effort with Okanagan College to fulfill a need for HCA workers,” says Steven Hui, Chair of the Revelstoke District Health Foundation. “We regularly provide funding for scholarships and bursaries to support education in healthcare, and this is also an opportunity to do that in our community.”

The Foundation is providing up to $12,000 in bursaries for students if they meet certain criteria. Potential students apply through the Foundation, and must be a resident of Revelstoke or the Columbia Shuswap Regional District, provide a budget, cover letter, and photo by Friday, August 4, 2017.

If awarded a bursary, $750 will be paid directly to the College to offset course fees, with the remaining $250 paid to the student, paid upon completion of the course.

“Bringing this program to Revelstoke will help us ensure we have skilled staff available to support our clients and residents at a time when we know the population is aging and demands for health care services are increasing,” says Julie Lowes, Acute Health Services and Site Manager for Queen Victoria Hospital.

“Having the course provided locally eliminates the need for students to travel out of town, which is a huge financial assistance to prospective students as it removes the need for costly alternative living arrangements and travels costs. Together with the Revelstoke District Health Foundation’s support of scholarships, this has proven to be a successful strategy as we experienced in the 2013-14 course. It is the partnership of Okanagan College, Interior Health, and the Revelstoke District Health Foundation that has made this program so successful – a great community team approach.”

The 25-week program prepares students to provide care that promotes and maintains the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social well-being of clients. It combines theory classes and an eight-week clinical practicum that allows students to gain the skills and training they need to serve their communities, including Revelstoke.

“Striking the right blend of classroom learning and practical experience is critical,” says Yvonne Moritz, Dean of Science, Technology and Health at Okanagan College. “Pursuing training as an HCA is an excellent career path, and the College is pleased to bring the program back to Revelstoke.”

Teens invited to explore coding at summer camp

This July, Camp OC is inviting teens in Grades 9 through 12 to explore coding at Tech Gateway, a two-week summer camp hosted at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus that will give students a glimpse into College life and careers in the technology sector. 

“Coding education is already being integrated into school curriculums in B.C. and likely that trend will continue to grow,” explains Cindy Meissner, Camp OC Coordinator for Vernon. “This camp offers a fun way for students to understand what coding is all about, as well as explore future careers as coders, web designers, and app developers.”

Canada needs 10 million skilled coders in the next 10 years according to the 2016 ICTC Digital Talent Strategy Report. In addition to learning the skills to prepare for careers in coding, students will also benefit from entrepreneurship workshops with industry guest speakers who will talk about the potential for self-employment.

sarah foss coding camp picSarah Foss is a recent Okanagan College graduate and will be on the of instructors of the camp. Foss graduated with a diploma in Computer Information Systems in early June, earning a President’s Award for having the highest graduating average of a student completing a full-time diploma program.

“The program at the College showed me all of the possibilities for jobs working with computers and coding, and how accessible technology has become,” says Foss. “Once you have the education, the concepts become easier to understand. I’m excited to show the students that you don’t need to be a rocket scientist or a master programmer to code. And it’s really cool.”

Foss will be back in the classroom at the Kelowna campus this fall to complete her Bachelor of Computer Information Systems degree. She plans to pursue a Master of Computer Science degree after that, and describes coding as “one of the few things that lets you create something from nothing – it’s words that become a website, or an app or just about anything.”

“Programmers are needed not just in the Okanagan but across the province and beyond,” explains Dr. Youry Khmelevsky, Chair of the Computer Science program at Okanagan College. “Opportunities like this are a great way for students to try out coding early on, whether they have previous experience or are starting from scratch.”

Tech Gateway takes place in Vernon, from July 17 to 28, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. More information about Camp OC is available at


Kelowna company hires nearly a dozen OC welding grads
Okanagan College Media Release

REIDCOKelowna company REIDCO Metal Industries Ltd has become a fan of Okanagan College’s welding and metal fabrication programs, having recently hired nearly a dozen graduates.

REIDCO serves a variety of industries, including electronic and communication equipment, agriculture, lumber, mining, oil and gas, and the military by providing custom manufacturing in the fabrication of precision steel, stainless steel, and aluminum products, and has been in business since 1981.

“Okanagan College provides a good foundation of training that we can then contour for our purposes and projects. We are working on truck parts, military parts, and seeing more from the resource industry,” says Bryan Johnston, president of REIDCO. “The job prospects are good, and there are a growing number of well-paying opportunities.”

The company’s support for students starts long before they graduate.

Students can spot the REIDCO sign hanging in the Trades Training Complex at the Kelowna campus in recognition of their donation to the new building. Johnston says this is a beneficial connection for both. “We’re pleased to support the College and it’s a great dividend to have well-trained employees coming to us.”

Nathan Kleger is one of REIDCO’s recent hires from Okanagan College.

“My job has been the perfect complement to the Welding Foundation course,” says Kleger. “REIDCO has a core of experienced workers who have gone out of their way to help us transition from what we learned in school to doing quality production work in the shop.”

“If you’re looking for a good job and are willing to train and work hard, apprenticeship trades training in welding at Okanagan College may be an ideal option,” says Sean Jarvis, Chair of the Welding program.

