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Community support pushes Okanagan College trades training complex campaign over the $4 million mark
Okanagan College Media Release

The fundraising campaign for Okanagan College’s new trades training complex has officially raised more than $4 million toward its $7-million goal, with support coming from every corner of the Okanagan.Trades Complex June 2015

Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton says the outpouring of support for the $33 million renovation and expansion project illustrates the extensive network of donors and industry partners working with the College to make education accessible to a diverse array of learners. 

“It has been very encouraging for us to see donors from a variety of areas and interests that have come forward to support the College as we build for the future,” says Hamilton. “From large organizations to families to our own staff and students, the depth of support for this project demonstrates the value our community places on education.”

“This new facility—which will accommodate more than 2,400 students per year—will be transformative for our students and for our communities as well, as we train the next wave of tradespeople in B.C."

The Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign launched in October 2014 with the goal of raising $5 million for capital construction and $2 million for new programming and student support, topping up the provincial government’s $28 million investment.

Okanagan College began the extensive renovation and expansion last June, in anticipation of the demand for trades and technically trained workers as baby boomer retirements loom. The Province of British Columbia predicts that of the one million job openings expected by 2022 in B.C., 430,000 will require trades or technical training. 

Donor support is opening doors for students to foundation or apprenticeship programs in more than 20 trades at the College, explains Campaign Chair Dennis Gabelhouse.

“The community has really embraced the fact that this campaign is about much more than building classrooms and labs and hallways,” says Gabelhouse. “It’s about the impact that we all can make by supporting the learning that occurs in those spaces. 

“It’s about opening doors for people through education and helping young people get a trade they can use to build a life for themselves and their families.”

Industry support helped the campaign build early momentum.

A $500,000 donation from KF Aerospace (formerly Kelowna Flightcraft) landed in December and the valley’s auto dealers have collectively pledged more than $600,000, with many other businesses outside of the trades sector also supporting the project, such as financial groups like D.K.L. Financial, which gave $50,000 and law firms like Pushor Mitchell, which donated $30,000.

One of the most inspiring gifts came from within the College, when the Okanagan College Students’ Union pledged $100,000 toward the project in February.

More than a dozen families and individuals from throughout the Okanagan have made gifts, including several major legacy gifts such as the naming of classrooms and other spaces after family members. Others have chosen to establish scholarships and bursaries for trades students. 

Earlier this week, the Rotary Club of Kelowna announced a $10,000 donation for the creation of a welding bursary in memory of Ross Gorman, founder of Gorman Brothers. The club previously donated $75,000 to the campaign back in January and also supports the College’s Gateway to Trades program, which aids local high school students in accessing trades training. 

“Supporting students is extremely important to our club,” says Club President Dennis Campbell. “It is an investment in the future of our communities. And when you consider that 23,000 people have received credentials from Okanagan College in the past decade alone, you get a sense of the ripple effect that helping students can have.” 

When doors open in spring of 2016, the three-storey trades tower along KLO Road will cap off a 10,000-square-metre renovation and expansion in which 50-year-old shops and classrooms will be updated and blended seamlessly into new construction, with the overall goal of achieving LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge standards.

To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/campaign