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Trades students join forces with firefighters on community project
Okanagan College Media Release

Predator Ridge Project Sept 2015Students and instructors in Okanagan College’s entry-level carpentry/joinery class were joined by Vernon Fire Chief Keith Green and Deputy Fire Chief Jack Blair in Kelowna to hand over a set of custom cabinets for the fire hall at Predator Ridge.

The 12 College students worked on the project as part of their hands-on curriculum in the foundational program and as a result, the Predator Ridge fire hall will be better equipped to support the fire fighters in the region.

“We just can’t thank the students and instructors at Okanagan College enough for their contribution to our fire hall,” said Chief Green. “Station 3 (Predator Ridge) has been operational since the spring but the upstairs area was left unfinished. The students’ handiwork will make the station more functional and will be in our fire station for a long time. Having these beautiful custom-made cabinets is so great for our members and we are so grateful to the students for their support. ”

One of the students who took a leading role in the project was Julia Braun.

“It gave us a real life perspective and understanding of what it will be like doing this kind of work out in the real world,” said Braun. “It’s really cool to be involved in a community project because you feel more invested in your work and it increases the value of a project.”

Braun enrolled in the College program this February after completing the Women in Trades program, which is designed to introduce students to a variety of trades so they can make an informed decision about pursuing further training.

“I really liked a lot of the trades programs here at the College,” she said, “but carpentry just felt right.”

Braun was part of a unique intake of students this year – the class was split with an equal male-to-female ratio. She was surprised to see six other women in the foundation program and felt the learning environment has prepared her for a great career.

“I finish the program this week and am excited to be heading off traveling for a year,” she said. “I’m off to New Zealand and may try to find a way to do some carpentry work while I’m there but I’ll definitely be getting into an apprenticeship when I get back. I’ll be working hard toward my Red Seal.”

There’s an app for that: College and Accelerate Okanagan partner to offer new coding program

Okanagan College Media Release

In an era of smartphones, tablets and mobile computing, applications – apps to most of us - are at the core of making it all happen, but the industry that produces them requires talented and trained developers to turn ideas into on-screen reality.

In response to the exponential growth in app popularity and sector demand, Okanagan College and Accelerate Okanagan have partnered to offer a new Mobile Coding for Android and iOS program starting this fall.

"Accelerate Okanagan received valuable feedback from industry that iOS and Android are the languages most in demand for programming training needs," says Pilar Portela, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. "The format of this specialized training is key to developing local talent which will assist in connecting companies with highly skilled workers."

With room for 16 students, the program is currently accepting applications for an October intake. Four months of part-time classes on evenings and Saturdays will be followed by a five-week practicum with one of the region’s tech companies that Accelerate Okanagan will help students connect with.

"This program answers the expressed needs of the region’s technology sector," says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. "With financial support from the province, we’ve developed a curriculum that will enable students to advance in their careers, and give them the job skills training necessary to excel in the field of app development."

Geared towards individuals currently working in coding, the class schedule will allow them to remain in the workforce.

Students will learn how to create an app for Android and iOS systems that includes responsive and functional technology that can be converted from one platform to another, meaning it is adaptable to be functional on a smartphone, tablet, and desktop computer on multiple operating systems.

The program took shape following a funding announcement made in April by the B.C. Government in support of the regional tech economy. During a press conference in Kelowna, Premier Christy Clark announced $250,000 to be provided to five post-secondary institutions to advance coding skills among the tech sector workforce. Okanagan College received $50,000. Working with Accelerate Okanagan and in consultation with tech leaders, the College has developed this program.

Program admission prerequisite criteria include applicants having some programming experience, a demonstrated foundation in object-oriented programming, a clear understanding of databases (such a MySQL) and libraries, and an established aptitude for math.

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to pitch their app idea to Accelerate Okanagan for a chance to earn a scholarship that will help the individual build a business around the app in order get it ready for market.

"We are proud to partner with Okanagan College for this innovative new program that will give young talent the opportunity to excel in the tech industry that is quickly becoming the backbone of our region," says Portela.

For more information and to apply to the program, visit

Smoke proves to be power vampire

Okanagan College Media Release

Smoky skies caused by fires south of the border are affecting much more than visibility, breathing and our appreciation of the region’s scenery: one of the impacts many people may not think about is on solar power arrays.

An example is Okanagan College’s photovoltaic solar array at its Kelowna campus.

A review of data from an online monitoring website (created by SkyFireEnergy, which installed the array for Okanagan College), shows a dramatic reduction in power output between Saturday, Aug. 22 – the last relatively clear day – and the last three days.

On Saturday, Aug. 22 the solar array on the top of the canopy over the outdoor heavy equipment yard at the Kelowna campus produced 1,103 kilowatt-hours of energy. On Sunday – when the smoke from fires south of the border moved in and occluded the skies – the array produced just 462 kilowatt-hours, a reduction of more than 58 per cent. When the smoke lightened a bit Monday, the array was able to produce 715 kilowatt-hours. Tuesday’s skies blotted the sun as well – the array was able to produce 692 kilowatt-hours, a reduction of 37 per cent from Saturday’s output.

The array on top of the canopy includes 793 solar photovoltaic module panels. The outdoor shop covered by the canopy was built as part of the Trades Training Complex renovation and expansion project currently underway along KLO Road.

The 194 kW electrical solar photovoltaic array system is among the largest in the province, only slightly smaller than the 258 kW system built on top of the LEED Platinum certified Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence at the College’s Penticton campus.

Since being fully commissioned in June, the photovoltaic array on the Kelowna campus has saved about 72 megawatt hours of energy. That’s equal to the amount of energy required to run about 604 computers for a year, or the equivalent of about one-quarter of the energy required to operate the College’s 142-bed Skaha Residence annually.

The array is part of the College’s larger sustainability plan that includes seeking LEED certification for its buildings and striving for the esteemed Living Building Challenge standards. Achieving energy net zero will require the College to produce as much energy as is consumed; the College is targeting to reduce its net carbon emissions by 80 tons per year, and is already well underway. From 2007 to 2013 the College successfully reduced its energy consumption per square metre by 32.2 per cent.

Registration open for new College conference focused on connected classrooms

Technology and connectivity in the classroom are remarkably changing methods of teaching and learning, leading education institutions to adapt to new models in order to stay ahead of the curve.

On Sept. 25 and 26 Okanagan College will host a new conference titled Tiltshift – an acronym for “technology in learning and teaching”– that will explore technology tools and innovative ideas to help the education community acclimate to new teaching platforms.

“From Skype to web-based software, video production and iPads, understanding how students use technology and how to maximize this knowledge to benefit their learning is imperative for the advancement of education and career preparation,” says Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Director of Learning and Teaching at Okanagan College. “Our aim with the conference is to broaden the perspective on where educational technology is heading.”

The conference will provide alternative perspectives for education, and the practical uses of technology in classrooms and course curriculum design. The interactive and demonstrative sessions will explore online learning, new tools and resources available, and technology leadership.

Leaders and innovators from the Okanagan’s thriving technology, business, and education community, and the general public, are invited to join in this exciting dialogue by registering to attend the Tiltshift Education Technology conference. Online registration is open at A $50 conference fee applies.

Held at the College’s Kelowna campus, Tiltshift will kick-off the evening of Sept. 25 with a keynote address by Mount Royal University Associate Professor Dr. Norm Vaughan. A published author, he has expertise in blended learning solutions (the combination of online and in-class courses) and faculty development.

