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Back to school for RV pros at Okanagan College
A recipe for success: Canada’s best chefs pair up with Okanagan College students at Gold Medal Plates
Acclaimed author Madeleine Thien to speak at the College
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Back to school for RV pros at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

Carl HollmannCarl Hollmann is among those Okanagan College alumni who relish the close working relationship that his alma mater has with the Recreation Vehicle industry that has provided him with a fulfilling career.

Hollmann, who runs his own business in Nanaimo, B.C., was among 24 RV technicians gathered in early February at Okanagan College for industry-led training that familiarizes them with the most recent equipment and techniques used in the industry.

Most of them – like Hollmann – are Red Seal tradespeople and graduates of the College’s RV Service Technician program, which is the only one in the province.

The industry training was organized by the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of B.C. (RVDABC) and Okanagan College. Manufacturers and equipment suppliers came to the College’s Kelowna campus to provide the service techs with information about new technology.

“It was tremendous,” explains Hollmann, who has been a tech for 16 years. “Atwood Mobile Products was on hand Monday to show us and explain their new furnaces and water heaters. They have executed a complete redesign on their product line but it’s so fresh there are no service manuals yet, and tech support isn’t completely up to speed.”

“We run into the products in the RVs we service and this is the best way to bring yourself up to speed.”

Other manufacturers on hand included Dometic Corporation, Demco/Hijacker and Canadian Energy.

Hollmann, who has also done duty on occasion as an instructor at the College, is also a fervent advocate for the program and the career opportunities being an RV Service Tech affords.

“I’ve travelled around the world with it,” he says. “I went to Australia and worked for an RV dealership there. Inside two weeks I was shop foreman. They don’t have the kind of training program in Australia that we have here.”

He also used it when he went “snowbirding” to the southern U.S. – and ended up working for several months on inverters and solar panels for RVs.

The best part about being an RV Service Technician, though, says Hollmann is simple:

“It’s being able to fix your own everything.”

RV Service Techs get training in electrical systems, mechanics, plumbing, gas-fitting, construction, carpentry – it’s a collection of skills rolled into one apprenticeable trade, which has significant employer demand. Government statistics show that 95 per cent of Okanagan College’s RV Service Technician apprentices are employed.

“Many of the students who enrol in the RV program are surprised at how extensive the skill set they develop is,” says Cam McRobb, the chair of the College’s Motor Vehicle Trades Department. “The other thing – the really important thing – is that there is demand for trained technicians.”

“That demand, and the changing nature of the industry, is one of the reasons we work with Okanagan College to offer these professional development opportunities,” explains Joan Jackson, RVDABC’s Executive Director. “Our member companies have a vested interest in ensuring their technicians are as up-to-speed on new technologies and equipment as is possible. It’s part of their commitment to their customer base.”

Okanagan College will be offering a new intake of its 28-week foundation program in RV Service Technician in September 2016. For more information, you can call (250) 762-5445, ext. 4558 or email

A recipe for success: Canada’s best chefs pair up with Okanagan College students at Gold Medal Plates

Chantelle Eustache and Chef O'Flynn, GMP 2016Too many chefs in the kitchen is actually a good thing when it comes to the annual Canadian Culinary Championships’ Gold Medal Plates event, which takes place this weekend and includes more than 50 Okanagan College Culinary and Pastry Arts students who will provide support to 11 of the country’s most remarkable chefs.

“Experiencing Kelowna as a culinary epicentre with Canada’s best chefs descending on the city to battle it out is unique,” says Chef Bernard Casavant, Culinary Manager at Okanagan College and President of the Okanagan Chefs Association. “It’s a prime opportunity for the students to showcase the skills learned in class in a competition environment and allows them to network with some of Canada’s best chefs at a time when they are looking to launch their careers.”

Chantelle Eustache, who was a part of Chef Ryan O’Flynn’s gold-winning team at last year’s competition, echoes this.

“Getting to work beside these top chefs, rub shoulders with the industry’s best, it was over the top,” says the 32-year-old Okanagan Indian Band member from Vernon, who is now working at The Point Grill in Vancouver. She graduated from the College’s Culinary Arts program last June.

She recalls feeling nervous before meeting Chef O’Flynn for the first time, and the looming task ahead: creating 500 plates of a complex gastronomic dish, knowing there was a gold podium finish up for grabs.

“The first thing he said to us was to not let our nerves consume us, but to channel that energy into a focus, that helped a lot,” she says.

“Chef O’Flynn is a mentor to me. He spent a lot of time explaining the process about each step of the dish he had us create with him. He was a great teacher, even when he had a lot of pressure to win on him, he took the time for us.”

The admiration and respect that developed while working together clearly went both ways – O’Flynn specifically requested Eustache and another College chef who was a member of his winning team to join him this year as he prepares a four-course VIP dinner at Big White for 100 guests to kick-off the weekend’s festivities (an honour given to the defending champion).

Eustache is spending the days leading up to Thursday night’s reception to prep a menu boasting porcini panna cotta with Alba truffles, followed by a wild Canadian chowder with Coho salmon and boar, and a confit pork belly with black pudding crumble. The main course is pan-roasted King Cole duck breast with an Okanagan sherry sauce, and the menu’s finale will feature an intricate wine-poached Okanagan pear desert masterpiece.

For two days, starting Feb. 5, the College’s kitchens at the Kelowna campus will become a culinary battlefield with peeling, slicing, dicing, and searing taking place in preparation of the weekend’s events. The chefs prep their dishes at the College for Friday’s mystery wine pairing event at the Delta Grand Hotel and spend all of Saturday morning competing in the Black Box event at the College. The finale event is held Saturday evening at the Delta Grand Hotel.  

“Donating the use of our space is an industry contribution on behalf of the College, and facilitating our students’ involvement is an investment we make in their education,” says Casavant.

“Okanagan College provides a great space for the prep and their students are some of the best in the country,” says 2015 Gold Medal Plates winner O’Flynn. “In my opinion, I got the best two student chefs last year, of course I wanted them to join me again this year. I think that the College’s instructors’ experience and background has a lot to do with the quality training the students receive.”

With tickets sold out, those hungry to view the dynamic Black Box Challenge can catch the live feed online. A link will be released prior to the start of the competition at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning on Twitter: @GoldMedalPlates.

For more information on Gold Medal Plates events, visit

Acclaimed author Madeleine Thien to speak at the College
Okanagan College Media Release

UPDATE: Please note that this event has been cancelled due to illness.

Madeleine Thien Feb 2016Inspiring students and the public about the art of writing, Okanagan College’s Department of English is bringing one of B.C.’s prized authors to the Kelowna campus on Thursday, Feb. 4.

Award-winning author Madeleine Thien, of famed novels
Dogs at the Perimeter and Certainty and the short stories collection Simple Recipes, is recognized as an outspoken advocate for women and ethnic writers and for integrity in literary criticism and publishing. She also writes essays on diverse topics including female beauty, state surveillance, visual art, race, and literary politics.

“Thien is a master of the short story form and has gained national and international acclaim for the clarity, precision, and emotional depth of her writing,” said College English Professor Corinna Chong. “We are thrilled to be able to give students, aspiring writers, and lovers of literature the opportunity to meet her and to hear about her writing process.”

In addition to reading from her works, Thien will provide insights into her writing career followed by a question period and book signing. The College’s bookstore will be on hand for those wishing to purchase Thien’s works.

The long list of accolades Thien has received boasts the City of Vancouver Book Award, the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and the First Novel Award. Most recently, her short story
The Wedding Cake was shortlisted for England’s Sunday Time EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, recognized as the richest prize in the world for a single short story.

Thien will be releasing a highly anticipated new novel in May,
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, about musicians studying Western classical music at the Shanghai Conservatory during the 1960s.

The free public event will be held this Thursday in room B112 at the College’s Kelowna campus from 7 to 9 p.m.

