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Okanagan College offered Mike Pogson an opportunity to retrain for a rewarding career in health care at a price he couldn’t refuse.
Pogson, who lives in Salmon Arm, completed nine upgrading courses to qualify for entry into the practical nursing diploma program in 2011. The upgrading courses were tuition-free.
“When I found out I could get the prerequisites to get into the nursing program for free, it made going back to school a much more affordable option,” he says.
Okanagan College’s Foundation programs offer tuition-free upgrading in a variety of subjects including biology, chemistry, computer studies, English, mathematics and social studies, as well preparation for the General Education Development (GED) high-school equivalency test and B.C. Adult Graduation Diploma.
In 2011, Pogson was working in the residential construction industry as a finish carpenter but the market crashed and the jobs had started to dry up. That’s when he decided to go back to school.
“With the population aging practical nurses are in high demand and I knew the work would suit my personality,” he says.
Not long after Pogson graduated with his Practical Nursing diploma and passed his licensing exam, he landed a job as a licensed Practical Nurse at Mount Ida Mews, a 72-bed complex care community located in Salmon Arm.
“I love what I do now,” says Pogson. “Working with seniors is so rewarding. It was worth the time it took to go back to school.”
“So many people don’t have the prerequisites to enter the programs they want and think that’s the end to their career dreams,” says Dan Chetner, Instructor and Adult Basic Education coordinator at Okanagan College.
“When they discover they can upgrade at the College, a whole new world of possibilities open up to them,” he says. “We get students coming from all situations: those who had difficulty in high school, those who didn’t take the credits they need to get into the program they now want to do, and those who want to retool their existing careers.”
“My experience with Okanagan College’s Foundation program was so positive,” says Pogson. “The instructors were great because they got to know me, cared about what my goals were and supported me while I worked toward those goals.”
“We hear a lot about the coming skills shortage and many people may feel the opportunity is closed to them because they don’t have the prerequisites to access the education or training that will open the door to the career they want to pursue. The upgrading programs we offer may be a solution to that dilemma,” says Chetner.
It’s not too late to apply for classes starting in September. To find out more visit www.okanagan.bc.ca/upgradetoday.
Choosing the Bachelor of Computer Information Systems degree program at Okanagan College was a no-brainer for Chris Kluka – and it has been a decision that paid off in spades with career opportunities.
Kluka had taken post-secondary studies at other Canadian institutions, but the credential and education he received didn’t fully meet his needs or expectations.
“I’m interested in infrastructure and systems management,” says Kluka, who is now an IT Systems Infrastructure Architect at Daemon Defense Systems Inc. in Winnipeg.
“I looked at programs across the country and chose Okanagan College. The other program I took and others I looked at had the wrong focus. They were focused on Programming or Computer Science. I wanted a program focused on IT systems implementation and management,” he says.
With the benefit of the College giving him transfer credits for much of his post-secondary education taken elsewhere, Kluka entered the Computer Information Systems (CIS) diploma program at Okanagan College. The CIS diploma is a two-year credential that ladders into the College’s four-year Bachelor of CIS degree. At the College, he was also able to integrate some courses from the Network and Telecommunications Engineering Technology program as electives.
Between diploma and degree, Kluka found work with a Kelowna-based company, FormaShape, where he started as a junior network administrator. Eight months later he was IT Manager. Then he came back for his degree.
After graduation, it was a return to Manitoba, where career opportunities have been unfolding. For the past two years, he has been with Daemon Defense Systems Inc. and the contracts the company has secured have afforded him considerable experience in a variety of environments.
“I’ve been leading architecture design and deployment in projects such as the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, network redevelopment in the Winnipeg Convention Centre and the Investors Group Field, home of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Those three projects alone represent 6,300 network drops and $20 million worth of servers and storage architecture. I have designed and implemented the IT systems architecture for three of the largest projects in the province in the last two years. ”
The College’s degree program has a solid reputation among employers, explains Department Chair Rick Gee. Demand for graduates may also partially explain the high ratings given the program by students in independent surveys conducted by the Provincial government. A review of five years of graduate data shows a 94 per cent employment rate, average annual earnings of $56,000 and 91 per cent of surveyed students reporting they were satisfied or very satisfied with their education.
“There will be continued demand for diploma and degree graduates from our programs,” says Gee. “Our lives are becoming increasingly dependent on information systems, and that bodes well for the people who can understand and manage them.”
For more information on the degree or diploma programs in Computer Information Systems, visit okanagan.bc.ca/bcis.
Expectations are high this year for the Okanagan College Coyotes baseball team as players report for the team’s seventh season on Sept. 1.