The College offers a number of program options leading to careers in the welding industry, and has rotating start times for the Foundation program at their Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon, and Salmon Arm campuses. The Kelowna campus offers Welder Apprenticeship training, Multi-Alloy metal welding, and Metal Fabrication.

“I'm still learning every day but now I'm also part of a team and building a career at the same time,” says Kleger.

For more information on welding, visit:


Sharron Simpson named new President of Okanagan College Foundation
Okanagan College Media Release

The Okanagan College Foundation has announced that Sharron Simpson is taking on the role of President and Board Chair as the Foundation raises funds for four capital projects on three campuses. 

Simpson, who joined the Foundation Board in 2013, sees the College as an integral part of keeping communities in the valley connected and hopes to foster those relationships in her new role.Sharron Simpson June 2017

“The College does a superb job in providing education that truly transforms the lives of the individuals in our communities,” says Simpson. “It’s hard to think of anything better than helping students open the doors to opportunity through the support of the Foundation and our donors.”

Simpson, a former Kelowna city councillor, was born in Kelowna and worked as a social worker for several years before becoming a stockbroker and financial advisor. She has been an active community leader in a volunteer capacity for many years, working with the Kelowna Rotary Club and the British Columbia Historical Federation. 

“Sharron is a very seasoned, skilled board member with a strong vision for the direction of the Foundation,” says Kathy Butler, Executive Director of the Okanagan College Foundation. “It is an especially exciting time to be involved with the Foundation. We have four capital campaigns running concurrently, plus the growing need to support student scholarships and bursaries.”

Simpson succeeds Alf Kempf, who served as President since 2013, and as a board director since 2011. Kempf and directors Bev Busson and Lynda Wilson have retired after a combined 24 years of service. 

Butler says the board is very grateful to those retiring for the active roles they took in cultivating and stewarding donors, and the powerful connections they developed between the Foundation and community.

The Okanagan College Foundation Board is welcoming three new directors with the addition of Colin Edstrom, Susan Ewanick and Tom Styffe. 

An associate lawyer at Pushor Mitchell LLP, Edstrom was born in Kelowna and attended Okanagan University College before going on to complete law school at the University of Victoria.

Ewanick is President of Valley First, a division of First West Credit Union, one of Canada’s leading credit unions, and has served as Board Chair of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, on the Board of Governors for Vancouver Community College, and was recently appointed to the Canadian Cancer Society Board of Directors.

Styffe has an extensive background in project management of residential, commercial and institutional construction. He has long been connected to the College, serving first as a member and then Chair of the Okanagan College Board of Governors (2010-2015.)

Edstrom, Ewanick and Styffe join current board directors Anne Clarke, Roy Daykin, Connie Denesiuk, Gladys Fraser, Raghwa Gopal, Keith Grayston, Jim Hamilton, Mary Ellen Heidt, Rob Phare, Allan Sanderson and Kimberly White-Gilhooly.

More information about the Foundation’s current board, mission, and projects is available at


Gillett to lead School of Business at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

Bill Gillett June 2017Okanagan College will welcome a new Dean of Business this summer with the arrival of William Gillett, an esteemed post-secondary administrator who brings an impressive record of public and private sector experience.

Gillett comes to Okanagan College from New Hampshire, where he has held the Christos and Mary Papoutsy Distinguished Chair in Ethics and Social Responsibility at Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). Previously he was the Dean of Business for SNHU where he lead 58 full-time faculty, 125 adjunct faculty and supported more than 1,600 students in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs.

He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Foreign Service from Georgetown University. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Michigan Law School in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

“I’ve been extremely impressed by the Okanagan School of Business,” says Gillett. “The reputation of Okanagan College is what attracted me to the institution and every interaction I’ve had with the College and students has only reinforced that for me. There is a clear focus within the institution to provide an education that prepares students for a globalized economy and I’m looking forward to building on that focus.”

Prior to working in post-secondary education, Gillett worked as an attorney in commercial practice for firms in New York and Detroit, specializing in insurance regulation and mergers and acquisitions. He then worked in the insurance industry for a number of years in Seattle, Manchester, New Hampshire and London where he was involved in major reorganization projects of European and US operations. He oversaw European operations as Managing Director for RiverStone Holdings in London, UK and was promoted to President of RiverStone in Manchester, New Hampshire.

“We’ve found a superb Dean for the School of Business in Bill Gillett,” says Dr. Andrew Hay, Vice President Education at Okanagan College. “His international experience in both the private sector and post-secondary education very much aligns with the values of our college and the goals of our business school. He will be well positioned to build on the great work of Dr. Heather Banham and everyone within the School.”

Gillett’s board member roles include the International Institute of New England, NH High Tech Council, NH Business Committee for the Arts, Mount Saint Mary Academy, New Hampshire Public Radio and New Hampshire Writer’s Project.

Gillett will replace Dr. Heather Banham, who will retire from her role as Dean of the Okanagan School of Business this summer, after a 24-year career with Okanagan College. 


Shuswap Launch-a-Preneur named one of BC’s best community projects
Okanagan College Media Release

A collaborative program that helps Shuswap entrepreneurs launch their bright ideas received a boost of its own this month when it was named one of the top community projects in the province.