For more information about the author, visit
Venture Okanagan 2016

$5,000 prize and connections are the promise of Venture Okanagan

Entrepreneurs are already honing their presentation skills as preparations continue for the 10th edition of Venture Okanagan, Western Canada’s largest student-run pitch session for entrepreneurs.

The event will be held in Kelowna at Okanagan College’s campus on February 18.

Twice annually, Venture Okanagan brings five local entrepreneurs together to compete for the attention of local investors. It’s a rewarding experience for participants and for observers.

And it’s a chance for students from Okanagan College’s School of Business to put their education and skills to work in helping develop local businesses. A group of student volunteers, who are part of Enactus Okanagan College, are the driving force behind Venture Okanagan, led this year by Lauren McKay.

GreenStep Solutions Inc., a local consulting firm focused on environmental sustainability, was the fortunate winner in Spring 2014’s Venture Okanagan event. “The Venture Okanagan process gives invaluable feedback and experience to start-ups,” says Angela Nagy, the CEO of GreenStep. “Participating in the pitching forum adds credibility and exposure that continues to pay off in the long term.” To date, her firm has worked with more than 1,200 businesses and organizations in several sectors, including private, public, non-profit and academic institutions.

There’s also the lure of a $5,000 prize for the event’s winner, provided by the title sponsor, Grant Thornton LLP. “The Okanagan is home to an amazing number of innovative entrepreneurs and businesses, and Venture Okanagan helps connect them with the capital, resources and relationships they need to grow and succeed,” explains Kevin Santos, Partner with Grant Thornton’s Kelowna office. “We are encouraged by the entrepreneurial spirit here, and are excited to be part of the upcoming Investor Forum.”

Beyond the prize and the chance to promote business ideas to local investors, Venture Okanagan is also a premium networking event. Tickets for the event are $40.88 and are available at Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and presentations start at 6 p.m.

Early registration open for the Okanagan College Half Marathon
Okanagan College Media Release

It’s time to hit the ground running and Okanagan runners can get a head start on the race: early-bird registration for the 2016 Okanagan College Half Marathon, 10 K and Relay Race is now open.Christy Lovig Jan2016

This is the 14
th year for the race, which will be held on Sunday, April 3 in Kelowna. The not-for-profit event raises scholarship funds that support Okanagan College students who are involved in recreation and athletics.

Last year, Kelowna’s Christy Lovig joined more than 400 running enthusiasts on the course that boasts unparalleled lake views to take the women’s 10 K title with a time of 36:48.

“I’ve run the College’s half marathon and 10 K numerous times, and I always look forward to the fast course throughout our beautiful city,” said Lovig. “It’s a pleasure to run in a well-organized event that is backed by such enthusiastic organizers, volunteers, supporters and participants.”

With start and finish lines at the Okanagan College Kelowna campus, the 21.1 km half marathon course runs along the scenic City Park and up to Knox Mountain before looping back towards Gyro Beach. The relay race allows up to five runners to share the same distance in 4 km segments, while the 10 K has runners turn around in City Park.

“We are doing a few things differently this year and I think our runners are going to be really happy with the improvements,” said Christine Ulmer, Race Director. “The course will remain the same but we’re enhancing some of our services for runners, most notably the food. We hear every year that we have the best post-race snacks and we’re going to provide an even better selection of food this year.”

The race will offer cash prizes to the winners of the half marathon event. Prizes for the top relay and 10 km finishers will also be handed out.

Each year, more than 60 volunteers from the community make the event possible and a great success. Non-runners who wish to be involved in the race can contribute their time as race volunteers or course marshals. No experience is necessary.

“We have volunteers of all ages who join us on race day,” said Ulmer. “From young families, local sports team members, and retired runners, everyone always has a great time at cheering our participants on along the course.”

To register, for more details about the course, and entry fee deadlines, visit

Those interested in volunteering can contact Michelle Lowry at 250-762-5445 ext. 4649 or at

Race quick facts:
  • Start time: 8 a.m. (10 K) and 8:15 a.m. (half marathon and relay)
  • Early Bird fees, until Feb. 14: $35 (10 K) and $50 (half marathon)
  • Relay team fees: $125 (until March 30)
  • Follow the Facebook page for updates, training tips and photos

Job-seekers to meet employers at College’s annual Business Expo & Employment Fair
Okanagan College Media Release

David Knapp Jan 2016Looking for work? Graduating students, alumni and community members can meet with the companies who are hiring at the ninth annual Business Expo & Employment Fair at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

More than 60 businesses will be present, looking to meet top candidates from across the Valley, representing a range of sectors including banking, business solutions, engineering technologies, IT, trades and even the Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Coast Guard.

“It’s about connecting those looking for work, with those who do the hiring directly for these enterprises,” said organizer and Okanagan College School of Business Program and Event Coordinator Jamie Morrow. “Having a chance to get beyond being just a name on a resume and present yourself to human resources managers can bring you one step closer to having a job and launching a career.”

One company in attendance will be CIBC, which has hosted a booth at the fair since it first launched in 2008. David Knapp, who is the Business Development Manager at CIBC for the B.C. and Northern Territories region and also an Okanagan College alumnus, says the appeal is in attracting candidates who are job-ready.

“Our experience is that Okanagan College graduates have the education, skills and professionalism that are the right match for our bank,” said Knapp. “The employment fair gives applicants and employers a chance to meet for a few minutes and from there we can add candidates to our prospect list for ongoing job opportunities.”

Knapp’s advice to those attending the fair is to come interview-ready: bring your resume, dress for the part, and have your “elevator pitch” in mind. He also mentions to not overlook transferable skills such as how a part-time job in a restaurant while attending college can be aligned with customer service, time management, and basic accounting skills.

“Job seekers need to maximize the short time by being as clear as possible about why our bank is a good fit for their goals, but it’s also important to explain why they are good fit for us,” explained Knapp. “Show us what you can bring to the company. We are looking to find great employees.”

In addition to CIBC, exhibitors will include Accelerate Okanagan, BC Tree Fruits, Capri Insurance, City of Kelowna, Kal Tire, Mission Hill Family Estate/CedarCreek Estate Winery, Sentes Automotive Group, Valley First Credit Union, and Westbank First Nation, to name a few. Certain employers also book additional rooms to conduct more in-depth interviews on the spot for applicants who meet the job criteria.

“It can be a quick process. The value is in making those connections and facilitating first impressions,” comments Morrow.

The public is invited to attend the Business Expo & Employment Fair at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, which will be held in the atrium of the Centre for Learning building from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Okanagan College School of Business and the Student, Graduate and Co-op Employment Centre sponsor the event.

For more information, go online: and click on business community for a full list of participating employers.
College program enables a one-year flight path to top-demand career

Shael Riendeau, AMESBoeing predicts a global industry demand for 609,000 aircraft maintenance technicians over the next 20 years, making it the most in-demand occupation in the aviation industry.

Locally the demand is echoed at KF Aerospace, Kelowna’s largest privately owned employer. In the last four years, the company that boasts over 500 employees in Kelowna has hired 29 of Okanagan College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Structures (AME-S) graduates (including the entire 2014 class), representing more than a quarter of their AME-S technicians labour force.

Those looking to have their career take flight within a year can still apply for the Feb. 1, 2016 intake of the AME-S certificate program at the College. Students are taught everything they need to become structures technicians that work on the skin and frame of an aircraft.

“Knowing I could finish classes and there was a high probability of a job right away was reassuring, and validated my choice in taking this program,” said 32-year-old Shael Riendeau who completed the College’s AME-S certificate program in December and started work immediately at KF Aerospace. “It’s not just a job, it’s a career, and in less than one year I was able to apply, take the program, graduate, and get hired.”

A career in the aircraft industry may have been written in the stars for Riendeau; his grandfather was a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force for 25 years. As such he was always exposed to planes when growing up, and found them fascinating.