The conference will continue with a full day of breakout sessions and presentations on Saturday Sept. 26. The day also includes a second keynote address by Penticton speaker and author Nikos Theodosakis who is the founder of the OliveUs Education Society and the architect of the Instill Life: Preserving Your Culture programs. He is an advocate for shaping education experiences that are personal, relevant and meaningful.

“We’ve seen technology provide tremendous benefits to our students, resulting in accessible education that circumvents barriers to learning, including time, geography and finances,” says Laura Eagen, Director of IT Services at Okanagan College.

Eagen points to the example of an open online Applied Sustainability course the College previously offered. Technology made the online course possible; more than 100 students from communities across the province, country, and abroad participated, including individuals in remote regions who would have faced a geographical and time barrier otherwise to attend. The six-week course also highlighted how technology inspired shifted views on assessment. Using a gamification model, students strived to achieve different levels to advance to new content much like what you would experience in a video game.

“The speed at which technology is advancing may mean some educators don’t necessarily know which resources are now available to them, or the effective uses for them,” says Eagen. “We wanted to offer a forum to allow experts in the community, and educators, to engage in conversations about how to advance the learning environments we provide, ultimately benefitting students, and the future workforce.”

For additional information including details of the session topics, please visit the Tiltshift website:

Education Assistant graduates make a difference in children's lives

Christine Liefke gave birth to her fourth child two months before her eldest sister was in a serious car crash.

The two events marked a turning point in her life. The stay-at-home mother of 10 years had recently divorced and was working at a home-based business.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something with my life that means something,’” Liefke says. “I wanted to make a difference.”

She attended an information session for Okanagan College’s Education Assistant (EA) program, which prepares graduates to work in the classroom with children with special needs including physical challenges or those on the autism spectrum. Liefke applied to the program, graduated nine months later in 2011 and found work at School District No. 22 in Vernon.

“I love my job. Some days I cannot believe I get paid to do it,” she says.

Liefke has opted to take casual positions to give herself flexibility as a working mother.

“I found it easy to find employment,” she says. “I got in right away.”

School District No. 22 and Okanagan College work in partnership to offer the Education Assistant certificate, and the School District invites graduates to submit applications. Those interested in finding out more about becoming an Education Assistant are invited to an information night at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus on August 20 at 6 p.m.

“The College prepares EAs well in understanding and working with children with special needs,” says Monica Lloyd, the School District’s director of instruction for Student Support Services. “Successful students will be given an opportunity for an interview and selection to the casual list.”

Education Assistant graduates have also found employment as special needs workers and are eligible to apply for their Early Childhood Educator Assistant license. Lloyd says students graduate with a basic understanding of developmental challenges, how to build a positive relationship with children and the importance of relationship first, social development, and ways of working with youth for better academic success.

Colline Johnson, vice principal of Okanagan Landing Elementary school, says Education Assistants are the people who allow teachers to focus on teaching and remove barriers for students.

“They can change a student’s life,” Johnson says.

Liefke says she valued the program’s 120-hour practicum, during which time students are placed in a classroom to practice their skills.  
“It showed you if you really wanted to do it or not,” she says.

Since graduating, Liefke has developed a network of colleagues, and given herself a sense of purpose.

“Every day, I’m still learning,” she says. "You just feel so good knowing you have helped someone."

What: Education Assistant Information Night

When: Aug. 20, 6 - 7 p.m.
Where: Okanagan College, Vernon Campus, Room E103

Estheticians in demand at local beauty and spa businesses
Okanagan College Media Release

Heidi Luken, estheticsShe’s only 19, but Heidi Luken’s esthetics career has taken off.  

A month before graduating from Okanagan College’s Esthetics and Nail Technology Certificate program, Luken was hired by Ten Spot Beauty Bar, a trendy Toronto franchise that recently opened its first B.C. location in West Kelowna.  

“I’ve had multiple job offers and I only graduated. I’m able to negotiate my wage,” Luken says. “With the amount of knowledge you have, employers want you.”  

In the past four years, nearly all of the College’s Esthetics students have found work in the field before graduating. Instructor Candice Timm takes calls from employers across B.C., as far north as the Yukon and from the eastern provinces, looking for fully qualified estheticians trained beyond manicures and pedicures to include skin and body treatments such as massage.  

The spa industry is growing in the Okanagan Valley, Timm says. A Canadian Tourism Commission report predicted strong growth in the spa sector - an average annual rate of 17 per cent. The Spa Association of Canada reported the industry’s tremendous growth was reflected not only in the number of spas, but the diversity of spas and therapies available.  

Okanagan residents interested in an esthetics career can attend an information session on Aug. 4 in Vernon and Aug. 5 in Kelowna to find out more about the Okanagan College program, which is accepting applications for September.  

“It’s not so much about creaming and steaming anymore. The industry is more wellness-based,” Timm says. “The public is becoming more aware of the benefits of health and wellness and de-stressing.”  

The Beauty Bar, estheticsWest Kelowna Ten Spot Beauty Bar owner Lisa Kelley says she had trouble recruiting qualified staff to work at her new location, which opened mid-June.  

“There are a lot of nail technicians looking for work, but not a lot of fully qualified estheticians,” Kelley says. “Heidi has definitely been a valuable asset.”  

Luken’s training in the skincare brand Dermalogica has made her a particularly knowledgeable addition to the Ten Spot Beauty Bar’s staff, Kelley says.  

Timm, a registered massage therapist, clinical esthetician and nail technician, is the main instructor at the College’s Spa Training Centre in Vernon, which is open to the public for appointments from October to June.  

She says the College’s partnership with Dermalogica is among the reasons why employers value the Esthetics certificate, which includes an extra 200 to 300 hours of training over other programs.  

“We include everything from artificial nail treatment to body treatment, including massage, exfoliation and body wraps, which are not usually included in a regular esthetics program,” Timm says.  

“The feedback we get from employers is they’re thrilled with the level of professionalism and knowledge our students have.”  

For Luken, who originally planned to study law, helping people look and feel great is satisfying. She says the College’s reputation, amazing instructors and professional spa training facilities made her studies worth it.  

“I love what I’m doing. I like to be around people,” Luken says. “I feel like I can do anything I want to.”  

Okanagan College Esthetics and Nail Technology Information Nights  

Vernon: Aug. 4, 5:30 – 7 p.m., Spa Training Centre, Vernon Campus, Upper Level, E-Building, Room E212, 7000 College Way.  

Kelowna: Aug. 5, 5:30– 7 p.m., The Centre for Learning, Kelowna Campus, 1000 KLO Road, Room E103.  

Those attending the information sessions will receive a voucher for 70 per cent off a manicure or pedicure at the Spa Training Centre in Vernon. For more information, visit
Canadian Home Builders Association South Okanagan helps students build strong foundation for education
Okanagan College Media Release

Cody Plante was grooming ski hills in the Fraser Valley when he decided to carve a new career path; now a bursary from the South Okanagan Chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association is helping him and two other Okanagan College students build for their futures.  

Bursary CHBAPlante and classmates Chelsea Lindley-Scott and Jeremy Miller, students in the Residential Construction at the College’s Penticton campus, each received the award valued at $1,000.  