Launch-A-Preneur 2017 Fitt and MarshallThe Shuswap Launch-a-Preneur program received the Community Project Award at the 2017 BC Economic Development Awards in Victoria last Tuesday, June 13. The prestigious awards honour organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities.

Launch-a-Preneur is a joint project hosted by Okanagan College, the College’s Enactus team, Community Futures Shuswap and the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society. The popular program provides support, resources and mentorship to assist individuals with a business idea to successfully launch in the Shuswap. 

“The most powerful part of this program is how it brings the community together to support and encourage local entrepreneurs,” says Andrew Klingel, a professor with the College’s School of Business who also serves as a faculty advisor to Enactus OC. “It’s exciting to see all the new business ideas and watch how the community rallies around them.”

May marked the fourth season for Launch-a-Preneur, which runs every other year. It includes both a workshop series and a final event night, which gives teams the chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges.

This year 10 teams competed in front of a sold out crowd of 285 people at the Salmar Classic Theatre. Six teams took home more than $36,000 worth of prize packages designed to help them launch or grow their businesses. First place went to the team from WineBox Sweets Co., who also garnered People’s Choice.

Over the past four years, nearly $100,000 in prizes have been donated by local sponsors. That investment has allowed the project to continue to grow and support more entrepreneurs each year.

“Community support for the program has been overwhelming from day one,” explains Lana Fitt, Economic Development Manager for the Salmon Arm Economic Development Society and one of the event’s organizers. “And the ripple effect of that support has been deeply felt by the many entrepreneurs who have participated over the years. We are very proud to receive this award. It’s an honour to be recognized among some of B.C.’s best economic development efforts.”Launch-A-Preneur 2017

This year marks the 27th year that the BC Economic Development Association (BCEDA) has presented these awards. There are two categories, Community Project Award and Marketing Innovation Award, with two awards bestowed in each category – one award for a project serving a population less than 20,000 and one for a population more than 20,000. Shuswap Launch-a-Preneur took home the award for population under 20,000, while the City of Prince George’s Economic Development department took home the hardware for population more than 20,000.

Buoyed by the award and another round of positive feedback following Launch-a-Preneur’s fourth season, organizers expect the event to continue – and that the ripple number of businesses launched will likewise continue to expand.

“The value of the Launch-a-Preneur program can clearly be defined by the number of participants who have successfully launched their businesses in the Shuswap,” says Rob Marshall, Executive Director for Community Futures Shuswap. “Community Futures is pleased to be part of a program that engages community members on so many levels and we proudly stand with our partners in accepting the Community Project Award.”

More information about Launch-a-Preneur is available at


Young chefs on the road to Riccione
Okanagan College Media Release


Okanagan College’s Culinary Arts program hosted its annual Road to Riccione Cook Off this week with a coveted prize on the menu for two winners: a trip to Italy and the culinary adventure of a lifetime.

The event kicked off Tuesday morning with Okanagan Chefs Association (OCA) Junior members serving up dishes with equal parts creativity and skill, while the afternoon portion of the competition saw OC Culinary Arts students vying for the title of Student-of-the-Year in a Top Chef-style culinary faceoff. Competitors in each round were presented with a tantalizing array of ingredients with which to prepare an Italian-inspired meal, including dessert, for a panel of judges that included OC Culinary Arts instructors and other esteemed chefs from around the Okanagan.

After a fast-paced morning of competition, Riley Eberts of Waterfront Wines was named winner of the OCA round, delivering the judges a decadent pan-seared duck and quail egg main, followed by a lemon olive oil chiffon cake for dessert.

Daniel Cardoso June 2017In the afternoon round, Daniel Cardoso rose to the top with a masterfully plated Arctic char main dish, accompanied by a classic panna cotta to finish. The competition among Okanagan College’s Culinary Arts group was incredibly close. When all the judges’ marks were tallied, only .25 of a point separated Cardoso from his classmate and second-place finisher Annie Low.

“I really wasn’t expecting this, but it feels incredible – especially given how well everyone cooked today,” says Cardoso, who graduated from the Culinary Arts program in February and returned to the College for the competition.

Born in Castlegar and a Kelowna resident for more than a decade, Cardoso cites culinary classes in middle school as one of his earliest inspirations for chasing the dream of becoming a chef. He now works in the kitchen at Summerhill Pyramid Winery.

“I want to keep learning and travelling to build my skills, so this trip to Italy will definitely help me do that,” adds Cardoso. “I’m incredibly excited for it. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Morning judges for the cook off included Tina Tang, Pastry Chef at Predator Ridge Resort, along with OC Culinary Arts instructors Chef Jim Armstrong, Chef Mike Barillaro and Chef Roger Planiden. In the afternoon, OC students competed under the watchful eye of Chef Melissa Masters, Junior Director for the OCA, joined by OCA member Chef Willi Franz and OC’s Chef Jim Armstrong and Chef Reinhard Foerderer. OC Culinary Manager Chef Bernard Casavant served as the chef organizer.Daniel Cardoso and judges June 2017

In order to qualify for the Road to Riccione Cook Off and the chance to be named Student-of-the-Year, Cardoso and five other classmates had to first pick up another honour – the Culinary Arts program’s AMA student of the month award.