While being an AME is a craftsman job, many are drawn to the industry for its cleanliness, job security, and work-life balance. In class students learn aircraft design, construction, installations, repairs and work with composite materials. The curriculum is up to date with high tech modern equipment and follows strict Transport Canada guidelines.

Partnering with industry to connect grads with employers is a pillar of Okanagan College’s success. Uniquely, the AME-S program is taught at the Kelowna airport sharing hangar space with KF Aerospace.

“It’s a real dialogue between the College, KF Aerospace and other industry stakeholders to ensure our students are exposed to the latest technologies, regulations, and standards,” said Dale Martell, Okanagan College AME program chair.

For Riendeau this translated to an education that was hands-on and prepared him for a job. “There’s a lot of shop time and you practice all your hand-skills such as riveting, drilling, and accuracy continuously.”

He adds that going on tours of KF Aerospace throughout the year was a great way to develop a solid idea of what the job would entail upon graduation and to build a rapport with those whom he now calls colleagues.

“They’d take us on tours when they had an interesting project in the hangar,” explained Riendeau. “I remember once they were adding a cargo door to the body of an airplane that previously didn’t have one, that was really cool. Being able to ask questions and integrate this learning into my education was definitely an asset.”

“By sharing our facility with the College, we see the students, who are potential hires, evolve to develop the precision skills needed to be job-ready in helping make planes safe to fly,” said Grant Stevens, Director of Human Resources at KF Aerospace. “As a nice synergy, by the time we are ready to interview them they too have a foundation in who we are as a company, what we do, and what we look for.

“At KF Aerospace we hire for the long-term, and while we hire from all over Canada, hiring locally ensures that these individual are here for the long haul, as they have established roots in the region.”  

Over 70 per cent of the College’s AME-S graduates are hired locally in the aircraft and helicopter industry, while others go on to work provincially, nationally or globally in this exciting industry that includes the armed forces, search and rescue and airline companies.   

For more information about the AME-S program starting Feb. 1 and to apply visit:

Boyd donation helps College make an impact in promoting automotive careers
Okanagan College Media Release

Methal Abougoush Jan 2016As a potential skills shortage looms that could affect the automotive sector in the Okanagan within the next five years, a local autobody shop owner is helping Okanagan College rev up excitement for careers in collision repair.

Boyd Autobody and Glass recently presented the College with a unique demonstration piece – a mobile collision repair demonstration vehicle which can be transported to local high schools. Boyd’s Owner Methal Abougoush, who volunteers his time as an industry advisor for the College’s Collision Repair programs, has been touring the vehicle around Kelowna and sharing tips of the trade with students.

“If we don’t continue to promote and drive young people into careers in the trades we simply won’t have the skilled workers our industry needs,” says Abougoush. “Our company is very supportive of the training offered by the College. It is so beneficial to the Okanagan to have this training available locally.”

In addition to the demonstration unit valued at over $15,000, Boyd Autobody and Glass has also donated to support much needed locker space in the new trades building under construction at the Kelowna campus.

Collision Repair facilities at the College are currently receiving upgrades as part of the $33-million 10,000 sq. metre renovation and expansion that will wrap up this spring with the opening of the new Trades Training Complex.

“It’s an exciting time for Collision Repair and for all our programs,” says Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores. “The donations of equipment, tools, and support for the new trades facilities and for our students are helping us continue to enhance our programs. We’re very grateful to all the donors who have stepped forward to support the project.”

Would-be students interested in starting training in Collision Repair at Okanagan College in 2016 should take note: an essay competition is running until the end of January. Entrance bursaries valued at up to $5,000 each will be awarded to 10 students who demonstrate financial need and who are able to enrol in eligible trades programs this year. More information is available at

“One of the messages I always share with students and parents is that there is so much mobility in the trades,”
explains Abougoush. “You can start your career as a technician and end up as a business owner. I only see the demand for this skill continuing to grow.”

The efforts of students are also helping to raise money and awareness for the program. Vehicles donated to the Collision Repair Department are repaired and auctioned off by the Okanagan College Foundation.

Proceeds go back into the program to purchase parts, equipment, and vehicles for the students to work on. In November, a 2010 Toyota Matrix with rear collision damage was repaired and auctioned off for $6,800 to benefit students. 

Unique food, wine tourism training to grow youth employment opportunities in Osoyoos and area
Okanagan College Media Release

Destination Osoyoos and Okanagan College are partnering to deliver Passport to Employment – an innovative program that aims to grow the food, wine and tourism industry by providing free, hands-on training to high school students in Osoyoos and Oliver.

“We recognized that if we could offer a hands-on training program to our local youth, we would all win,” says Brianne Hearle, Director of Marketing with Destination Osoyoos. “Our youth would be retained in our community, they would become gainfully employed during and after school years, and our hospitality sector businesses would have a better selection of certified, employment-ready workers resulting in a more stable human resource situation.”

Destination Osoyoos chose to partner with Okanagan College because as Gail Scott, Managing Director for Destination Osoyoos, says “the College had the expertise and knowledge to put the program together. This pilot has truly been a collaboration of talent, expertise and passion; and, it is being carefully followed by other organizations and communities in B.C. as a possible best practice for implementation.”

Passport to Employment is unique because the curriculum contains hands-on training and certification options in areas that the wine, food and tourism industry have long recognized are skill gaps. Topics include essential employment skills, professionalism in the workplace, as well as front desk, housekeeping and cashier training. Students will also earn valuable industry recognized certificates, including FoodSafe, WorldHost, Serving it Right, WorkSafe BC Occupational First Aid, WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System) and BC Wine Server.

“We worked closely with Destination Osoyoos to carefully design a program that produces graduates that can convey to visitors the exceptional experiences we have to offer in Osoyoos and area,” says Sharon Reems, Program Coordinator, Okanagan College. “We also have a distinct advantage in that our students will have the opportunity to connect with and learn from the industry that they hope to pursue a career in. Passport to Employment really showcases how our hospitality, wine and food businesses stand out as premium customer service providers.”

Passport to Employment is open to all current high school students in Oliver and Osoyoos. The program begins January 23 and runs until the middle of April. Classes will move between Okanagan College’s Oliver Centre and Osoyoos, and will be held on weekends and evenings. Students will receive four high school credits for successfully completing the program and have the opportunity to participate in a job fair sponsored by Destination Osoyoos. Graduates of the program will also be eligible to apply for a $1,000 scholarship to further their education.

“For those students that successfully complete this program,” says Scott, “they will undoubtedly be ahead of the crowd when it comes to securing jobs this summer and getting started into the career of their choice.”

Passport to Employment is free; current high school students in Oliver and Osoyoos can apply for a spot by calling Sharon Reems at 250-492-4305, ext. 3401 or emailing

College celebrates the first graduates of 2016 at Winter Convocation
Okanagan College Media Release

Amanda Schuffels Jan 2016Crossing the stage this weekend at Okanagan College’s first Convocation ceremony of 2016, 20-year-old Amanda Schuffels from Kelowna will be one of 310 students starting the year on the right foot with a valuable credential to help launch her dream career.

Schuffels is graduating from the Water Engineering Technology (WET) diploma program. While classes for the two-and-a-half-year program only ended in December 2015, she’s already hard at work submitting applications and interviewing with local companies in the Okanagan. Born and raised in Kelowna, she hopes to stay close to home, which was a key deciding factor for studying at Okanagan College, along with the quality of education she received.

“Okanagan College afforded me a hands-on education in labs and the co-op terms were hugely beneficial,” said Schuffels. “I was able to take pumps and valves apart, conduct chemical deliveries off of trucks, troubleshoot problems, and engage in lots of lab work. It gave me real examples to speak about during interviews and I feel prepared for the job ahead.”

In her first co-op term she spent eight months at the wastewater treatment plant in Trail. Her second co-op term was a four-month position at the water treatment facility in Lumby. Both allowed her to dive right into the industry and put to practical use the technical knowledge taught in class and labs.