“It’s just awesome to have people in the industry backing me, wanting to support my goal of getting into construction,” says Plante. “It’s especially cool that the support comes from a group like CHBA South Okanagan, which has among its members leaders from so many builders and other businesses throughout the Valley.”  

“Supporting students entering the construction industry is the perfect fit for our organization,” says Carol Sudchak, Executive Officer for the Canadian Home Builders' Association South Okanagan. “One of our cornerstones is to support the professionalism of our members, and it benefits us all to provide the next wave of tradespeople with opportunities to learn, grow and take pride in their achievements.”  

For Plante, the immediate benefit is a boost to his budget for tools. But he is quick to point out that the long-term effect of receiving the bursary extends well beyond the financial lift.  

“This support is literally helping my dreams come true,” Plante explains. “It’s already inspiring me to achieve excellence, to do the CHBA proud, and demonstrate that their investment in my future was a good one.”  

Plante and his classmates are currently getting hands-on experience towards that future. As part of a mentorship opportunity provided by Greyback Construction Ltd. in partnership with the College, the current residential construction class is assisting with the construction of a high-end home at the Skaha Hills development in Penticton.  

The 26-week Residential Construction program provides students with the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge to seek employment as an apprentice carpenter in the construction industry.  

Sudchak notes that the hands on training provided by the College will continue to be needed in this area, given an aging workforce across the trades sector.  

“Shortage of skilled labour is an important issue and we would like to assist the students in getting into the field in any way we can,” adds Sudchak. “Okanagan College has wonderful trades programs and we hope that our bursary truly makes a difference for students as they begin their careers in the construction industry.”  

According to the British Columbia Labour Market Outlook, of the one million job openings expected in BC by 2022, more than 160,000 are directly related to trades and related occupations that require formal training at the college level.  

The College is currently embarked on a $33-million renovation and expansion of its trades training complex in Kelowna to position itself to be able to meet the training needs of the province ahead of this demand. The Bright Horizons Building for Skills Fundraising Campaign was launched in October, 2014 to raise an additional $7 million ($5 million for capital construction costs and an additional $2 million for student and program support) to supplement the B.C. government’s $28-million investment. 

More information about the campaign and opportunities to get involved, please visit
Kelowna Kia supports Okanagan College trades training complex, sees bright future for automotive trades in the valley
Okanagan College Media Release

Kelowna Kia Donation July 2015With a vast network of automotive-related businesses, the region will continue to need skilled automotive service technicians says one Okanagan College donor who has come forward with major support for the College’s new Trades Training Complex.

Kelowna Kia has pledged $50,000 to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign in support of the renovation and expansion of the College’s trades training facilities along KLO Road.

“Having been in the Okanagan for 43 years, I wanted to give something back into the community and the industry that has been very good to me,” says Winfried Gradnitzer, Dealer Principal of Kelowna Kia. “I support the College’s vision for this wonderful new facility because I feel it is very important that we continue to develop tradespeople in the Okanagan.”

The donation will help build a new classroom space in the three-storey tower along KLO Road, part of the 10,000 square-metre renovation and expansion project.

“We know that a significant percentage of the projected job openings in our province over the next decade will require trades and technical training,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “This new facility, which will accommodate more than 2,600 students per year, will allow us to be proactive in training the skilled workers needed in our region, across the province, and throughout Western Canada.”

“We are very appreciative of Kelowna Kia’s investment in our students and our campus as we build for the next fifty years of trades training at Okanagan College.”

Gradnitzer points out that investing in new tradespeople benefits many sectors of our regional economy, not just the trades. 

“Helping young people get started in automotive careers is certainly good for our industry but it also has a positive effect on many others sectors. This new complex will be good for our community as a whole.”

Launched in October of last year, the Bright Horizons Building for Skills Campaign aims to raise $7 million—$5 million for capital construction and $2 million for student and program support—to complement the provincial government’s $28-million investment.

Auto dealers throughout the Okanagan have shown strong support for the project, on both the capital and student support side. A donation of $10,000 from the Kelowna Auto Dealers Association was one of the first donations which helped the campaign kickoff last fall; dealerships throughout the valley have collectively provided more than $600,000 to date.

Campaign Ambassador Mike Roberts points out that all donations, large or small, have a big impact on students.

“Every dollar raised benefits students,” says Roberts. “When you see the impact that a bursary has on a student—when you see the look of pride and motivation on his or her face—it is something that is difficult to put into words.”

In the past year, Okanagan College and Okanagan College Foundation have disbursed more than $133,000 to trades students in scholarships and bursaries to help make trades training accessible for students.

“It is very special seeing our community support students through this campaign. That support is absolutely crucial if we are going to reach our $7-million goal and help get these students into a world-class facility by next spring,” adds Roberts.

To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit
Okanagan College Foundation board welcomes new directors, thanks retiring directors
Okanagan College Media Release

Following its annual general meeting the Okanagan College Foundation has announced five new directors have joined its board in 2015.

Anne Clarke, BA, B.Ed, MA (North Okanagan)
A retired English professor at Okanagan College, Clarke is an active community leader who has served in a variety of capacities on numerous boards and councils throughout the region and at the provincial level. Clarke served as a Councillor for the City of Vernon from 1984-1986 and as Mayor from 1987-1990.

Bob Eby, CA, (North Okanagan)
An experienced education administrator and chartered accountant, Eby served as Okanagan College’s Vice President of Finance and Administration for more than seven years, from April 2007- December 2014. He joined the College’s executive team following a 17-year career with the Vernon School District as Assistant Secretary Treasurer. He also previously served as Treasurer for the Okanagan College Foundation.

Gladys Fraser, MBA, PFP (North Okanagan)
Fraser has over 25 years of experience in banking as a Financial Services Manager, Personal Financial Planner, Business & Professional Banking Advisor. She also brings a wealth of experience in corporate social responsibility built through her position as a Branch Manager for Scotiabank. Fraser is currently a Director and Vice President of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce President of the Vernon Montessori Society and previously served as a Director and President of the North Okanagan Hospice Society.

Keith Grayston, B.Com, CGA,  (Central Okanagan)
Prior to his retirement in June, Grayston was the Director of Financial Services for the City of Kelowna; he was a member of the Financial Services Department for 18 years and has more than 35 years’ experience in the financial industry. He recently served as a Director on the Board of the Government Finance Officers Association of BC. 

Alan Sanderson, CA (Central Okanagan)
With extensive experience in the accounting industry, Sanderson is currently a partner with BDO Canada and previously a partner of Sanderson & Company Chartered Accountants. Sanderson is actively engaged in the community and philanthropy in the Okanagan, having supported numerous charities and philanthropic projects.

“The mission of the Okanagan College Foundation is to advance the power of education by engaging individuals and communities in supporting Okanagan College,” says Foundation President Alf Kempf. “With a $7-million fundraising campaign now in full swing for the new trades training complex at the Kelowna campus, this is a crucial and very active time for our board. 

“On behalf of my fellow directors, I am pleased to welcome our newest directors. They bring a great diversity of skills and depth of experience, and we look forward to working with them to achieve some important goals over the next term that will hopefully have a positive impact on students in the valley.”

Kempf says the board also wishes to extend a sincere thanks to three of its current directors who retired from the board at the Foundation’s annual general meeting in June. 