“AMA stands for attendance, marks and attitude,” explains Casavant. “You can measure the first two, but attitude is that intangible quality that sets everyone – students and professionals – apart in this industry. We’re extremely proud of Daniel and all the students for the way they have progressed in their skills and how they performed this week.”

In October, both Cardoso and Eberts will accompany Casavant and Barillaro to Riccione, Italy where they will tour cooking schools and the region. They will also get to host a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving Dinner for Canadian guests at the Hotel Belvedere. 


Collaboration offers OC students a pathway to mining programs at BCIT
Okanagan College Media Release

Students considering a career in the mining sector – which boasts more than 120 different careers, including technology and engineering related roles – will now have the opportunity to start their education and training at Okanagan College and bridge into mining studies at BCIT.

Launching this fall, the Collaborative Mining Engineering and Technology Diploma/Degree pilot program will provide students across British Columbia with a convenient conduit into BCIT’s Mineral Exploration and Mining Technology or Mining and Mineral Resource Engineering programs.Mining June 2017

The program was launched with convenience for students in mind. The first year of training is provided locally through courses at Okanagan College in Kelowna or Penticton (all but one of the required courses can be completed at the College’s Penticton campus) and online. Students then join others from across BC to complete the diploma or degree at BCIT’s Lower Mainland campus.

“This collaborative partnership with the Mining Engineering program at BCIT is an excellent example of BC post-secondary institutions working together to increase accessibility to education not previously available in the BC interior,” says Phil Ashman, Associate Dean of Science, Technology and Health at Okanagan College. “Financially, it can be a significant cost savings for students to study close to home for a year. We are very excited to be a part of this unique provincial collaboration, providing students living in the Okanagan with local access to opportunities in the mining sector.”

“The development of this new learning pathway is a tremendous opportunity for aspiring Mining students to embark upon an exciting career as Mining Technologist or Professional Engineer,” says Dave Rutherford, Associate Dean, BCIT School of Construction and the Environment. “Congratulations to Okanagan College, College of New Caledonia, Northwest Community College and the BC Centre of Training Excellence in Mining for stepping forward and contributing to the long term training success of BC’s Mining sector.”

Okanagan College is one of three BC colleges delivering the pilot program in collaboration with BCIT. The others are College of New Caledonia (CNC) and Northwest Community College (NWCC). The project is supported by the Centre of Training Excellence in Mining (CTEM), a province-wide virtual hub that facilitates collaborative, innovative training opportunities for the British Columbia mining industry, job seekers and communities.

The collaboration is timely given the demand for skilled workers in the mining sector in BC, across Canada and internationally, according to Jill Tsolinas, Executive Director of CTEM.

“The BC mining industry needs skilled individuals to fill newly created jobs and vacancies from retirees,” explains Tsolinas. “Jobs are located in every region of the province providing employment close to home or allowing the opportunity to travel. CTEM congratulates Okanagan College and BCIT for being leaders in exploring innovative ways to deliver relevant training for the BC mining industry.”

Interested students should apply to the Associate of Science degree program at Okanagan College and speak with an advisor to express their interest in the collaborative mining pathway. They will need to complete a list of required classes at OC, in order to meet the entry requirements to step into year two of BCIT’s Mining programs.

More information is available at


Students build tiny house to support environmental research
Okanagan College Media Release

Bird Banding Station June 2017A unique tiny house built by students in the College’s Sustainable Construction Management Technology (SCMT) program will soon provide a secure environment at the Vaseux Lake Bird Observatory for bird banding.

“We’ve had the opportunity to work on a number of incredible projects throughout the program, but this one is definitely a highlight for me,” says Mark Eyjolfson, one of the College’s first SCMT graduates. “It’s a great feeling knowing that something you’ve built is going out into the real world to be used by Environment and Climate Change Canada.”

Bird banding involves marking birds with a band around the leg before releasing them, and provides valuable data on population, migration and behaviour. Students were tasked with producing a space where bird banders could do their work in a secure environment. That meant creating a portable space that would discourage theft and vandalism, allow as much natural light as possible into the space and be environmentally friendly.

The observatory at Vaseux Lake is a project of the Okanagan Similkameen Conservation Alliance (OSCA). Since 2005, 17,000 birds and 109 different bird species have been recorded at the observatory. In the late summer and early fall, the station will be placed at the observatory. When not in use, it will be under the care of Environment and Climate Change Canada.

This station will be invaluable,” says Owain McKibbin of Environment and Climate Change Canada. “It was great to have students involved in planning and building it, and the product speaks to how beneficial it is to have this type of training in green building available to students in the Okanagan.”

In addition to OSCA and Environment and Climate Change Canada, the building of the bird banding station was supported by Penticton-based company Structurlam, which is quickly gaining an international reputation for its innovative wood structures. Among the company’s employees is Mark Eyjolfson, who will be among the first cohort to graduate from the SCMT program this year.

With nearly a decade of experience in residential construction, Eyjolfson was looking for a way to climb the ladder in the field. Specializing in sustainability offered that potential – and it’s paid off. Even before graduation, he was offered employment with Structurlam.