“Pursuing the WET program just made sense. Every city has irrigation plants, and water and wastewater treatment facilities, with jobs that require specialized training. I know it’s a stable career choice,” she adds.

Gaining an education was top priority for Schuffels, who as a single mom cares for her three-year-old daughter Scarlette.

“When I had my daughter at 17, lots of naysayers told me that I couldn’t pursue any further education. I didn’t let that stop me,” said Schuffels. “I love to learn and education is important to me. I wanted to do something that had purpose. It’s about providing for my daughter, but also being a role model to her.”

Juggling the responsibilities of being a single parent, with a full-time student workload, and holding a part-time job was not easy, but resources at the College facilitated Schuffels’ ability to balance it all, along with support from her family.

“There are these great study rooms you can book for free at the College. It was a way to have my own space to study with no distractions and get the work done I needed to,” she reflects.

Schuffels’ hard work has paid off and she will celebrate this Saturday, Jan. 16, when the College will confer 310 credentials, comprised of 54 bachelor’s degrees, 18 associate degrees, 201 diplomas, and 37 certificates, at the convocation ceremony.  

The morning ceremony starts at 10:30 a.m. and will see students from Arts, Business, Computer Science, Engineering Technologies, Health and Social Development, and Science programs receive their credentials.  

This winter ceremony marks the first of six to be held in 2016. In June, the College will celebrate Trades Commencement, Spring Convocation, Vernon Convocation and Summer Convocation in separate events.

In 2015 Okanagan College graduated more than 2,000 students from its programs.  

Major funding announced for College research project advocating childhood outdoor play
Okanagan College Media Release

Advancing Early Childhood Educators’ (ECE) training curricula to include the benefits of unstructured outdoor play for children’s wellbeing is no child’s play for Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Okanagan College’s Director of Learning and Teaching, it’s serious work that just received a significant national funding boost.Beverlie Dietze Dec 2013

On Jan. 7, the Lawson Foundation announced funding for 14 projects across Canada as part of its $2.7 million Outdoor Play Strategy. Dietze, who is leading the Okanagan College project with valuable education partners including Dr. Diane Kashin from Toronto’s School of Early Childhood Studies at Ryerson University, faculty at Lethbridge College in Alberta and at Northern College in Ontario, the Justice Institute of British Columbia and the Canadian Child Care Federation received a $195,000 grant to develop a specialized training model for ECEs about children’s outdoor play that can be delivered in person or online, at no cost to participants.

“Our research leading up to now has shown a serious gap across the country in accessible and affordable training about the immense benefit outdoor play has on children’s development,” said Dietze. “Our aim is to provide the tools and necessary knowledge about outdoor play discovery and learning that will encourage those teaching our children to make it a priority in their programming.”

The project will develop 12 three-hour modules that will cover topics including: open space, intelligent materials, physical literacy, indigenous outdoor play practices, risk taking, accessibility, and diversity in children’s outdoor play needs. It is aimed at 400 current ECEs working in childcare centres in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario, as well as ECE faculty at Canadian post-secondary institutions in order to help propel the training of the future labour force.

“We are always proud to exemplify how Okanagan College contributes to the advancement of Canadian post-secondary education by innovation in teaching methods,” said Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Beverlie’s accomplishment with developing this project demonstrates how we achieve our commitment to excellent teaching, programming and applied research.

“We thank the Lawson Foundation for their support in making this project a reality through this important funding contribution,” expressed Hamilton.

“Ultimately, our collective goal is to get children outside to play, imagine, and explore,” explains Dietze. “Outdoor play has been proven to boost children’s overall health and wellness, academic performance, self-esteem and connections to environmental aesthetics and sustainability.”

Among 263 national letters of intent received by the Lawson Foundation, 12 proposals were selected to be a part of the strategy, plus an additional two proposals that were previously funded complete the group of 14. The projects were chosen based on their interest in exploring unstructured outdoor play that encourages kids to take risks, demonstration of being early adopters in the belief of outdoor play benefits, and examples of expertise in the subject.

Dietze has been recognized as a leading Canadian research expert in the field of outdoor play as part of early childhood education. Recently she worked with landscape architects in the Okanagan to innovate new playground spaces and with the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness supporting their outdoor play agenda. Her articles have appeared in a number of educational journals, and her first textbook
Foundations of Early Education (2006) was the first Canadian-authored ECE textbook focused on children’s outdoor play spaces.

For additional details about the Lawson Foundation’s Outdoor Play Strategy visit
Spring Speakers Series returns to College’s Penticton campus
Okanagan College Media Release

Throughout January to April, 11 speakers will take the stage weekly as part of Okanagan College’s spring 2016 Speakers Series at the Penticton campus. The public is invited to broaden their horizon of knowledge and hear about the research, published works, and subject expertise present in the South Okanagan region.

“Each year we compile a list of speakers to capture a range of community interests while showcasing the thought-leadership and cultural know-how of these professionals in our region,” said Donna Lomas, South Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Dean at Okanagan College. “Now in our 12
th year hosting the series, we always appreciate the community’s enthusiasm and support to hear from these remarkable individuals.”

The talks will range in topics including: art, history, housing affordability, mental health, sustainability, the environment, immigration and community involvement. 

Lomas herself is intrigued by the highlight of the fine arts in this roundup of speakers. 

“We usually only experience artists – painters, actors, authors – through their creative interpretation. But peeling back the layers, the speakers will candidly share the struggles and rewards of being an artist, and the immense benefit the arts play in our community,” she explained.

Frances Greenslade Jan 2016One such artist is published author and College English Professor Frances Greenslade who will respond to the question of how to find time to write in her Feb. 22 talk “A Writing Life in two Metaphors.” She will draw from her 30 years of writing experience to share the struggles and solutions she’s learned along the way.

“I often feel that writing is more of a trade in that it requires that patience and focused practice with the tools to learn what works,” she explained. “But, I also compare writing to fishing, where a writer needs to plumb the depth of inspiration, and put something on the hook to catch it.” 

Greenslade also adds: “Our society has grown increasingly preoccupied with the economy, and the pursuit of financial rewards. One thing the arts do is remind us of the value of dreams, and shows us the value of things we can’t measure in dollars and cents.”

The Speakers Series takes place on Monday evenings at the Penticton campus lecture theatre from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Admission is by donation, benefitting the College’s Emergency Student Bursary program. Parking on campus is complimentary for the events.
Schedule of events:
  • Jan. 11: Jon Bartlett and Rika Ruebsaat, cultural historians, singers, and scholars, “Soviet Princeton: Slim Evans and the 1932/33 Miner's Strike”
  • Jan. 18: Robert Ryan, Okanagan College Business Professor, “Affordable Housing in British Columbia - Perspectives”
  • Feb. 1: Janet White, Registered Clinical Counsellor at Maya Counselling, “The Importance of Anxiety”
  • Feb. 22: Frances Greenslade, Okanagan College English Professor, “A Writing Life in Two Metaphors”
  • Feb. 29: Jeremy Beaulne, Okanagan College English Professor, “The Play's the Thing: Community Theatre in the Okanagan Valley”
  • Mar. 7: Dorothy Tinning, Artist, former Mayor of Penticton, and Okanagan College Honorary Fellow, “The Essential Elements for an Artist”
  • Mar. 14: Dr. Amy Vaillancourt, Okanagan College Sustainable Construction Management Technology program Chair and Professor, “Benefits of Green Walls”
  • Mar. 21: Don Gayton, ecologist and author, “Overview of Okanagan Wetlands”
  • Apr. 4: Nora Hunt-Haft, Local Immigration Partnership Coordinator at the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services, “Aspirations of Immigration”
  • Apr. 11: Wendy Weisner, South Okanagan Volunteer Centre Society Executive Director, “Volunteering - It's Good for You, Your Community, and for Those You Help”
  • Apr. 18: Bob and Brita Park, “Why Local Environmental Activism is Important”

For detailed topic descriptions of the speakers’ talks, visit:

Competition win a sweet success for culinary student, next round serves up $50,000 in trades entrance bursaries
Okanagan College Media Release

Between juggling a busy work schedule and caring for her three-year-old son, sous chef Rachel Broe thought her dream of becoming a certified Red Seal Chef would have to stay on the backburner. Then she found the recipe for a new future in 500 words or less.Rachel Broe Jan 2016

“I was completely overwhelmed when I found out I had won, it was a life-changing moment,” says Broe, who learned last summer that that an essay she had penned was selected as the top entry in a B.C.-wide competition organized by the Okanagan College Foundation, the College’s Trades and Apprenticeship department and Sun FM stations in Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton.