Frank Richter retired after serving nine years with the Okanagan College Foundation, Vern Nielsen retired after serving five years, and Cher Watkins retired after serving four years.

Since its incorporation in 2002, the Okanagan College Foundation has raised and disbursed more than $9 million in scholarships and bursaries to students at Okanagan College’s campuses in Kelowna, Penticton, Salmon Arm, and Vernon. In total, the Foundation has raised more than $23 million, including student awards, capital projects, programming and an endowment that now totals over $8.3 million.

More information about the Foundation’s current board members, mission, and projects is available at
Mini chefs whip up treats at Camp OC
Okanagan College Media Release

Sarah Clarke Mini Chefs July 2015Hot dogs don’t cut it for today’s young foodies. Camp OC’s Mini Chef Academy is all about going gourmet—and having fun in the kitchen. 

More than 1,200 students are registered this year for Camp OC, Okanagan College’s summer camp for children and teens, now starting its second week. From Extreme Survivor Challenge to LEGO Robotics to Game Programming using Minecraft, more than 100 programs are scheduled from now until Aug. 28 at Okanagan College’s Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon campuses. 

Kelowna Mini Chef Academy instructor Shandrea Tesoriere says her goal is to have students try new things. Besides introducing campers to less common treats such as dragon fruit, Tesoriere incorporates valuable lessons into the culinary fun. 

“I want them to learn measurements, math and the vocabulary. Today they learned what sauté means,” she says.

“It’s also about learning that sometimes the recipe doesn’t work out and that’s okay.”

Sarah Clarke, 8, counts smoothie popsicles among her favourite treats made so far. Cooking for Sarah is all about getting her hands dirty, or in the case of rolling chocolate and coconut balls, sticky.

“It’s fun,” Sarah says, “And after you’re done you get to eat a lot.”

Space is still available in some courses. To find out more or register, visit the Camp OC website:
College trades campaign gets another boost from a local auto dealer
Okanagan College Media Release

Students in the Automotive Service Technician program at Okanagan College will test drive an exciting new learning environment next spring thanks to a generous donation from a local automotive dealer.Kelowna Toyota donation July 2015

Kelowna Toyota has donated $50,000 to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills Campaign. The donation will support the construction of a classroom in the new three-storey Trades Training Complex currently under construction along KLO Road. 

“As the technology in our vehicles advances at an ever-increasing pace, it is vital for automotive tradespeople to have a solid foundation of formal training,” says Jack Kofoed, Dealer Principal at Kelowna Toyota. “We have had the privilege of hiring numerous Red Seal graduates from the College over the years and have seen first-hand the quality of the training they receive.

“The new complex is going to be a great resource for our region and we are proud to support it.”

“It is very encouraging for our students, and for everyone at the College, when industry steps forward in a bold way like this to recognize their potential and support their futures,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We are very grateful to Kelowna Toyota as one of the local industry leaders who have stepped forward as donors and champions in the community for this project.” 

Kelowna Toyota has also donated two vehicles to Okanagan College in recent years. 

The donated vehicles provide valuable hands-on training opportunities for students. Once the students and instructors have ensured they are road-ready, the vehicles are then auctioned off by the Okanagan College Foundation with proceeds going towards student support.

Kofoed visited the Kelowna Campus recently to tour the renovated Automotive Service Technician (AST) shop which is already in use, as are updated shops for carpentry, collision repair, and heavy duty mechanical trades.

“It is wonderful for the Okanagan to have a trades trainer like the College to supply local industry,” says Kofoed. “Providing opportunities for students here in the valley, and establishing the Okanagan as a hot spot for trades, benefits us all.”

The new Trades Training Complex in its entirety is expected to open in Spring 2016. Blending renovation and new construction in innovative ways is a challenge the College has embraced with the project.

In addition to the new Trades Training tower along KLO Road, the College is also aiming to meet LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge standards with the renovated shop and classroom spaces. When doors open next spring, it will accommodate more than 2,400 students annually.

The $7-million fundraising campaign for the 10,000 sq. metre complex renovation and expansion project launched in October 2014. The College is aiming to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support to top up the provincial government’s commitment of $28 million for the project.

More information about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved can be found at
Salmon Arm students recognized for their achievements
Okaangan College Media Release

Forty-seven students from Salmon Arm were honoured with scholarships and bursaries this month at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm Campus awards ceremony.

A number of mature students from the Salmon Arm campus credit support from the College and the community for helping them to realize their dream of returning to the classroom.

Laureen Shannon June 2015Laureen Shannon, who is currently pursuing a Business Administration diploma, received one of five Al Neale Bursaries valued at $1,500. A single mother to three children, Shannon says the bursary helps in more ways than one.

“Receiving this bursary will help me complete my program,” says Shannon. “But the impact of the support goes beyond alleviating financial stress. I feel incredibly inspired by the fact that someone in our community recognizes my hard work and wants to help me in my education.”

When she completes her diploma in 2016, Shannon hopes to go on to pursue a Bachelor of Business degree in Human Resources Management at the College.

“I feel very proud to be able to set an example for my sons,” says Shannon. “I am showing them the importance of lifelong learning, and I’m very grateful to the donors and to the College for helping me bring my dreams within reach.”

Jim Barmby, Regional Dean for Okanagan College’s Shuswap-Revelstoke region spoke about the role that donors play in supporting the interactive educational experience offered by the College.Sean Rossouw June 2015

“The learning environment provided by Okanagan College is conducive to a high level of student-teacher interaction, which is something we are very proud of and feel greatly benefits the students,” says Barmby. “It is all the more special that the people of our region play such an active role in supporting our students.”

At the ceremony, numerous students credited small class sizes and the quality of instruction they received as contributing factors for their success the College.

Sean Rossouw received two awards, including the Salmon Arm College Scholarship for top student in Business. According to Rossouw, the generosity of his professors echoes the generosity of donors in the community.

“Having top-level professors who are so incredibly generous with their time as well as their knowledge has been life changing for me,” says Rossouw. “I have been touched by their generosity as well as by the generosity of the surrounding community that is so involved in supporting students.”

Rossouw previously completed his Associate of Arts Degree at the College and hopes to parlay his Bachelor of Business Administration Degree (Accounting) into a career that allows him to give back.

“People have invested in my future and I want to do the same,” says Rossouw. “It would be wonderful to be able to use my business skills to help others kickstart their ideas. It would be a way of paying forward the investment that has been made in my education.”

This year, more than $75,000 will be disbursed to Shuswap area students from the Okanagan College Foundation, the Shuswap Community Foundation, local community groups and individual donors.
Serwa family supports trades training complex at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

Cliff and Lois Serwa June 2015Their family’s connection to Okanagan College goes back more than 50 years, and through a generous donation to the new Trades Training Complex at the Kelowna campus, Cliff and Lois Serwa are helping the College build for the next 50. 

The Serwas have given $50,000 to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign behind the $33-million renovation and expansion of the College’s trades training facilities in Kelowna. The donation will support the construction of a state-of-the-art classroom space in the new three-storey tower along KLO Road.

“This community has been good to us and we’re very proud to be able to give back and support an institution that continues to have such a far reaching impact on students from all walks of life in the Okanagan,” says Cliff Serwa.

“Whether it’s supporting students fresh out of high school, or mature students, or single parents going back to school to find employment so they can support their families, the opportunities Okanagan College creates valley-wide are truly invaluable.”

Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton says community support for the campaign, in addition to topping up the provincial government’s investment of $28 million for construction of the new building, is also helping the College create new awards, bursaries and other support for trades students.

“We are sincerely grateful to Cliff and Lois Serwa for this generous investment in our students’ futures,” says Hamilton. “Support like this sends a strong message to our students that there are people in the community who believe in their potential and want to see them succeed.”

“The Bright Horizons campaign is aptly named because this renovation and expansion project is about just that—creating opportunities and building bright futures for the more than 2,400 students per year who will train in this new facility. And with a provincial skills gap projected across much of the trades sector over the next five years, this new facility will help bridge that gap.”

Cliff Serwa is known for co-founding Big White Ski resort and for his work as a political figure in British Columbia. He represented Okanagan South from 1986 to 1991 and Okanagan West from 1991 to 1996 in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, and also served in the provincial cabinet as Minister of Environment. Their granddaughter Kelsey Serwa is a world-class freestyle skier; she won a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The Serwas’ support of students at the College goes beyond the trades. In 2007, they established an annual bursary for students enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program.

“Having worked around the trades, I can certainly appreciate the importance of formal training, now more than ever, as the trades become increasingly technical,” notes Serwa. 

“But on a broader level, the College offers students young and old so many avenues to better their lives through education.”

“The value of a gift lies not in its price but in its potential,” says Lois Serwa. 

The Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign complex launched in October 2014. The College is aiming to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support, in order to top up the provincial government’s commitment of $28 million for the project.

More information about opportunities to get involved, including ways to contribute to existing awards, or establish new support for trades students, is available at
Solar panels power up College’s Kelowna campus
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College has activated B.C.’s second largest solar panel system at its Kelowna campus, taking another large step towards its ambitious goal of seeking to be energy net zero by 2025.Kelowna Solar Array

“With the longer and sunnier summer days upon us, we’re thrilled to have the solar panels up and running,” says Peter Csandl, Manager, Operations and Energy Systems at Okanagan College. “Imagine the electricity consumed by 26 homes annually. That’s the equivalent power the system is anticipated to provide the campus.”

The College is now benefitting from 793 solar photovoltaic module panels, which cover the top of the new outdoor training space at the College’s Kelowna Trades Complex. The outdoor shop was built as part of the Trades Training Complex renovation and expansion project currently underway along KLO Road. 

The 194 kW electrical solar photovoltaic array system is the second largest in the province, only slightly smaller than the 258 kW system built on top of the LEED Platinum certified Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence at the College’s Penticton campus. 

The array is part of the College’s larger sustainability plan that includes seeking LEED certification for its buildings and striving for the esteemed Living Building Challenge standards. Achieving energy net zero will require the College to produce as much energy as is consumed; the College is targeting to reduce its net carbon emissions by 80 tons per year, and is already well underway. From 2007 to 2013 the College successfully reduced its energy consumption per square meter by 32.2 per cent.

“There is the misconception that energy efficient systems can be cost prohibitive, but that is not the case,” explains Csandl. “In three short years, working with Skyfire Energy, we’ve seen a 40 per cent reduction in the cost of the installation of our solar panels.”

Csandl credits the maturing of the industry for this, including increased demand and production, as well as advances in the application of innovative technology. 

Solar photovoltaic modules are made of crystalline silicon, the same material used in a circuit board, and mounted on an aluminum frame. They have a glass front to protect them from the elements, while letting light in. Placed in sunlight, they produce direct current electricity (similar to a battery), which then goes into an inverter before being converted to electricity used by the buildings. They are durable, with relatively low cleaning and maintenance requirements.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, Okanagan College is a member of the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) program and was the first college in the province to earn a silver ranking in sustainability from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

For more information on sustainability at Okanagan College, visit
College’s new liberal Arts program ArtsX marks the spot for incoming students
Okanagan College Media Release

Anika Raynolds June 2015Like many of her peers, 18-year-old Penticton high school graduate Anika Raynolds has had a busy year researching post-secondary education options. The end goal has always been a Bachelor of Arts, but to get there she was searching for a program where she could apply her creativity, curiosity and one that suited her learning style.

Raynolds first heard about the ArtsX program at an Okanagan College information session.

“It sounded like a non-intimidating introduction to post-secondary education,” says Raynolds. “It’s reassuring that for the first year, courses are pre-selected to meet requirements and be well rounded. I was drawn to the small group focus, up to 30 students. I think that will definitely help to meet new friends and get more time with the instructors.”

Prospective students and their parents are invited to explore the College’s new program, the Arts Experience (ArtsX), at an upcoming information session at the Kelowna campus on Monday June 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. The session will be held in room E202 of the Centre for Learning building.

Attendees will meet the program’s faculty, including College professors Sharon Josephson and Jake Kennedy, who will explain the program, which is tailored to students who want to explore connections between key subject areas of our society in a multi-disciplinary approach. It is an opportunity for students and parents to ask questions they may have about the progressive structure, curriculum, and about what to expect.

The Arts Experience (ArtsX) was designed by Okanagan College faculty as an avant-garde learning approach offering a collective class for the two-year university transferable Associate of Arts Degree. The progressive and innovative education option will see a small group of students flow through core course curriculum together, but the classroom model and way of learning is what will be different.  

“I can get my two years of credit under my belt, while still trying a variety of classes,” says Raynolds. “It’s reassuring to know that I will get the same transferable credits of the regular Associate of Arts Degree, but that I can learn in a format that is focused on collaboration, self direction, and that goes beyond the classroom.” 

For Raynolds, the affordability of Okanagan College’s program, compared to similar styled programs offered at various North American universities, also factored into her decision to pursue the option that was close to home.

Students who have received admission into the Associate of Arts Degree program at Okanagan College will have an opportunity to apply to complete their studies with the limited enrolment ArtsX program at the Kelowna campus. To find out more about ArtsX, attend the June 29 information session in Kelowna and visit
Ben Klick sets his sight on country stardom
Okanagan College Media Release

A 19-year-old audio engineering graduate from Okanagan College is poised to play alongside Canadian greats at Country Music Week in Halifax if he wins a province-wide competition. Ben Klick June 2015

West Kelowna resident Ben Klick is among the top three finalists of the British Columbia Country Music Association’s (BCCMA) Spotlight Performance Contest. The winning artist, to be announced June 19, will perform at the Canadian Country Music Association’s celebrations in Halifax, from Sept. 10 to 13, and take home more than $10,000 in cash and prizes.

Klick will be a familiar face around the Interior this summer as the guitarist and singer-songwriter performs at festivals ahead of the launch of his band’s new EP, which will be recorded in Nashville in July and released in August. 

“The summer months are extremely busy,” Klick says. “I definitely live in the now. I’m hoping when the EP drops in August it will start a little buzz, and I’m going to get a cross-Canada tour going.

“It would be a great career boost to win this competition.”

The country singer, who recently completed an Audio Engineering and Sound Production (AEMP) certificate with Continuing Studies at Okanagan College, has a dozen performances lined up over July and August, including West Kelowna’s Music in the Park on July 3, the Country, Beer and Barbecue Festival at Big White Ski Resort on July 4, and Rockin' River Country Music Festival in Merritt, July 30 to August 2. Peachland’s Canada Day festivities will mark one-year since Klick and his band began performing, although Klick has been playing guitar since he was six years old. 

