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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.”
Collaboration between Okanagan College and the British Columbia Wine Institute will mean wine and food servers in this province and elsewhere can now take a free online course to enhance their knowledge of vintages, varieties, and appellations.
The new course, which takes about two hours to complete, was the brainchild of the British Columbia Wine Institute CEO Miles Prodan and Okanagan College’s Director of Wine, Food and Tourism, Jonathan Rouse.
“We saw an opportunity and need to provide education and insight to some of the people who can have a real impact on wine sales in B.C., and on the wine tourist experience,” says Prodan. “Our goal was to develop a course that anyone who serves B.C. VQA wine could take at their leisure. The course allows anyone who takes it to gain a greater understanding of the distinguishing factors of B.C. VQA wine and the B.C. wine industry, as well as gives practical information on serving wine and enhancing the tasting and dining experience.”
“This is an innovative initiative that will help an important component of B.C.’s growing value-added agriculture sector,” noted B.C.’s Minister of Agriculture Norm Letnick.
“We saw this as a tremendous way to help the industry,” says Rouse. “It means everyone who is involved in serving wine in this province, whether they are in Fort St. John, Ucluelet, Vancouver or Naramata can gain a better understanding of the industry and the product that our residents and tourists are interested in.”
The online course features a generous serving of videos and draws in a broad range of experts and personalities from the industry.
Serving as “host” for the course is Kurtis Kolt, a name known to many in B.C.’s hospitality industry. He has run several restaurants in Vancouver and in 2010 was named “Sommelier of the Year at the 2010 Vancouver International Wine Festival. He has been profiled by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, run the wine program for an evening at James Beard House in New York, and been one of Western Living Magazine's Top 40 Foodies Under 40. He’s joined by personalities such as Quails’ Gate Winery’s Tyler Galts, Mission Hill Family Estate Terrace Hill Chef Chris Stewart, and Wine Maker John Simes.
“My experience in restaurants, where I’ve educated many servers about wines generally and B.C. wines specifically, led me to immediately appreciate the value of this kind of course,” says Kolt. “I’m guessing that as word spreads, a fair number of restaurateurs will be encouraging their servers to take the time to do the course.”
“As we all know, everyone benefits when servers have more wine knowledge; guests and tourists enjoy an enhanced experience and that’s good for the industry.”
The MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) is free and doesn’t require registration. You can find it at www.okanagan.bc.ca/wineserver.