Broe enrolled in the Professional Cook Apprenticeship program at the Kelowna campus in September and has been quick to parlay her training into new opportunity. Now, she is inviting others to follow her lead and tell their story – it could mean a major entrance bursary to Okanagan College by the end of this month.

Entries for the second round of the competition will be accepted from Jan. 11-31. Ten bursaries valued at $5,000 each will be awarded to students who demonstrate financial need and who are looking to enrol in one of five eligible Foundation trades programs at Okanagan College this year: Culinary Arts, Collision Repair, RV Technician, Residential Construction and Sheet Metal Worker.

“Cooking has always been my passion,” says Broe. “But my son is my top priority. So receiving a bursary like this has taken the stress out of going back to school. It has allowed me to focus on my future and get the most out of this amazing opportunity.”

Shortly after moving to Kelowna, she landed a new job in the fast-paced kitchen of the Tree Brewing Beer Institute in downtown Kelowna. Broe also hopes to compete against some of the best up-and-coming chefs in the province at the Skills Canada culinary competitions coming up in April.

Her previous experience includes more than five years working up the line to Sous Chef in the busy kitchen of Theos Restaurant in Penticton. Broe credits owners Theo and Mary Theodosakis for nurturing in her a deep love and respect for food.

“Having love in your food is very important,” she notes. “The family at Theo’s has broadened my passion and
helped me immensely throughout my journey.”

Ultimately, Broe hopes to complete Level 3 apprenticeship training, which involves 36 weeks of classroom training and three years of work based training as a chef.

“I’m incredibly excited about what this training can mean for my future. I’ve already learned an incredible amount in a short time at the College,” she says.

Entries are now being accepted for the second round of the Trades Tuition Competition. The competition is open to B.C. residents aged 17 years or older. Full contest rules and more information about how to enter can be found at

The competition is being coordinated in partnership with Sun FM in Kelowna, Vernon and Penticton and EZ Rock Salmon Arm and Revelstoke which have donated media and promotional support to help promote this opportunity to potential students from Salmon Arm to the South Okanagan. Bursaries have been made possible as part of a generous donation of $250,000 to Okanagan College made by The Joyce Foundation in December 2015.

Culinary Arts open house demonstrates ripe opportunities for Okanagan chefs
Okanagan College Media Release

Jenna Pillon May 2015Imagine landing your dream job at the age of 25. Chef Jenna Pillon has done just that and was able to do it without leaving the Okanagan Valley. 

Pillon is settling into her second year at the helm of one of the South Okanagan’s most esteemed winery restaurants, Hester Creek’s Terrafina in Oliver, and is savouring every minute of it. 

Her culinary career took off rather quickly once she completed her Professional Cook Level 3 Apprenticeship at Okanagan College in 2011. After a two-month stint as a sous-chef, she was promoted to Restaurant Chef at Terrafina.

“I am where I’d hoped to be in five years,” she says. “I’ve come a long way in a short period of time and I’m still working on what’s next.” 

Long before she was creating beautiful dishes at Terrafina, cooking formed a significant part of her life. Pillon grew up cooking at home in Salmon Arm with her family but it wasn’t until she got her first job in a kitchen at a pub in her hometown at the age of 16 that the idea of cooking professionally became a real interest.  

“I realized the excitement of cooking on a line was fantastic and decided to pursue it more,” said Pillon. 

And pursue it she did. After completing her Professional Cook Level 1, she became an apprentice chef at Manteo Restaurant in Kelowna under renowned Chef Bernard Casavant, who is now the Culinary Manager at Okanagan College. She then successfully challenged the Professional Cook Level 2 exams and entered the six-week Level 3 apprenticeship program at Okanagan College. 

For Pillon, the best part of the Culinary Arts program at Okanagan College was the opportunity for hands-on learning. 

“Learning how to process local wild boar and venison in class was fantastic,” she said. “The College’s instructors are very knowledgeable. They helped me so much with wine knowledge, competition practice and constructive criticism. They try to make you the best cook you can be.”

The College is opening up its kitchen doors on the evening of Thursday, May 14, from 7:30-8:30 p.m., and is inviting anyone interested in pursuing a career in Culinary Arts, Pastry Arts or Culinary Management to explore the options for training for a dynamic career. 

“Cooking is a craft that takes true passion and it can be intimidating for the average person who hasn’t had any professional training,” explained Chef Casavant. “The truth is, with the right instruction and opportunities, anyone with that passion can turn it into a career with endless possibilities.”

Anyone interested in attending the free Culinary Arts open house can contact Chef Geoffrey Couper at to register.  
Making the case for evidence-based science in the political arena
Okanagan College Media Release

Katie Gibbs Jan 2016 WebA new era of optimism for science in Canada is emerging. Within days of coming into power, the federal Liberal government lifted a veil of secrecy by giving government scientists a green light to speak directly to the media and the public. 

This change invites the question: will we see science play an increasing role in government decision-making in the near future? 

Dr. Katie Gibbs, co-founder and Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy, will address this notion in a public talk titled “Evidence for Democracy: is science on the rise?” on Tuesday, Jan. 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus lecture theatre. 

Canadian government scientists play a key role in safeguarding the country’s environment, air, water, and food. They are also extensively involved in the review and regulation of industrial and consumer products such as pesticides and medicine. Scientists’ ability to communicate freely about their work and concerns to both the media and public is paramount to ensure transparency in government decision-making that is supported by evidence-based science.  

Gibbs argues that government actions in recent years have weakened the country’s foundation for informed decision-making. These changes have happened in three distinct ways: a reduction in the ability of government scientists to communicate their research to the public, the erosion of fundamental research and environmental monitoring among other science initiatives, and a reduction in the role scientific evidence plays in policy decisions.

“The impacts of these changes go far beyond science,” asserts Gibbs. “Science and evidence are essential elements of a functioning democracy, which requires informed citizens and transparent decision-making.”  

She adds that the recent changes invoked by the Liberals are promising but there is still much work to be done. This includes the need to enshrine the right of scientists to open communication in formal policies and the rebuilding of Canada’s research capacity through publicly funded science.

Gibbs is a scientist, organizer and advocate for science and evidence-based policies. While completing her PhD at the University of Ottaw
a, she was a lead organizer of the “Death of Evidence” rally, one of the largest science rallies in Canadian history. An avid spokesperson on science policy issues, organizations and national media outlets alike frequently seek her expertise commentary.

Admission to the lecture is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644.
To subscribe or obtain more information visit

Presented jointly by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre, the Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Vernon Atrium Hotel and Conference Centre, Starbucks Coffee, Cooper’s Food, and the Vernon Morning Star.

Lunelli family helps Okanagan College inspire the automotive tradespeople of tomorrow
Okanagan College Media Release

A local family that includes two generations of Okanagan College alumni has made a major donation to assist the next generation of automotive technicians at B.C.’s second largest trades training institution.Lunelli Family Jan. 2016

Tony and Franca Lunelli, founders of Anthony’s Subaru, have pledged $50,000 to the Bright Horizons - Building for Skills fundraising campaign. The donation will assist the College to build and outfit a classroom space in the new Trades Training Complex under construction at the Kelowna campus.