Klick credits the College’s music recording program for accelerating his career as an artist.

“I came into the program with little to nothing except knowing the guitar and how to be an artist,” Klick says. “What the program taught me was how to be the business guy, the manager, the promoter.”

Klick wanted to learn every aspect of the music industry, and found AEMP instructor Corey Bell, a local producer and audio engineer with 12 years of industry experience, to be a huge help.

“The College has a phenomenal reputation with the music industry around the Okanagan,” Klick says. “The knowledge I’ve gotten through the program has allowed me to get gigs, saved me money recording and helped me be more self-sufficient.” 

Bell, who has helped four classes graduate from the eight-month certificate program, said the College’s curriculum is at the forefront of music production in Canada. Thanks to Bell’s industry contacts, numerous graduates work at music festivals and production companies across the Okanagan. Graduate Evan Ferguson, who opened Empire Sonic, Kelowna’s largest recording studio, a year ago with his father, is another example of the program’s success, Bell says. 

“What sets our grads apart is the hands-on experience they get in the program and their attitude,” he says. “We provide a realistic view of what the industry is and help students find their place in it.”

Bell encourages students tailor their studies to meet their individual goals. He helped Klick, for example, develop a business plan to support the up-and-coming country music singer’s dream of success.

“Ben’s an incredibly likeable person and his work ethic is second to none,” Bell says. “He’s very passionate.”

Klick, meanwhile, hopes to become a household name in country music, much like his idols Shania Twain, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley. In July, Klick will follow in their footsteps and head to Nashville to work on the second half of his next EP, which he began recording in March. 

“Country music is all about life story and true everyday life,” Klick says. “That’s what got me hooked.”
Recognition keeps coming for one of world’s most sustainable buildings
Okanagan College Media Release

COE June 2015Add another chapter to the sustainability story of Okanagan College’s Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation.

The College received LEED Platinum certification recently for the Penticton building from the Canada Green Building Council. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is globally recognized as a means of assessing green building practices and outcomes. Platinum is the highest LEED certification that can be achieved.)

The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence was opened in 2011, and was jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments along with more than $9 million in community contributions—donations that also helped develop programs, scholarships, bursaries and student support associated with the building.

The building has been recognized for its sustainable features with several prestigious awards, including:

-          International Architecture Awards’ Green GOOD DESIGN Award from the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies
-          Two awards from the Illuminating Engineering Society
-          A Canadian Green Building Award from SAB (Sustainable Architecture Building) Magazine.

The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence has attracted international attention from architects and sustainability experts, drawing them to Penticton to tour the facility and learn from the College, architects, engineers and builders who made the Centre a reality.

“LEED Platinum certification is a testament to the level of sustainability we have achieved with the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “What’s as important, though, is the benchmark we have set for ourselves, our students and others in the public sector. We are leading by example.”

The College’s goal is to have the Centre of Excellence achieve the Living Building Challenge standard, which is based both on construction and continuing performance. It is a higher standard than LEED Platinum and requires the building be carbon neutral, among other things.

The 7,000-square-metre Centre of Excellence was designed by CEI Architecture. It was built by PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc. The building provides space for trades and technology training, includes a community gym, as well as classrooms for a whole host of academic and vocational programs. It is also home to the B.C. Wine Information Society Sensory Centre.

“What was inspiring was the way that architects, engineers, builders, the community and the College coalesced around the idea of building something better, something that would stand as a beacon for sustainability,” says Hamilton.

It was one of three buildings in North America featured by the New York Times as examples of carbon-neutral campus architecture.

“The Centre of Excellence is truly an innovative facility, providing leading edge training in sustainable practices for Okanagan College,” said Bill Locking, senior partner with CEI Architecture. “The integrated nature of the design and construction team enabled the Centre of Excellence to achieve ambitious targets for sustainable design. We couldn’t be more proud to have been part of the project.”

“Working on this project was an education for our company and tradespeople about how vision and dedication can turn a commitment to sustainability into a beautiful, leading-edge building,” says Gary McEwan, special projects manager for PCL Westcoast Constructors. “We are all very proud of the outcome and the recognition that the building has received. I can tell you that it has impacted our work on a whole host of other projects since.”

While LEED Platinum certification is a remarkable achievement, Donna Lomas, the Regional Dean for the South Okanagan-Similkameen, says there are much more impressive credentials that speak to the building’s attributes.

“This is a building that students love to learn in, that staff enjoy working in, that the community loves to use, and that continues to impress visitors. And it’s doing all that with a tiny footprint on our environment.”

To find out more about the Centre and its sustainability features, you can visit

Okanagan College graduates top of their game at Skills Canada
Okanagan College Media Release

Graduating Okanagan College students demonstrated their expertise once again at the 2015 Skills Canada National Competition held in Saskatoon in late May. Josh Wams won gold in Electronics and bronze medals went to Ethan Delichte in Automotive Service Tech and Nathan Schulte in Plumbing.Josh Wams and Jim Hamilton June 2015

The gold medal earned by 20-year-old Vernon resident Wams, marks the fourth year that an Okanagan College student has earned a podium finish in the Electronics category at the national skills testing event. 

“It was an amazing experience, it felt like the Olympics but for trades and skills. There was a great team spirit throughout the competition,” says Wams. “It’s good to have proof that the College prepared me for putting my skills to work at a national level.”

The challenging competition saw Wams and his co-competitors use and program an accelerometer—it is the electronic equipment that allows smart phones to flip screen images from horizontal to vertical when tilted. Participants then designed, built, troubleshot and programed a printed circuit board-PCB over the three days of scheduled testing. The students all had the same circuit board to assemble which used small surface mount components. These components are the building blocks of all electronic gadgets we use every day.

Wams’ coach, Okanagan College instructor Kevin Bradshaw, pointed out that Wams’ exceptional soldering skills with the assembly of the circuit board was what set him apart.

“When I was studying at the College we had tons of hands-on training opportunities,” says Wams. “We were given the tools to learn, some of which is expensive equipment. It’s pretty great that a school has those resources for students to practice on.”

Wams studied the two-year Electronic Engineering Technology diploma program at the College, and plans to pursue an Electronic Engineering degree at UBC Okanagan.

Bronze medalist Delichte, completed the fourth level of his Automotive Service Technician Apprentice at the College and is currently employed at Car Craft Automotive. Also earning a bronze finish was Schulte, who studied in the Plumbing and Piping Foundation program and he is working at Modulux. Each were coached respectively by Okanagan College instructors Jamie Bloomfield and Bruce Slater.

“I congratulate Josh, Ethan and Nathan on their exceptional merit in demonstrating their skill set on the national stage, placing them at the top of their industry,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “Training the future workforce of our region and country is at the core of what we do at the College. Our students’ successes are testaments of the quality of training available to them right here in the Okanagan.” 

The Skills Canada National Competition sees more than 500 students from across the country compete in over 40 skilled trade and technology contest area each year. During the Skills BC Provincial competition held earlier in the year, Wams, Delichte, and Schulte each won a gold earning them spots in the nationals. College students also earned a silver and three bronze medals at the provincial level.
Dr. Dennis Silvestrone is PRAISEworthy
Okanagan College Media Release

Silvestrone and Barranoik June 2015Okanagan College’s Director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Development, Dr. Dennis Silvestrone, was honoured by the Canadian Institute of Management (CIM) on June 5 for his commitment to the Winnipeg Branch of the organization.