Last season, the Coyotes made it all the way to the Canadian College Baseball Conference Championships but fell to Lethbridge’s Prairie Baseball Academy Dawgs in dramatic fashion, 8 - 7.
Head coach Geoff White is optimistic about the team’s prospects for the upcoming year.
“We have a good group,” says White. “We have many strong returning players and a promising group of freshmen. I have high expectations this season.”
After participating in some social events during Orientation week, the team play starts on Sept. 6, with three inter-squad games at Elks Stadium over the course of the weekend. This will be the first chance White has to see his first year players in action.
“We have a busy fall schedule, which will give us lots of time on the field. It’s a long season but everything we do is preparation for those CCBC championships in May,” says White.
The Coyotes first series against another team begins on Sept. 13 at 2:30 p.m. when they face the Langley Blaze at Elks Stadium at Richter St. and Recreation Avenue in Kelowna.
Tickets for the Coyotes home games are available at the gate for $5.
For the Fall schedule and player lineup, visit www.okanagancollegebaseball.ca.
Photo credit: Greystoke Photography
Clint Bannister knows it’s hard to put an exact price on the value of a post-secondary education, but he is confident there is a very real return on the investment.
The 31-year-old Okanagan College graduate and civil engineering design technologist at Urban Systems in Kelowna is one example of the thousands of Okanagan College graduates whose impact on the regional economy exceeds half a billion dollars annually. Provincially, the impact comes closer to a billion dollars.
A recent economic impact study undertaken by Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI) found that in 2012-13 Okanagan College and its students added $542 million to the regional economy. It pegged the institution’s provincial impact at $915 million.
Before entering Okanagan College, Bannister worked in sales. These days he spends most of his professional life designing highways and municipal roads; it was his investment in a college diploma that has prepared him for a long and rewarding career.
“Before I took the Civil Engineering Technology program at Okanagan College, I didn’t realize having a skilled education was so important to lifelong career success,” said Bannister. “I am excited to work for a great company doing something that really matters to the community.”
The study also found that Okanagan College students like Bannister, who were active in the regional workforce over the course of one year, collectively contributed $446 million in higher earnings and increased employer productivity.
In addition, Okanagan College’s operations and the spending from out-of-region students added $96 million to the economy.
Bannister completed his engineering technology diploma in 2011 and was hired within a month of graduation. Originally from North Vancouver, he chose to stay in the Okanagan and is among an increasing group of Okanagan College grads who provide a 12.7 per cent return to B.C. taxpayers on their investment in post-secondary education.
The positive effect of Okanagan College runs much deeper than added income. On a provincial scale, Okanagan College grads in the workforce save the provincial social safety net an estimated $16 million annually through reduced crime rates, lower unemployment rates and improved health. In short, graduates like Bannister are more productive and reduce the strain on social services.
The payoff doesn’t just impact taxpayers. Students who complete a college credential receive a huge return on that investment as well. EMSI’s estimate suggests that there is a 51 per cent lifetime earnings bump attributable to a two-year diploma over someone who has only a high school credential – it is worth an additional $346,800 over their estimated working lifetime.
For someone with a degree, such as Okanagan College’s Bachelor of Business Administration or Bachelor of Computer Information Systems, the estimated increase in working lifetime earnings compared to a high-school credential holder is 80 per cent or an additional $544,000.
“When I was working in sales my salary was up and down week-to-week and it was stressful not being able to count on a set paycheque,” said Bannister. “I also didn’t see a lot of prospects for the future. It’s so worth getting a practical education because a job like the one I have now is so much more rewarding and more lucrative over the long term.”
“The results of this study confirm that there is a significant return on the investment in post-secondary education for graduates, taxpayers and our regional economy,” explained Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “The economic impact is important to acknowledge but so is the value education yields for students and the wellbeing of our communities.”
“I chose the College because it’s local, the program is a good mix of technical and academic experience and it’s very highly regarded in the engineering industry,” said Bannister. “The co-op program was instrumental in preparing me for work and helped me apply fundamental knowledge to real world experiences."
Club Penguin co-founder brings expertise to Okanagan College’s School of Business
One of the region’s entrepreneurial success stories is going to be adding to his curricula vitae with a new and challenging assignment for the coming year: Dave Krysko has just accepted the role of Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Okanagan College.
Krysko was one of the founders of Club Penguin, an Okanagan success story that attracted the attention of Walt Disney Company and which now employs hundreds of people.
Krysko’s role as Entrepreneur-in-Residence will be to offer occasional guest lectures, provide one-on-one and group mentoring and generally encourage students with his story as an entrepreneur.