“I have a young family, so gaining employment and advancing my career before graduation was really important to me,” explains Eyjolfson.

He approached Structurlam to request a donation of materials for the banding station and the company agreed.

The end result is a secure tiny house purpose-built for this unique work. It is a solid timber panel structure cladded in metal siding, with minimal glazing to reduce environmental impact. It is also well-lit with natural light as artificial light can hinder the ability of a bird bander to study the pigment of a bird’s eyes.

The SCMT program is a two-year diploma program that trains construction managers and technologists in sustainable development and green building principles, to minimize the impact of projects on the environment and maximize energy efficiency.

The program launched in the fall of 2014 as a three-year pilot program. On the success of the pilot the program has been revised and will continue as a two-year diploma program with an intake being offered in September in Penticton. Twelve are graduating this year.

“We couldn’t be prouder of this first group of graduating students,” says Dr. Amy Vaillancourt, a renowned sustainability expert who instructs and chairs the program.

“They have built their knowledge and skills exponentially over the course of the program and along the way have had a chance to work with industry to advance green building in the Okanagan. It has been wonderful to watch their growth and development along the way, and we can’t wait to welcome the next cohort in September.”

Learn more at


Trio of OC students earn bronze at Skills Canada Nationals
Okanagan College Media Release

Three Okanagan College students each earned bronze medals at the Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) held in Winnipeg last week, May 31 – June 3. SCNC is the only national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices in the country.

Brendan Battersby took home the bronze in the IT Network Admin competition. Battersby graduated from the Network and Telecommunications Engineering Technology (NTEN) program at the College’s Spring Convocation Ceremony in Kelowna over the weekend. He is employed by iTel Networks Inc. Pictured with coach Ron Light, NTEN program instructor at Okanagan College.

Siobhan Detkavich of Oliver earned bronze in the Cooking competition. Detkavich is completing her Level 2 Professional Cook apprenticeship at the Kelowna campus and works in the kitchen at Terrafina Restaurant at Hester Creek by RauDZ. She was coached by OC Culinary Arts instructor Chef Jim Armstrong.

Andreas Roth won bronze in the Autobody competition. Roth is a Level 3 Motor Vehicle Body Repairer apprentice at the Kelowna campus and is employed by Boyd Autobody and Glass. He was coached by OC Collision Repair instructor Danny Marques.

These students qualified for Nationals by winning gold medals at the Skills Canada BC Provincial Competition in Abbotsford in April. 

 Brendan Battersby Skills June 2017

 Siobhan Detkavich Skills June 2017  Andreas Roth Skills June 2017
 Brendan Battersby and coach Ron Light Siobhan Detkavich Andreas Roth and coach Danny Marques


Graduation becomes a family affair as mom receives her College degree

Graduation becomes a family affair as mom receives her College degree 

Julie Dorsey grad 2017Celebrations will be abundant in the Dorsey family household this June, as mother and son duo cross the graduation stage.

“I had set a personal goal of graduating College at the same time as my third child Noah would be graduating from high school,” says Julie Dorsey, a mother of three grown children who returned to the classroom after 30 years in the farming business. She is one of the 1,386 Okanagan College students who received their credentials at three ceremonies this weekend in Kelowna.

Dorsey’s journey to complete her Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) Honours degree included some pit stops. She started on the path of getting an education degree then got married, had three children (now aged 30, 26, and 18), and went on to run a poultry farming business for three decades with her husband where they raised 40,000 chickens every eight weeks. She stepped back in the classroom when they were done with the farming business, which enabled her to make a College education her primary focus.

“Just because I got married young, doesn’t mean I had to forgo the opportunities that education brings,” says Lake Country resident Dorsey. “If I didn’t finish my degree, I’d regret that. I am so glad I persevered.”

That perseverance resulted in Dorsey making the Dean’s list every semester. She was also awarded the Honours Prize for Progressing Non-profit Excellence: a $1,500 award founded by alumna Amanda Wright.

“Coming into the program, I was worried about how I would engage in my studies while also running a business, and how I would connect with other students who would be closer to my children’s ages,” she says. “Starting at the smaller Vernon campus afforded me a gentle start.

“I thought I’d feel more competent because of our years in business, but farming is unique. I learned that the complexities of the business world were much greater than what we did on the farm.”

Dorsey wanted to apply those learned complexities to the non-profit sector, especially after having volunteered her time on various boards, events, and at her church. Even before having her degree in hand, she has been hired as an assistant property manager at the Society of Hope in Kelowna.

“After a successful farming career, I am working by choice and I wanted a job that would give me purpose,” Dorsey explains. “In my non-profit management course, our professor, Kerry Rempel, had said that the sector needs the skills that we are building here at OC, and that’s what inspired me to go into that field.”

Always a mother, Dorsey can’t help but recount the unique experience of going to College simultaneously with her Grade 12 son Noah, who is taking the carpentry pre-apprenticeship program at Okanagan College for dual credit while finishing high school at George Elliot Secondary.

“It was neat, and helped me feel connected as a parent,” she explains. “By going to College together, we could have conversations about the experience and I was able to ask him pointed questions.”

One of her most memorable education-meets-family moments was having her son, and parents, attend her Honours presentation.