Silvestrone worked at the University of Manitoba before coming to Okanagan College and was very active in promotion and development of CIM members while he was there.

“The award recognizes individuals who contribute to our success as an organization and Dr. Silvestrone had a role to play in serving our members in Winnipeg,” explains 

Wilfred Barranoik, a former west/central region president with CIM and current chapter membership director for British Columbia and the Yukon. 

He presented the PRAISE – Performance Recognition for Achievement, Innovation, Service and Excellence – award on behalf of the Winnipeg chapter’s Louise Doberstein, vice-president of membership and board of directors. Winnipeg boasts having the largest CIM chapter in the country.

“I’m honoured by the recognition,” says Silvestrone. “I enjoyed working with CIM and helping the membership. I look forward to a continuing connection with CIM here in the Okanagan as well.”

The Canadian Institute of Management is Canada's senior management association. As a non-profit organization, the Institute was established in 1942 and is dedicated to enhancing managerial skills and professional development. Currently, there are 16 chapters coast-to-coast with the National Office in Barrie, Ontario.

Since its inception, the Institute has helped over 55,000 managers to develop a broadly based education in management skills with a rich and diversified series of programs from individual courses to professional designation. The Institute offers the professional designations "Certified in Management" (C.I.M.), "Professional Manager" (P.Mgr) and "Chartered Manager" (C.Mgr.). It also offers its educational certificates "Certificate in Management and Administration" (CIMA) and "Certificate in Supervisory Management" (CSM).
Northside donation keeps Okanagan College trades campaign on upward arc
Okanagan College Media Release

Training the next wave of welders will be crucial for the local manufacturing industry, says one Okanagan College donor who has Steve McKay and John Haller June 2015stepped up to support the College’s new trades training complex.

Northside Industries, a steel manufacturing company based in West Kelowna, has donated $30,000 to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills Campaign. The donation will support the construction of three new welding booths in the $33-million complex currently under renovation and expansion along KLO Road. 

“Having a strong trades training facility here in the Okanagan is so important for our industry, which relies heavily on the welding trades,” says Steve McKay, President of Northside Industries. “We’re very proud to support Okanagan College and its students, and we’re excited about what this new complex will mean for our region.”

“The new trades training complex will help to further establish our region as a hub for trades training in B.C.,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “With expanded space, leading edge equipment, and new programming opportunities, there will be an immediate benefit to students and a long-term economic benefit to our surrounding communities. 

“We are very grateful to Northside Industries—and all our industry partners—for supporting our campuses and working closely with us as we build for the next 50 years.”

Northside has been in operation for more than 45 years. The company provides manufacturing services to a variety of sectors including oil and gas, forestry, heavy duty transport, and military. And with welding playing a key role in many of these services, McKay notes that Northside often looks to Okanagan College’s welding program for new apprentices.

“It’s great that we have manufacturing in the valley and a college that can support it,” says McKay. “Okanagan College does a tremendous job of preparing graduates for industry, and it works especially well for companies like ours to have a strong pool of talent to draw from locally.”

Northside’s support of the College goes beyond dollars and cents. They are also an active member of the Program Advisory Committee (PAC) for the welding program—a group of organizations and individuals that provides the College’s Trades department with insight into the latest industry trends and training needs.

“We are constantly consulting with industry partners across various sectors,” says Steve Moores, Okanagan College Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. “This allows us to stay current, keep our programs relevant to the needs of employers, and ensure that students are getting the skills and training that makes them employable.”

According to Moores, recent feedback from the Welding program PAC indicated that there remains demand for welders in other sectors despite the slowdown in the Alberta oil patch.

“It is very helpful for us to be able to get feedback from industry to identify which segments are busy, so we can advise our graduates where apprentices are needed,” says Moores.

Construction is currently underway on the new trades training complex; the building is expected to open in spring of 2016. When the roughly 10,000 sq. metre renovation and expansion project is complete, the complex will accommodate 2,400 students per year. 

The $7-million fundraising campaign for the $33-million complex launched in October 2014. The College is aiming to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support to top up the provincial government’s commitment of $28 million for the project.

Program and student support includes entrance awards and other support intended to make trades training accessible for a diverse array of students.

More information about how to support the capital project and student awards, and how to donate equipment is available at
College program inspires mature Aboriginal learner to chart a new course
Okanagan College Media Release

Edna Felix June 2015Forty years is a long time to be away from a classroom. For Splatsin Nation Spiritual Helper and Elder Edna Felix it proved to be the opportunity to change her life’s course.

After her husband passed away, Felix found herself struggling to balance working odd jobs with the responsibilities of caring for her four children and two foster children (who are also her grandsons). Finding it difficult to secure work with only a Grade 8 education, Felix turned to social assistance. She credits a social worker who mentioned the Stepping Forward program offered at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus for broadening her horizon and leading her to gainful employment. 

“I was nervous heading into the program but through learning I understood that my life experience in and of itself had been an education,” says Felix. “The program teaches essential skills for the work place, and also valuable life skills including goal setting. I realized I already had many of these skills, but simply needed to hone them.”

Within the classroom, Felix took a role in mentoring the younger students, her peers. For an essay assignment she wrote about the history of the Shuswap people, her husband, and the land, culture and her family tree. 

Upholding the tradition of oral story telling, Felix mentored the young students in teaching them the stories of her family, land, and people. Nothing written down, just passed down with the word from an elder to the younger generations. Some of her fellow students, it turns out, were relatives.

“Okanagan College is openly interested in preserving, honouring, and advancing Aboriginal culture, which made me feel comfortable and welcome,” says Felix.

The 21-week Stepping Forward program, offered through the Continuing Studies department at the College, provides pre-employment skills and essential skills training, as well as Adult Basic Education upgrading. It incorporates traditional First Nations heritage teachings and culture through Aboriginal work history, Medicine Wheel, and drumming workshops.

According to Felix, the qualifications and certifications (including FoodSafe, First Aid, and Camp Cook) she received during the program were crucial to her finding employment. She is currently employed as a dishwasher and prep cook at the Wicked Spoon in Salmon Arm. 

Felix has set a long-term goal of opening and managing an Elders’ home. She has already applied to Okanagan College’s Health Care Assistant program and is building her work experience to encompass all aspects of owning a care facility, including as a cook and janitor. 

“If I am to be a supervisor, I need to know what needs to be done and how to do it so that I can say I understand the roles of the job.”

The Stepping Forward program offered at Okanagan College was developed in coordination with First Nation partners to provide a well-rounded education program for Aboriginal learners experiencing barriers to employment, including lack of high school graduation, work and life skills training. 

Felix’s class included 24 students from a combination of the Neskonlith Band, Adams Lake Band, Little Shuswap Lake Band, and Splatsin Nation; all 24 graduated in March 2015. Funding for the program has been provided through the Canada-British Columbia Job Fund Agreement. The Ministry of Advanced Education supported the program with funds from the Aboriginal Community Based Delivery Partnership Program. Participating students pay no fees.

The Stepping Forward program originated through a partnership with the Okanagan Indian Band which has run two programs to date, and it has also been offered in Osoyoos. 