“I’m really looking forward to this,” says Krysko, whose CV includes musician, marketing, running his own agency, and developing Club Penguin with two partners: Lane Merrifield and Lance Priebe. “This is an opportunity to share expertise and insights that have been developed through my career, and a chance to rub elbows with and learn from the leaders of tomorrow. I’ve been very impressed by the quality of students and graduates coming out of the College’s business program and am excited to be part of it.”
Krysko will be replacing Raghwa Ghopal, another renowned Okanagan businessman, as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence. Others who have fulfilled that role included Mel Kotler, founder and owner of Fabricland, Bill Redmond, founder of HRI, Ed Hall, founder of Regency Retirement Resorts and partner in Canadian Adult Communities and Doug Manning, founder and former president of Bridges. (Kotler died in 2012.)
“We have indeed been fortunate to have such distinguished individuals provide another facet of the educational experience to our students,” notes Barry McGillivray, the Associate Dean of the College’s School of Business. “Dave is yet another example of the value we place on the connection we have to the communities we serve.”
Krysko worked with Club Penguin for three years after the Disney purchase, leaving in 2010 as Senior Vice President to start Davara Enterprises, which he characterizes as an agency focused on developing a wide range of culture-making enterprises. He is also a longtime philanthropist supporting humanitarian work in Canada, Mexico and Romania. With his wife Donara, he co-founded the Karis Support Society focused on helping women struggling with addictions as well as the Krysko Family Foundation, and with his Club Penguin partners, the New Horizon Foundation: a charitable organization committed to improving the lives of children and families around the world.
“These are all areas where there is significant demand, and we welcome the extra investment in the trades,” says Steven Moores, Okanagan College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. “In some instances, we’ve already made decisions about where and when the programs will be offered. In other instances, we are still discussing the best location and timing of the new intakes associated with the additional seats.”
“Sometimes we lose track of the personal impact of decisions like this,” says Moores. “Andrew is just one of the people who are going to benefit from the investment. There are employers who are eager to see more trained people come out of our institutions who will be pleased with this news as well.”
The seats (and associated $928,000 funding) announced this week will add an additional eight per cent capacity to the 2,498 Okanagan College trades seats already funded by the Industry Training Authority.
Okanagan College is in the midst of a $33-million expansion and renovation of its Trades Training Complex in Kelowna. The project, supported with $28-million of provincial funding, is expected to be complete by early 2016.
Chef Bernard Casavant, one of the country’s best-known chefs, has joined Okanagan College as the institution’s Culinary Manager.
Casavant’s reputation spreads beyond the kitchen – he has also been a major force for improvement in the hospitality industry during his career, and in promoting the farm-to-table movement in the Okanagan and throughout B.C.
“The addition of Chef Bernard to help lead our team of talented professionals signals the importance of the culinary arts to our educational mix,” explains Jonathan Rouse, the Director of Wine, Food and Tourism at Okanagan College. “He brings tremendous expertise, energy and enthusiasm to the role that will help inspire many more chefs who will serve the industry well.”
Casavant has been at the forefront of improving the standards of the hospitality industry throughout his career. In 1986, he was one of the first chefs in Canada to earn Chef de Cuisine Certification (CCC). In 1991, he became the first West Coast-born and trained chef to represent Canada in the prestigious Bocuse D'Or Competition, France, and currently serves as president of the Okanagan Chefs Association.
“I see this as an opportunity to have an influence on how we train tomorrow’s great chefs,” says Casavant. “Okanagan College is developing a solid reputation for chef training and is also importantly taking the lessons of the locavore movement to heart, which we will endeavour to support through our culinary department.”
“There is significant talent in the instructional cadre at the College and I am eager to work alongside the chefs as we help further build the region’s renown as a food and wine destination – not just for tourists and residents, but for aspiring chefs as well. As a region, we are poised to achieve greatness,” he says.
Casavant is a member of the British Columbia Restaurant Hall of Fame. He has held directorships on with the British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association, Industry Training Authority, and the BC Culinary Tourism Society. He graduated at the top of his class from the culinary arts program at Malaspina College in 1976 and was later honoured as a Distinguished Alumni in 2012 by the institution, which has since become Vancouver Island University. His devotion to local food and connections to farmers stretches from the mid 1980s, and is evident in the fact that he was a founding member of Exclusively BC, Farm Folk, City Folk, and a director of Whistler’s Farmers Market.
“Chef Bernard’s passion and influence has been instrumental in changing the image of the Okanagan to one of a true culinary destination,” says colleague and Okanagan College Chef Instructor Geoffrey Couper. “The list of chefs he has influenced is long and distinguished and the opportunity to join that list by attending the culinary arts programs at Okanagan College will definitely be a deciding factor for future students as they consider their educational options.”