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New Go-kart camp for girls revs up excitement about trades career paths
VFX boot camp shines a spotlight on film industry career opportunities
College info session shines a light on green building careers
Research trio advocate more work on AI security
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New Go-kart camp for girls revs up excitement about trades career paths
Okanagan College Media Release

A new go-kart camp at Okanagan College is offering youth more than just the thrill of sitting in the driver’s seat this summer – it’s giving girls ages 9-12 a week of hands-on training and the chance to test-drive a career in the trades.

Girls Can Go Kart Too 2018 1Girls can Go-Kart Too! is a pilot project by the College and the Industry Training Authority (ITA). The ITA stepped forward with more than $6,000 in support to help bring the project to life as part of the College’s popular CampOC summer camps.

“Our goal in working with the College to create this camp was to give young girls an engaging, exciting and welcoming glimpse into what a career in the skilled trades is all about,” explains Gary Herman, CEO of the ITA.

This week a dozen girls stepped into the Automotive shop at the Kelowna campus, tackling everything from designing their go-karts to working on small engines, changing the oil, replacing tires, testing and fixing brakes, and installing ignition kill switches – all under the watchful eye of College instructors.

Jordan Chahley is one of those campers.

“What I love about this camp is that we learned how to do design and build our go-karts,” says the 11-year old. “Last year I went to the 3D printing camp, but this one is different and for me it was a lot more fun. When my mom suggested it, I knew this was the one for me. After camp is done, I look forward to being able to help my dad change the oil.”

While the camp was designed to help girls build their skills in the shop, connecting them with mentors was another priority.

“The girls are learning from Red Seal Endorsed College instructors and they’re also getting mentorship, support and encouragement from the Women in Trades Team, WITT Industry Mentors and WITT foundation participants,” explains Nancy Darling, Program Administrator for the College’s Women in Trades Training Initiative (WITT).

“And that last part – connecting them with mentors and role models, young women they can identify with – is perhaps most important. The hands-on training they’re getting is awesome, but those opportunities to interact with and receive encouragement from women in trades will hopefully be extra motivating and meaningful to these girls.”

Girls Can Go Kart Too 2018 2After ensuring their go-karts were in good working order, the girls had a chance to put their creativity to work painting and decorating their carts.

Today, they took to the racetrack – which they also designed – to cap off the week with a friendly race and a BBQ with their parents, their instructors and officials from the College and the ITA.

“Above all, we hope this group of girls had fun and learned a lot this week, and hopefully their experience at the College sparks an interest or plants a seed that leads them to think about the skilled trades as part of their future plans for education,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College.

More information about the College’s Women in Trades Training Initiative is available at

VFX boot camp shines a spotlight on film industry career opportunities
Okanagan College Media Release

VFX July 2018If the visual marvels of summer blockbusters inspire you, an upcoming boot camp focused on VFX could help turn that inspiration into a career.

A collaboration between Okanagan College and the Vancouver Film School (VFS) is bringing about a weeklong boot camp designed to help students learn industry software basics, production process and how industry professionals create visual effects, or VFX, illusions.

Designed to boost portfolios of beginner to intermediate graphic artists and film artists, students will complete a fully executed shot using industry techniques in a suite of different graphics and video tools.

The boot camp will be led by Henrique Reginato, whose film credits include
Foxcatcher, Dark Matter, Gotham, Almost Human, Timeless, and Minority Report. He’ll pass on some key skills in the industry standard software, Nuke, and offer up his insights into the VFX production pipeline.

“The growing animation and VFX industry has created the opportunity for us to partner with the Vancouver Film School, says Dennis Silvestrone, Director, Continuing Studies and Corporate Training at Okanagan College.

“Bringing this unique training experience to the Okanagan is key in our efforts to continue to develop resources that support the growth of the area. And with the strong economic forecast for significant growth, now is a great time to be building a career within the industry.”

The weeklong course, which runs from July 30 to Aug. 3, will be presented at the Okanagan Innovation Centre at 460 Doyle Ave., in downtown Kelowna.

To learn more and register, visit

Registration is $500, plus GST. A special $50 discount is available to SD23 High School, Okanagan College and UBCO students and faculty, as well as Bardel, Yeti Farm and Hyper Hippo staff.


College info session shines a light on green building careers

penticton campus pageAaron Spohr never could have predicted that a quick glance at a sign while driving past Okanagan College would open his eyes to a new career and change the way he looked at the world. An upcoming info session at the Penticton campus is inviting others to follow in his footsteps and join the next wave of sustainable construction managers.

Okanagan College’s Sustainable Construction Management Technology (SCMT) program is a hosting an information session on Wednesday, July 4 from 6 – 7 p.m. The location is a fitting one – visitors will have a chance to tour the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence, which in 2016 was named the greenest post-secondary building in Canada by Corporate Knights magazine.

Attendees will have a chance to meet instructors and learn about the College’s two-year SCMT diploma program which gives graduates the technical knowledge, business savvy, and practical skills required to effectively manage construction projects of varying size and complexity.