“This program truly is transformative and benefits such a diverse array of students,” says Caroline Chartier, Aboriginal Transition Planner at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm campus. “Some have been through residential schools, some not, some are mature students, others still in their late teens.

“Our focus is on supporting students through the whole process, and giving them opportunities that extend beyond the support they already receive from their Bands.”

Chartier says that while some students initially arrive apprehensive about the idea of school and education, the program creates a safe place to learn, and affords them the opportunity to experience and belong to the College community. In some cases, it has inspired the students to consider higher education beyond the program.

“We are very proud of these students. Some are gainfully employed, others are pursuing further education, and a handful are in the process of job interviews. They are now better equipped to be able to support themselves and earn steady income,” says Chartier.
College looking for host families for short-term international tours
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College is hoping that some Kelowna-area families may want to spend a part of the summer or early fall entertaining some international students.

Okanagan College’s International Education Department Homestay Program is looking for hosts for its programs that range between one and four weeks for the months of July, August, and September.

Homes on the Kelowna side of the bridge are preferred and must be on a good bus route.

Host requirements include:
  • Pre arrival host meeting
  • Airport pickup and drop off
  • Provide three meals plus snacks per day
  • Private room with comfortable bed
  • Occasional ride to/from school or events

Host families get paid approximately $25 per student per day. More information about hosting and an application form can be found at

New world of opportunities await College graduates
Okaangan College Media Release

Gurdeep Dhanoa June 2015With a will to learn and to become well-versed in Canada’s health care system, Gurdeep Dhanoa, graduating from the College’s Practical Nursing diploma program this weekend, knew that the pursuit of education was imperative when she immigrated to Kelowna from India.

“I was a registered nurse for two years in India. When I arrived in Canada with my husband I quickly recognized that the technology, skills and even health documentation are very different than those from home,” says Dhanoa. “I knew that I needed to learn the basics, and build confidence in knowing exactly how the Canadian health care system works.”

Dhanoa received an equivalency that enabled her to work as a care aid at a residential care facility in Kelowna, but her goal was to study her way back to her passion, the nursing profession.

Taking the first step toward her goal, Dhanoa upgraded courses in English as a Second Language, Mathematics, and Biology 11 and 12 with the Adult Academic and Career Preparation (AACP) department at the College.

“Mathematics has always been my most challenging subject, I was dreading taking the course, especially as English is my second language,” says Dhanoa. “The teachers were patient and understanding, and they actually made me enjoy studying the subject. I wish I had had those teachers back home – maybe I would have liked math more then.”

Next Dhanoa registered in the College’s two-year Practical Nursing diploma.

“I wanted a program to give me the right training to get back to working soon. My sister had taken the same program at Okanagan College and she had told me about its great reputation with health care employers in the Okanagan.” 

With her program complete, Dhanoa is just one of more than 1,350 students who will be recognized at the College’s Convocation ceremonies this weekend. And, like many, Dhanoa has already found a job. She’s working at Brandt’s Creek Mews, a position she secured just two days after she completed her program.

The College will recognize the achievements of more than 920 trades students at its Commencement ceremony on the evening of Friday, June 5.
The following day, 438 credentials will be conferred to students in academic and vocational programs and include: 119 bachelor’s degrees, 67 associate degrees, 235 diplomas, and 17 certificates. 

The morning ceremony on June 6 in Kelowna starts at 10:30 a.m. and will see students from Arts, Science, Engineering Technologies, Computer Science, and Health and Social Development programs receive their credentials. Entrepreneur and public servant Norm Embree, former Chair of the Interior Health Authority will address the morning graduating class as an Honorary Fellow of Okanagan College. 

At the afternoon ceremony starting at 1:30 p.m., Okanagan College will confer degrees, diplomas and certificates to graduands of the Okanagan College School of Business. Renowned Kelowna chef Rod Butters will address the graduating class of business students in the afternoon.

This weekend’s ceremonies represent three of the College’s six annual Convocation ceremonies. The first Convocation ceremony of the year was held in January, and bestowed 322 credentials to students.

Two additional ceremonies will be held later in June. A ceremony in Vernon will be held on Tuesday, June 23 and will include an address from Honorary Fellow Annette Sharkey.

The final summer convocation in Kelowna will take place on Thursday, June 25 and will confer approximately 330 diplomas and certificates and recognize lawyer Rick Pushor as one of the 2015 Honorary Fellows of the College.

More than 2,000 students will have graduated from Okanagan College in 2015 before the end of the month.

To watch the convocation ceremonies via live streaming, visit
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
Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends Awards inspire incoming Okanagan College students
Okanagan College Media Release

Thorpe Award Penticton May 2015Entrance scholarships provided by two Okanagan College donors have inspired a group of graduating Grade 12 students to think about how they can translate education into community impact.

Shad Collins, Matt Finlayson, Jack Holman, Courtney Korabek, Breanne Pitts, and Jaxon Stel each received the $2,500 Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends Entrance Scholarship to support their studies at the College. 

During presentations at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus and Mount Boucherie Secondary School, the Thorpes congratulated the students and asked them about their career goals—a question which immediately generated a flurry of ideas about how each hopes to make a difference in the community.

“First and foremost, this award has helped bring my goal of becoming a Red Seal chef within reach,” says Pitts, who hopes to parlay her training in the Culinary Arts program into a career as a gluten-free chef. “I am incredibly grateful for that.”

Pitts’ mother and brother have Celiac Disease, which inspired her to follow in the footsteps of chefs who have elevated gluten-free cooking in recent years. She hopes one day to also teach cooking classes and pass on her skills to future chefs-in-training.

“The opportunity to be a culinary teacher in the future is really appealing to me,” explains Pitts. “Once I get to the point where I feel I am experienced enough, it would be a way of passing on what I have learned to others—which is a great way of giving back.” 

Established in 2007, the Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends Awards encompass a variety of scholarships and bursaries, including entrance awards for trades and technical students, as well as bursaries for mature students spanning all programs and faculties at Okanagan College.Thorpe Award Boucherie May 2015

“We are proud and delighted to be able to assist students with their post-secondary educations,” says Yasmin Thorpe. 

“These students have very bright futures ahead of them,” added Rick Thorpe. “We look forward to staying in touch with them and hearing about their accomplishments. And if in future they are inspired by the fact that someone supported their education, and they chose to do the same for others, what could be better?”

To date, the Rick and Yasmin Thorpe and Friends fund has provided more than $70,000 in awards to students at Okanagan College. The Thorpes have also established numerous awards for students entering or enrolled at UBC Okanagan.

For Penticton resident Jack Holman, receiving an entrance award has not only inspired him to excel during his training as a plumber and pipefitter at the College, but also to continue his volunteer work. An avid soccer player, Holman currently volunteers as a fundraiser for local youth soccer clubs.

“Community involvement isn’t something that has to wait until I graduate college,” says Holman. “I want to give back as much as I can now, volunteering my time whenever I can.” 

“Rick and Yasmin Thorpe’s support has had, and will continue to have, an immense impact on many students at the College,” says Kathy Butler, Executive Director of the Okanagan College Foundation. “Their generosity, and the generosity of so many donors in the region, directly reinforces the College’s mission to transform lives and communities.”

In the past year, Okanagan College and the Okanagan College Foundation have collectively disbursed more than $1 million in awards to 886 students at the Kelowna, Penticton, Salmon Arm and Vernon campuses.