“That’s when things really came full-circle for me,” she says.

“We provide access to education to help students fulfill their career goals, and foster their passion for learning,” says Jim Hamilton, president of Okanagan College. “Our learners come from diverse backgrounds and communities and we celebrate all of their success. On behalf of Okanagan College I commend each of our 2017 graduates on their achievements.”

This weekend’s ceremonies were three of the seven ceremonies held by Okanagan College this year. The first took place in January and an additional three ceremonies will be held later in June. More than 2,450 students will have graduated from Okanagan College in 2017 before the end of the month.


Builder honours father and industry with $50,000 gift to College
Okanagan College Media Release


Vernon-based home builder Keith Construction has stepped up to provide $50,000 towards the campaign to support Okanagan College’s new $6.2 million Trades Training Centre at the Vernon campus.

Dahlen Family May 2017Ken and Karen Dahlen, owners of the custom home building and renovation company, are thrilled to be the first to contribute to the project as a way to demonstrate the company’s appreciation for its industry, employees and community.

“Our success over the years has come from multiple skilled tradespeople within our region,” says Keith Dahlen. “With a shortage of skilled trades, we believe the best way for the company to give back to our industry is by helping to provide quality training for the next generation.”

The $50,000 gift will support the construction of a new 13,450 square-foot state-of-the-art facility that will help address the province’s skills gap by training approximately 150 students per year for the workforce. The building will include multi-purpose trades shops for the College’s electrical, carpentry, plumbing and pipefitting programs, as well as a dedicated welding shop.

“This gift sends a powerful message to our students when an employer with an exemplary reputation in the community invests in their future,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “It represents the value the Dahlen family places on education and will be truly transformative for trades training in Vernon and the surrounding region.”

Keith Construction has employed several carpenter apprentices from the College’s program and Dahlen knows the benefits that a high-quality education brings to the industry – a value championed by the company’s founder, Keith Dahlen.

“This gift is a fitting way to honour my father and the emphasis he put on learning the proper skills in order to provide quality craftsmanship to our clients,” he says. “He taught me that if you are going to do a job, do it right or don’t do it at all.”

In 1990, Dahlen’s father, a certified journeyman carpenter with more than 25 years of industry experience already under his belt, founded Keith Construction in Vernon. The younger Dahlen and his wife Karen joined the company when they moved to the Okanagan in 1994 and have continued to build on the company’s reputation since Keith’s retirement. Keith Construction has won 21 Georgie Awards, 37 Tommie awards and was voted the 2016 Best Residential Renovation Company (North Okanagan) and 2016 Best Residential Builder (North Okanagan) by Okanagan Life Magazine.

Dahlen recently completed an educational milestone himself – he is one of four in the province who has achieved a Master Residential Builder designation.

At a recent client appreciation event hosted by Keith Construction, the support of the community was demonstrated when an additional $2,580 was raised for the training centre by event attendees.

“Our business has always been about building our clients’ dreams – no matter how big or small. Now we will get to help build the dreams of students,” adds Dahlen.

The $6.2 million-dollar training centre will be constructed by Maple Reinders Inc., a national engineering construction company, with support from MQN Architects, as well as CIMA+ and Encora. The project is being supported primarily through the federal government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. Through this fund, the province of B.C. is investing $2.9 million and the government of Canada has provided $2.7 million. Okanagan College will contribute the remainder of the project cost. 

Construction is scheduled to begin later this month, with completion targeted for the spring of 2018. More information on the project can be found at


HOST program furthers hospitality, tourism skills
Okanagan College Media Release

As the busy summer tourism season approaches, the first students to complete the HOST certificate at Okanagan College are now wrapping up their practical work in hospitality, a booming sector in the Okanagan and across the province.

The Hospitality Service Training certificate (HOST) includes courses on customer service excellence, professional front desk training, and food and beverage operations, with comprehensive, occupation-specific instruction leading to entry-level employment in hospitality and tourism.

Jessica Soroka is one of the first students through the program. She is currently the Assistant Manager of Housekeeping at Predator Ridge. Her employer suggested she take the program to gain more insight and knowledge of industry trends.Jessica Soroka May 2017

“Food and beverage service is new to me, so I learned a lot of new information,” says Soroka. “It was also pretty cool to find out about environmental trends and hear stories and ideas from around the world from our instructor.”

Soroka says she would recommend the HOST certificate to anyone in hospitality, from newcomers looking to break into the industry, to those like herself who enter into the program with a wealth of previous experience.

“The program and the booklet are so packed with information, it was intense but a great experience,” says Soroka.

According to a BC Labour Market Report, tourism is a leading employer in the province, with more than 101,000 new job openings expected by 2020. With the Okanagan continuing to receive national and international recognition as a vibrant and diverse destination, job prospects are predicted to hold strong.

“These students took away some great insights that are difficult, if not impossible, to get from on-the-job training, where there can be disruptions inherent to the operational nature of a business such as a hotel,” says instructor Tania Rutt. “Being off-site in a classroom setting offers time to focus and encourages creative, out-of-the-box thinking.”