“Skilled technicians are always in demand in our industry,” says Franca Lunelli. “Tony and I are firm believers in the importance of education, and so we’re delighted to support the College and the automotive apprentices of the future.”

“This generous gift to Okanagan College and its students is all the more meaningful given the Lunelli family’s long history with the College,” says Kathy Butler, Executive Director of the Okanagan College Foundation. “We are so grateful for their support and appreciate the wonderful connection they have built as alumni, mentors, and donors.”

Since moving to the Okanagan in 1970 from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, the automotive business has been a constant in the lives of the Lunellis.

After beginning his career as a technician and working in sales for more than a decade, Tony Lunelli opened 5
th Avenue Auto in West Kelowna in 1981. He acquired the property for the original Anthony’s Subaru dealership in 1988 and began selling Subarus in 1995; a second Subaru dealership followed in Penticton in 1998.

The business remains a family enterprise. New Anthony’s Subaru dealerships launched in Penticton in 2000 and Kelowna in 2014, operated by the Lunelli’s children, Christina Bailey and Anthony Lunelli Jr., both Okanagan College alumni.

“Our family’s connection to the College began with my dad who upgraded his education by taking business courses at the College in the early 1980s, and the connection grew from there,” says Bailey, who studied Arts at Okanagan College in 1994 before completing her degree at UBC. Her brother Anthony completed his Bachelor of Business Administration at the College in 2007.

“We’ve hired apprentices from the College for decades,” explains Anthony. “It has been wonderful to witness the growth of trades at the College over the years, and now to be a part of the next chapter is very exciting and humbling.”

A recent labour market outlook identified Automotive Service Technicians (AST) as one of the top three trades sector occupations in the Okanagan. Demand is expected to remain strong, with call for more than new 1,100 technicians provincially between now and 2024.

Currently, more than 200 FTE (full-time equivalent) automotive students train at the College per year. An expanded and rejuvenated automotive shop opened to students last year as part of the $33-million renovation and expansion of its trades facilities that will wrap up next spring with the opening of the new complex. Gifts like the Lunelli’s will help the College continue to upgrade shop and classroom spaces. The new complex will accommodate more than 2,600 students and will provide the College’s trades students with new labs, classrooms, study and food service space.

The fundraising campaign’s goal is $7 million — including $2 million for new programming and student support — to top up the Provincial Government’s $28-million investment in the project.

More information about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to support students is available at
A beautiful thing - OC student's work helps industry

An Okanagan College student’s class project is turning out to be a valuable resource for B.C.’s estheticians and spa owners.

Faye Hughes, a fourth-year student in OC’s Business Administration degree program, has produced a 50-page human resources manual as part of her Social Entrepreneurship course. She worked closely with Heather Stewart, the Co-President of the Estheticians and Spa Professionals Association British Columbia and the organization’s board to understand and address members’ needs for HR information and direction.FayeHughes.jpg

“She was just amazing and her manual went far beyond what we initially expected,” says Stewart. “Faye and I will be presenting the manual at our convention in February in Vancouver and will be giving all the members an electronic copy.”

That convention draws about 5,000 people.

Hughes was able to draw on her own working experience as she prepared the manual: before returning to school at Okanagan College, she was certified as a hairstylist and worked in the industry for a year and a half.

“When I saw this on the list of potential projects we could undertake as part of our course, I thought immediately ‘this was tailor-made for me.’”

And from Stewart’s description of how the project bloomed under Hughes’ efforts, it was destiny at work. “She trained as a hairstylist, she worked in a spa, she knows the industry. Faye really went above and beyond. The scope and depth of material covered in her manual was beyond what we had initially envisioned.”

“Amazing” is a word that Stewart uses frequently in the conversation about the project. “She is a young woman who takes initiative, communicates well, uses technology to bridge a broad geography and connect with a diverse board.”

The manual is focused on helping the owners of small- and medium-sized businesses understand and implement good human resources practices, explains Stewart. Already, there is interest from a college in the Lower Mainland to use the manual in its esthetician training program. And Leading Spas of Canada – the national organization of spa owners – is reviewing it for distribution as well, reports Stewart.

For Hughes, the project is memorable for a whole host of reasons. It was satisfying to work with a professional organization with well-defined needs and being able to address those, she reports. But more than that “it was incredible how everything I’ve learned over the past four years in business at Okanagan College in human resources and other courses came into play with my experience on this.”

“Each year there are several of these success stories coming out of our student projects,” explains OC Business Administration Professor Dr. Kyleen Myrah. “Since we started offering this course in 2007, students have completed more than 200 projects with approximately 125 different organizations. It’s testament to the outreach of our program, but more than that, it is a testament to the quality of our students and what they are able to achieve as a consequence of their education.”

Hughes is set to graduate in June with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree.

Mentors give back to College

Mentors give back to the College in a big way

Inspired by their experience mentoring trades students nearly a decade ago, two long-time Okanagan College donors have come forward with a major gift to support the training of the Valley’s future carpenters.Jimandyvonnelamb.jpeg
Jim and Yvonne Lamb, owners of Vintage Design Ltd., recently donated $32,000 to assist the College with renovations to the carpentry shop at the Kelowna campus.
“I didn’t get here by myself,” says Jim Lamb. “I was able to learn my trade and build a business because people supported me and helped me learn along the way. And now I’m a firm believer that we need to invest in the next generation and ensure they know how to build it right the first time.”
Lamb has been helping students get hands-on training at the College since 2007, when he invited classes from the Residential Construction program to work alongside experienced tradespeople in the construction of two “Home for Learning” projects in the Village of Kettle Valley.
Students in the program worked under the supervision of their instructors and were mentored by Lamb, who served as the general contractor for the projects. Once the homes were complete, they were sold and the proceeds – more than $225,000 – were donated to the College and the Village of Kettle Valley to create awards for students entering the building trades.
Over the past decade, the Vintage Design fund has provided $17,400 in tuition credits to 10 students starting the Residential Construction, Plumbing, and Electrician programs.
“We are very grateful to Jim and Yvonne Lamb for their long-time support of students over the years and now for this generous donation toward the new carpentry shop,” says Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship at Okanagan College.
“In addition to the financial support, the time and knowledge they have invested as mentors through the Home for Learning projects are deeply appreciated.”
When the Lambs learned that the College was seeking support to upgrade its decades-old carpentry shop, they decided to roll the remainder of their award fund, more than $30,000, into a one-time gift that could have a big impact.
“Supporting higher education is so important in general but particularly in this industry, says Yvonne Lamb. “We hope this gift will remind and inspire others to keep passing on their knowledge and support to tradespeople-in-training.”
The College is currently upgrading several existing shops at the Kelowna campus to match the same goals for sustainability as the new Trades Training Complex going up along KLO Road, which is being built to achieve LEED Platinum standards, net-zero energy usage, and carbon neutrality. Updated Welding and Heavy Duty Mechanical shops are already in operation.
When doors open next spring, the new complex will provide room for more than 2,600 students to train each year—including approximately 260 FTE (full-time equivalent) Carpentry apprentices and foundation (pre-apprenticeship) students.
Local homebuilders and developers have shown strong support for the $7-million fundraising campaign. More than $435,000 has been committed from the construction sector, including donations of $100,000 from Wilden, more than $62,400 from Village of Kettle Valley, $50,000 from Team Construction Management Ltd., $10,000 from the Canadian Homebuilders Association – Okanagan, and others.
“It’s a great time to get into this trade and an important time for employers to support education so that we have a skilled work force going forward,” says Jim Lamb.
Demand for carpenters is expected to remain strong in the Okanagan in coming years. The province projects job openings for 2,346 carpenters in the region, placing the occupation at the top of the trades sector in terms of job openings, followed by Red Seal cooks, automotive service technicians, and electricians.
More information about the College’s new Trades Training Complex project and opportunities to support students is available at

Denesiuk becomes Board Chair

Okanagan College News Release - Dec. 24, 2016

New OC Board Chair has strong resume

The incoming Chair of Okanagan College’s Board of Governors has a distinguished history of leading educational organizations.denesiuk

Connie Denesiuk, of Summerland, will assume responsibilities of the Chair on Jan. 1, following in the footsteps of Tom Styffe, who finishes six years of service on the Board (three as Board Chair).
Denesiuk will be joined on the executive by Doug Manning as Vice-Chair. (Manning has served on the Board since 2010.)

