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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 email@example.com.
Too 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 www.goldmedalplates.com.
UPDATE: Please note that this event has been cancelled due to illness.
$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 vowinter2016.eventbrite.ca. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and presentations start at 6 p.m.
Boeing 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: www.okanagan.bc.ca/ame.
For detailed topic descriptions of the speakers’ talks, visit: www.ocspeakersseries.weebly.com.
An Okanagan College student’s class project is turning out to be a valuable resource for B.C.’s estheticians and spa owners.
“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 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.
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 www.okanagan.bc.ca/campaign.
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.
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.”
“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 www.okanagan.bc.ca/3hourwriting.
Regional winners’ quotes and profiles:
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?”