The Okanagan is an ideal location for the training, notes Rutt, given its four-season, multi-faceted tourism and hospitality sector, which creates opportunities for everyone from high school students seeking first jobs, to university students working part-time to fund their education, to retirees who enjoy working in hospitality, to tourism professionals in the midst of career development.

“Unlike many other centres, the Okanagan boasts such a wide array of hospitality and tourism employers – hotels, wineries, resorts, ski hills, golf courses and other attractions, says Rutt.”

Students in this intake were all currently employed in the sector, hailing from Vernon’s Sparkling Hill Resort and Predator Ridge Resort, and Kelowna’s Manteo Resort.

Both the Penticton and Kelowna campuses will be offering the HOST program this fall. Prior to admission, students must have both their Serving It Right and FOODSAFE certificates. HOST includes theory, demonstrations, and practical-skills training in various areas of the hospitality industry, with an emphasis on customer service and working together as a team.

Learn more at


Sketch a career in animation with new Okanagan College diploma

Steff Farrar May 2017Aspiring animators will be able to bring their passion for drawing to life this fall with animation industry veteran Steff Farrar at the helm of a new two-year diploma at Okanagan College. 

“It’s exciting to be able to offer a program suited to an industry that has a lot of buzz right here in the Okanagan,” says Farrar, who recently moved to Kelowna in order to chair the Animation diploma program. She brings with her 25 years’ industry and training experience.

The College will be hosting a series of open house information sessions in its new animation lab in the Okanagan Centre for Innovation every Saturday in June to meet with prospective students and those interested in a career in animation. Farrar will be on site to answer questions and encourages potential applicants to bring their portfolios along. 

“Candidates might think their body of work has to be polished, coloured and poster ready, but to be honest, I’d rather see something loose and rough that shows good form,” she says. “That will tell me more about their skills and readiness to join and thrive in the program.”

With the animation entertainment industry experiencing exponential growth in the valley, graduates of the program will help to meet the local industry demands.

“All eyes are on Kelowna,” says Chris Derochie, Kelowna Supervising Animation Director at Bardel Entertainment. He explains that the lower Canadian dollar has helped the trend of big productions looking north. With the Vancouver sector exceeding capacity and the high cost of living there, it is creating opportunities within many studios in the Okanagan.

“We don’t necessarily want to have to search abroad for our talent, we need it to be close at hand,” says Derochie. “By hiring locally we can get the individuals into the studios quicker, and in turn those employees want to stay in the region where they have established family and life roots.”

Bardel’s Kelowna office started with four employees in 2013, today they have 82 employees and a target of getting to 120 by the end of 2017. It is this type of growth that has spurred the development of the College’s program.

Yeti Farm Creative echoes the same sentiments. 

“The industry is saturated with work and there are simply not enough qualified and skilled animators, designers, storyboard artists, FX artists, to fulfill current industry demands,” says Ashley Ramsay, Partner and CEO at Yeti Farm Creative. “The industry shows no signs of slowing down and Okanagan College graduates will be fortunate to have their pick of local opportunities should they wish to stay in Kelowna upon graduation.” 

Farrar is working in concert with local studios to ensure that an engaging curriculum responds to the changing needs of the industry, providing critical skills students need to fast track into being job-ready. The program focuses on drawing, design, and the principles and techniques of traditional and digital character animation in 2D, digital 2D and 3D animation. Skills will be developed in: visualization, animation software (Toon Boom Harmony), storyboarding, life drawing, and character design among others.

Students will learn in state-of-the-art classrooms at the Okanagan Centre for Innovation. A hub for creative digital arts and the tech sector, the Centre is newly opened in downtown Kelowna, placing students at the epicenter of top Okanagan animation studios including Bardel Entertainment, Disney Interactive and Yeti Farm Creative.

To assist with program costs, Okanagan College is providing $6,000 of financial support per program year to each enrolled domestic student ($12,000 total).

The free open house sessions will be held each Saturday in June (3, 10, 17 and 24) at the Okanagan Centre for Innovation (460 Doyle Avenue, Kelowna). The hour-long sessions will be offered twice each day: 10 a.m. and noon.

To find out more about the program visit


Greyeyes and Klick receive OC Alumni Association’s highest honours
Okanagan College Media Release

In recognition of outstanding contributions to the College and its surrounding communities, two Okanagan College alumni have earned the top honours awarded by the Okanagan College Alumni Association (OCAA).

Penticton’s Grace Greyeyes is the recipient of this year’s OCAA Distinguished Alumni Award, which recognizes excellence in the areas of leadership, the environment, business or industry, public or community service, the arts and/or support for Okanagan College. Ben Klick of West Kelowna will receive the 2017 OCAA Young Alumni Award, which recognizes extraordinary contributions of alumni under the age of 35.

Grace Greyeyes May 2017Greyeyes has been a passionate advocate for education all of her adult life, first in her nursing career which spanned more than 35 years in Canada and the U.S. and later as a volunteer, advisor, Elder, and Aboriginal knowledge keeper in the South Okanagan. She has been a member of the Aboriginal Education Advisory committee for School District #67 in Penticton for more than a decade and recently began developing curriculum for SD#53 (Okanagan Similkameen).