Denesiuk joined the College Board in 2012. Previously, she was Chair of the Okanagan Skaha School District for nine of the 19 years she served as a school trustee. She also served for three years as President of the B.C. School Trustees Association and a director of the Canada School Board Association. She is also the former chair of the Trail of the Okanagans

“Over the past decade, Okanagan College has become an incredible success story in the province and has earned national attention for its achievements,” notes Denesiuk. “There are incredible opportunities as we move forward, and I’m pleased to be picking up where Tom (Styffe, outgoing Board Chair) leaves us.”

“I have seen first-hand the contribution Okanagan College makes to the region, in terms of transforming lives and communities and I know that is going to continue and intensify in the years ahead. I’m also excited to be stepping into the role at a time when we have just adopted and are about to implement a new strategic plan.”

She and husband Bob have been partners in a Summerland-based construction business for the past 30 years.

 “Connie’s extensive experience in leading boards and working at the provincial and federal level on behalf of education will serve Okanagan College and the post-secondary sector well,” notes Styffe. “I wrap up my tenure knowing that the Board has strong leadership and a tremendous membership.”


Students thankful to donors in the community as holidays approach
Okanagan College Media Release

During the busy season of giving, an Okanagan College student and father of four is taking the time to express his gratitude to donors who have brought the gift of education back into his life this year.Steven Steed Dec 2015

Steven Steed is among the 866 students throughout the region who collectively received more than $1 million in scholarships and bursaries provided by Okanagan College and the Okanagan College Foundation over the past year—many of which are made possible through the generous support of donors.

For Steed, the $2,500 he received between two Okanagan College entrance awards and the John and Nancy Woodworth Award means he can finally reach for the career that has long been a dream. Having successfully completed upgrades at the College over the past year, he will begin the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program in 2016.

“I’m so thankful to the generous donors who make these awards possible,” says Steed. “These are people who didn’t know anything about me, had never heard my story, and yet they cared enough to invest in my future.”

A certified Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Steed’s decision to continue his education and become a nurse was inspired by his sons Nicholas and Cameron, both of whom were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes before the age of 2.

“My children are a huge source of inspiration,” explains Steed. “Their life is not easy, nor is it fair, but I hope one day to be able to provide other people with the same quality of care our family has received over the years from the nurses and doctors in Kelowna.”

Helping other children and their families cope with diabetes has become a mission for Steed; he and his wife April have been active volunteers with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation since shortly after Nicholas’ diagnosis in 2004.

“I am passionate about helping people. To have experienced support like this for my education and to have people wanting to help me with my future is very motivating.”

Steed shared the story of his journey back to College as a mature student with a crowd of more than 200 students and donors at the Kelowna campus award ceremony on November 19.

Of the $1 million given out this year, Okanagan College and the Okanagan College Foundation handed out more than $325,000 to students at fall awards ceremonies in Kelowna, Penticton, and Vernon this November. Another $75,000 in support went out to students at the Salmon Arm campus awards ceremony in June, bringing the grand total awarded at this year’s ceremonies to over $400,000.

The annual fall award ceremonies provide a timely boost of support for students as the holidays approach. The ceremonies also bridge another gap by connecting students with the individuals and organizations behind the awards.

“We are reminded especially at this time of year what a truly phenomenal impact community support has on our students,” said Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “On behalf of Okanagan College, I would like to congratulate all of this year’s award recipients and extend our deepest thanks to all of the donors brightening futures by supporting education in our region.”

A gift 50 years in the making: donor honours father’s legacy
Okanagan College Media Release

Cookson donation Dec 2015One of the valley’s longest-running family-owned commercial trucking businesses has come forward with a big gift for trades students at Okanagan College, in honour of its founder who helped pave the way for the industry in Kelowna.

Cookson Motors Ltd., owned by Hugo Cookson Jr., has donated $50,000 to the Okanagan College Foundation’s Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign in support of the new Trades Training Complex under construction at the Kelowna campus.

The donation is being made in honour of Cookson’s father Hugo Cookson Sr., who founded Cookson Motors in Kelowna more than 50 years ago in 1965.

“My dad did his apprenticeship in Kelowna, and had a strong belief in the apprenticeship process,” says Cookson.

The commercial truck sales, leasing, and servicing company has grown from three employees in 1965 to a staff of more than 70 today; a second dealership was purchased in Penticton in 2001.

“As our company has grown there has always been a need for skilled apprentices,” says Cookson. “My dad recognized the importance of investing in the next generation and so this gift is meant to carry on that legacy.”

Cookson Sr. passed away in September at the age of 87. A plaque in his memory will be placed outside of the classroom bearing his name in the College’s newly renovated Heavy Duty Mechanical Trades shop.

“On behalf of Okanagan College I want to express our appreciation to Cookson Motors, and to all the donors helping us build for the future,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.

“It is particularly inspiring for our trades students to see this kind of support locally from organizations, families, and individuals who have played a role in growing the trades sector in our surrounding communities,” says Hamilton.

Upgrades to the heavy duty shop were completed in summer 2013 as the first phase in the College’s current $33-million renovation and expansion project in Kelowna.

Added to the shop were three new classrooms (including the classroom named in Cookson Sr.’s honour) and a 1,858-square-metre outdoor training space, which is covered by a canopy housing one of the province’s largest arrays of photovoltaic solar panels.

Cookson Jr., an alumnus of the College’s Business Administration program, has been a supporter of the project since early in the renovation. In addition to sitting on the Program Advisory Committee for the Heavy Duty program previously, he joined the Bright Horizons campaign team last year as a volunteer Sector Chair.

“It’s a very worthwhile cause and I hope this gift inspires other people in the community and in the industry to come forward and support students as our company has,” he says.

When doors open next spring, the new Trades complex will accommodate more than 2,600 students, almost doubling capacity for trades training at the Kelowna campus. Okanagan College is currently the second largest trades training institution in B.C.

The provincial government has committed $28 million to the project. The Okanagan College Foundation is aiming to raise another $7 million for capital construction and program and student support.

To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit  
On your mark, get set, write: 3-hour short story contest winners
Okanagan College Media Release

Armed with only their creativity and the words at their fingertips, 60 budding writers participated in Okanagan College’s annual 3-Hour Short Story contest in November at the four campus locations.

Four regional authors (one per campus) were named the recipients of the $250 tuition credit prize:
  • Vernon – “Watercolours” by Daniel Greene (Okanagan College)
  • Penticton – “Mother” by Marina Meyer (Okanagan College)
  • Salmon Arm – “The Legend of Mr. Mustache” by Amy Nicholson (King’s Christian School)
  • Kelowna – “I Heard” by Kirsten Kvaale (Okanagan College)
Daniel Greene Dec 2015   Amy Nicholson Dec 2015  Marina Meyer Dec 2015
Daniel Greene  Amy Nicholson  Marina Meyer

For his tale about alcoholism, family history, and memories painted in watercolours, as recounted by a grandmother to her grandson, second-year Associate of Arts degree student Daniel Greene from Vernon took home the overall top prize. He received an additional $250 tuition credit and will have his story published in a limited fine-print edition by the Kalamalka Press.

“Even though I had prepared for the contest and had an idea of what I may want to write, it is hard in just three hours,” said 20-year-old Greene. “You really don’t have time to re-read which actually helps the creative process. It allows your ideas to flow better and you can’t second-guess yourself.”