For the last five years she has also volunteered with the Penticton Indian Band’s Grandma program, which provides support to local elementary, middle and high school students. She also recently founded the Penticton Indian Band’s Snpinktn Elders Society.

Her passion for education has been recognized locally and at the national level. In 2016, she was honoured with the Okanagan Nation Transition and Emergency Housing Award for her commitment to education in the community. This September she will be participating in the National Gathering of Elders hosted in Edmonton.

Greyeyes’ connection to Okanagan College dates back to the institution’s earliest years. She completed her Practical Nursing training at the College (then B.C. Vocational School) in 1968. She returned in the early 1990s to continue to her education, pursuing Arts courses at the Penticton campus. Since 2015 she has served as Elder in Residence at the College’s Penticton campus.

“I’m humbled and grateful to be recognized by the OCAA,” says Greyeyes. “Education has always been very important to me. I really do believe that education transforms lives, and so I continue to encourage our young people to think about their education, set goals and reach for them.”

At only 21 years of age, Ben Klick has already made his mark in the country music scene in Canada and the U.S. andBen Klick May 2017 continues to amass fans and accolades, along with the attention and respect of his fellow artists in the industry.

Klick enrolled in the Audio Engineering and Music Production program at Okanagan College in 2014. He set out to learn as much as he could about the music industry, from the technical aspects of the recording studio to the finer points of marketing and entrepreneurship that go into launching a successful career as an artist. After graduating in September 2015, he released his debut EP Today and went on to play nearly 60 dates across North America the following year.

Despite a hectic recording and touring schedule, and an ever-expanding list of awards to his name – including 2015 Global Country Star Search Winner, 2016 Canada’s Walk of Fame Top 7 Emerging Artist, British Columbia Country Music Association (BCCMA) Award (2016 – Best Website), and 2017 First Round JUNO Award Nominee – Klick maintains close ties with the College and his community.

In January he headlined the “North of Nashville” concert at the College’s Kelowna campus. The show was produced by students from the very program from which he graduated. The net proceeds of the concert – $1,500 – went back to students in the program through bursaries. On March 23, he once again dazzled a hometown crowd when he took to the stage at the Kelowna Community Theatre to open for country music legend Tanya Tucker. Klick is currently working with producers in Nashville on new singles, the first of which will be released on June 12.

“Okanagan College is near and dear to my heart, so this award is very special to me,” says Klick. “Given all the incredible young OC alumni out there in the world doing great things, I feel supremely honoured and humbled to be recognized.”

“Grace and Ben share a remarkable dedication to the College and to community involvement,” says Kara Kazimer, President of the Board, Okanagan College Alumni Association. “On behalf of my fellow OCAA board members, I congratulate both of this year’s award recipients on their accomplishments. Those accomplishments – and the example they have set – will no doubt inspire our future alumni to consider the impact they too can have.”

Greyeyes and Klick’s achievements will be celebrated at the OCAA awards ceremony and reception on Sept. 19 at the College’s Kelowna campus. For more information about the awards and previous recipients, please visit  


Wine Talks returns with an expert panel on wine marketing
Okanagan College Media Release

Together with Liquidity Winery, Okanagan College is presenting
Wine Talks, An International Perspective on Wine Marketing, for the second time. Five international experts will come together at the Penticton campus on June 26.

“We are so pleased to build on our connections with the B.C. wine industry, and to continue working with Liquidity Winery,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “We look forward to hosting another Wine Talks with an excellent panel that brings a variety of knowledge to the table.”

Leading the discussion will be Mark Davidson, Global Education Manager for Wine Australia. Davidson has more than 35 years of experience in the hospitality sector and is a former Sommelier of the Year at the Vancouver International Wine Festival. He is an instructor with the International Sommelier Guild and is currently studying the theory section to become a Master of Wine.

Joining him is founder of WineDrops, Karen Graham. WineDrops offers commentary on policy and business issues in the Canadian wine and liquor industry, along with analytical and strategic advisory work through KMG Strategy Consulting. Prior to working in the wine industry, Graham held several senior level policy positions with the Business Council of BC and the United States Consulate in Vancouver.

Rob McMillan, Executive Vice-President of the Wine Division of Silicon Valley Bank, joins the panel once again, having presented at the first Wine Talks in November. In his role, McMillan supports the growth of California’s wine industry with his client base and by sharing views on factors impacting the fine wine business.

Vancouver-based lawyers Mark Hicken of Vintage Law Group and Shea Coulson, who practises commercial, regulatory, and constitutional litigation, will provide updates and insight on the direct-to-consumer market and interprovincial trade barriers. Hicken is the founder and co-chair of Vancouver’s annual Wine and Liquor Law Conference.

“The College plays a significant role in educating members of the B.C. wine industry, from the vineyard to the tasting room,” says Ian MacDonald, owner of Liquidity Winery. “We are delighted to work with them to bring world-class industry experts to the Okanagan and provide professional development events for our growing wine region.”

Wine Talks will be held on Monday, June 26 at the Penticton campus of Okanagan College (room PC 113, 583 Duncan Avenue West), from 6 to 9 p.m., including a coffee and wine break. Early bird tickets are $35 until June 19, when the price increases to $45. Tickets can be purchased online at