Up against a 180-minute ticking clock, the Grade 11, 12, and Okanagan College student authors were challenged with needing to incorporate the secret phrase “downy moustache” into their story, a phrase only revealed at the start of the contest. Faced with the fear of writers’ block (the contest does not allow any previously authored materials and no online access is available) the authors conquered their fear and made the job of the judging panel that much more difficult.

“Each year it is astonishing the scope of creativity and talent we see these budding authors showcase in such a short amount of time,” says Okanagan College English professor, contest judge and organizer Dr. Sean Johnston. “The outlook for the already thriving writers’ community in the valley looks very promising based on all the entries we read.”

In addition to Johnston, College Professors and authors Corinna Chong, Francie Greenslade, Jeremy Beaulne, Steve Weber, Dr. Shona Harrison, Jeremy Lanaway, and Hannah Calder judged the contest. All entries were anonymous, allowing the judging panel to review each story indiscriminately.

The winning stories can be read online at

Regional winners’ quotes and profiles:

Salmon Arm:

Grade 11 King’s Christian School student Amy Nicholson is currently working on a medieval time-set novel in her spare time and credits it as an inspiration for her short story. “The Legend of Mr. Mustache” is a hero’s tale with elves, goblins and magic centered on a grandfather’s prophecy about a man with a downy mustache.

“It seemed like a difficult task, writing an entire story in three hours, but I wanted to stretch myself and give it a try,” said Nicholson. “I’ve been wondering whether to pursue writing as more than a hobby, and I think winning this helped confirm that there is something to pursue.”


Originally from South Africa, 57-year-old Marina Meyer who is studying Arts at the Penticton campus of the College says writing has always been a passion and she hopes to teach English as a second language throughout Africa after completing her studies. Her short story “Mother” is a melancholy narrative about two siblings, one a member of the South African military, who are juxtaposed in terms of the relationships they each have with their mother, and each other.

“Most of the time, the mere act of writing inspires me to write. Many of my stories are musings,” said Meyer. “For me, winning this contest means that some of my tuition is going to be paid because I spent three hours doing something I adore. What could be better than that?”

College students’ Stash Bash raises funds for BC Cancer Foundation
Okanagan College Media Release

You may have noticed Kelowna gentlemen growing a little hairier this past Movember. Keeping to the theme and in support of the moustache the annual Stash Bash raised $2,250 in support of the BC Cancer Foundation in Kelowna.Stash Bash 2015

Now in its fourth year, the Stash Bash is a collaboration between the College’s Okanagan Business Students’ Association (OBSA) and Family Photos Kelowna. The fundraising initiative includes a “concert for cancer” with proceeds benefitting prostate cancer research and treatment in our community. More than 150 stash supporters attended this year’s event, which was held on Nov. 14 at the Habitat Bar, and featured a performance from the local band Wild Son. The band also donated their appearance fees to the event.

With a family member recently diagnosed with cancer and undergoing treatment, second-year Okanagan College Bachelor of Business Administration student and OBSA President Roger Hulstein knows all too well how valuable the work of the BC Cancer Foundation is in the region.

“You never beat cancer, but it’s comforting to know that there is research being done,” said Hulstein. “For myself, and the OBSA team, it felt great to know we can contribute to helping improve treatment for patients. If everyone does a little bit, it helps.”

He adds that hosting a concert benefit for attendees to enjoy an evening of music is a fun way to get people to donate, rather than just asking for the funds.

“We’re very proud to see students demonstrate of their own accord their commitment to the community around us,” says Okanagan College Business Professor, and an OBSA faculty advisor, Devin Rubadeau. “This extracurricular event organized by the Business students provides an excellent and valuable experience for them to practice what they learn in class.”

Entirely student led, Stash Bash has come a long way since its first inception in 2011, when it was held in the Student Services building at the Kelowna campus. The event’s popularity has grown year over year, and naturally outgrew the space. The organizers hope that this trend trajectory will continue and that even more can be raised next year.

Okanagan College receives $250,000 from The Joyce Foundation for trades bursaries
Okanagan College Media Release

Joyce Foundation Donation 1A major gift from The Joyce Foundation will soon open doors to education and help make dreams a reality for scores of current and future students at Okanagan College.

The $250,000 donation will be used to create entrance bursaries and augment existing financial aid for students in the College’s Trades and Apprenticeship programs.

“This gift represents a tremendous investment in the future of many students in our region,” says Okanagan College’s President Jim Hamilton. “We are very grateful to The Joyce Foundation for enhancing our efforts to make trades training accessible for a diverse array of learners.

“This support is very timely when you consider that B.C. will need 160,000 new tradespeople over the next decade, including more than 10,000 in the Okanagan alone.”

The $250,000 cheque is one of the largest donations ever received by Okanagan College for bursaries and student support.

At least $50,000 in entrance bursaries for students demonstrating financial need – 10 awards valued at $5,000 each – will be made available beginning in January. Additional entrance bursaries and funding for literacy and numeracy tutoring for trades students will be made available throughout 2016 and 2017.Joyce Foundation Donation 2

“Education is key in opening new pathways to success. The Joyce Foundation is very pleased to be part of that process at Okanagan College,” said Ron Joyce, founder of The Joyce Foundation and well-known Canadian entrepreneur.

The Joyce Foundation’s primary focus is to provide access to education for children and youth with significant financial need or who are facing other socio-economic barriers to success. This gift was made available by Ron Joyce with the support of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees, including Grant Joyce, Steven Joyce, Hon. Ed Lumley, Rob MacIsaac, Aileen O’Rafferty, Michele Thornley, and David Wagstaff.

“We are very excited to see young people use these entrance awards as a catalyst for change in their lives,” says Kathy Butler, Executive Director of the Okanagan College Foundation. “And for our existing students in need of support, the impact will be just as profound – for some, it can mean the difference between staying in school or not.”

Following today’s official announcement of the donation, trades students, instructors and Okanagan College employees at the Kelowna campus gathered together to voice their gratitude to the Joyce Foundation. The video can be viewed here:

“This is an amazing contribution for students,” said Spencer LaPointe, a student in the Automotive Service Technician Foundation program. “Thank you to The Joyce Foundation for building on the foundation of support available to us.”

Increasing access to trades training remains a priority for Okanagan College, which is B.C.’s second largest trades training institution. The 12-week Gateway to Trades program provides mentorship opportunities to high school students and students at risk. Some of the Joyce Foundation funding will assist students transitioning from the Gateway program to an Apprenticeship or Foundation (pre-Apprenticeship) program.

The Joyce Foundation’s donation will count towards the Okanagan College Foundation’s $2-million goal for student and program support as part of the overall $7-million Bright Horizons, Building for Skills fundraising campaign in support of the $33-million renovation and expansion of Trades Training facilities at the Kelowna Campus.

More information about the campaign is available at

$1 million in funding announced to support apprenticeship in high demand trades
Okanagan College Media Release

Apprentices, employers, and anyone considering a career in trades should take note: LNG Canada has announced $1 million in private funding to support employers sponsoring apprentices and foundation (pre-apprentice) trades students in programs from Carpentry to Welding.Trades Training Fund

LNG Canada Trades Training Fund, which is administered by the BC Construction Association, will support training in all construction trades, although priority may be given to 15 high demand trades in B.C. identified by LNG Canada. Ten of these trades are currently offered at Okanagan College, B.C.’s second largest trades training institution.

Along with tuition, the funding can be applied to student fees, textbooks, software and other required materials, and examination fees.

“This new Trades Training Fund is exciting news, particularly for employers, but also for our students and potential students looking to pursue an apprenticeship,” says Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship at Okanagan College.

Employers who have committed to hiring a graduate, are seeking to upgrade training for existing employees, or who are sponsoring an apprentice may apply for the funding.

Applications opened on Oct. 15, 2015 and will continue until further notice.

More information about the fund, including a full list of the Apprenticeship and Pre-Apprenticeship programs covered is available at