The diploma program (initially a three-year pilot) launched in 2014. The first cohort graduated last spring. Since then, Dr. Amy Vaillancourt, Chair of the SCMT program, says the success stories she has heard back from SCMT alumni have been nothing short of inspiring.

“Our grads have stepped into all kinds of opportunities in management and technologist roles,” notes Vaillancourt. “It’s definitely not a cookie-cutter career. It’s for anyone who is interested in blending sustainability, technology and construction. Quite a number of our grads have found it a springboard to management or supervisory roles, and some have started their own successful businesses.”

Aaron Spohr is one of those grads who has used the program to grow his career locally.

Originally from Kamloops, Spohr was driving through Penticton a few years ago when he spotted a signboard outside the College advertising for a new program focused on sustainable construction.

“I had a little construction experience and a bit of an interest in sustainability, so when I got home and thought about it further, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to marry those two interests. 

Spohr enrolled in the program and moved with his family to Penticton. While still a student, he was hired on as a Project Coordinator for Ritchie Custom Homes. He graduated last summer and is now a Project Manager. 

“I want to be on the right side of history,” he says. “The time is now for us to look at how we can build in a more sustainable way. More and more people in the industry are getting onboard, so we definitely need people with the skills and knowledge to make it happen.”

“It’s very gratifying to get to go to work every day and know you’re part of building a home that can have the least impact on the environment while being a beautiful, functional custom home for someone.”

Spohr says the program transformed his outlook beyond the jobsite as well.

“For us, it changed the way we go to the grocery store. The choices we make – like bringing along re-usable bags for produce. It really helped clarify and change some lifestyle choices. It gave me a practical application for a sentiment I was feeling and led to a career that matters – one that I take a lot of pride in.”

Attendees of the info session will also have a chance to hear about a new offering launching this fall – the Post-Diploma Sustainability Studies Certificate.

“Like the diploma, the certificate is designed to meet the industry demand for managers and technologists who are specialized in sustainable construction,” explains Vaillancourt. “It will appeal to professionals with a diploma in engineering, architecture, or construction management who are looking to further their training.”

The new certificate will take two years to complete and will be delivered through a combination of online delivery and a short but intensive residency during each of the four terms.

More information is available at

Research trio advocate more work on AI security

What if someone hacked a traffic sign with a few well-placed dots, so your self-driving car did something dangerous, such as going straight when it should have turned right?

Don’t think it’s unlikely – it’s already happened – and an Okanagan College professor and his colleagues from France are among those saying that researchers have to invest more effort in system design and security to deal with hacks and security issues.

Youry Khmelelvsky

A research paper, co-authored by Okanagan College Computer Science Professor Dr. Youry Khmelevsky, and presented recently at an international conference held by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (the world’s largest technical professional society), summarizes the research that has already been done into the threats and dangers associated with the machine-learning processes that underpin autonomous systems, such as self-driving cars.

Their paper also points to the needs to take research and tool development for “deep learning” to a new level. (Deep Learning – DL - is what makes facial recognition, voice recognition, and self-driving cars possible. Deep Learning systems mimic neural networks – like your brain – that can take data and process it based on information processing and communication patterns. For a good description of how artificial intelligence, machine learning and deep learning connect to each other and the role they play in our daily lives, click here.)

The paper was authored by Dr. Gaétan Hains, Arvid Jakobsson (of Huawei Parallel and Distributed Algorithms Lab at the Huawei Paris Research Centre) and Khmelevsky. “Safety of DL systems is a serious requirement for real-life systems and the research community is addressing this need with mathematically-sound but low-level methods of high computational complexity,” notes the trio’s paper. They point to the need for significant work yet to be done on security, software, and verification to ensure that systems relying on deep learning are as safe as they could be.

“It sounds very abstract,” says Khmelelvsky, “but it isn’t. It’s here today whether it’s in your car or a device that recognizes your voice and commands.”

"Deep Learning-based artificial intelligence has had immense success in applications like image recognition and is already implemented in consumer products,” notes Jakobsson. “But the power of these techniques comes at an important cost compared to ‘classic algorithms’: it is harder to understand why they work, and harder to verify that they work correctly. Before deploying DL based AI in safety critical domains, we need better tools for understanding and exhaustively exploring the behaviour of these systems, and this paper is a work in this direction."

Do Hains, Jakobsson and Khmelevsky have the answer to prevent hacks that could send your car going straight, when it should go left? Not yet, but they are developing some research proposals that could help ensure that your car, and its systems based on artificial intelligence, don’t get fooled.

“Safe AI is an important research topic attracting more and more attention worldwide,” says Hains. “Dr. Khmelevsky brings software engineering expertise to complement my team's know-how in software correctness techniques. We expect to produce new knowledge and basic techniques to support this new trend in the industry.”

OC graduate uncorks wine industry career

For Linsay Ogden, 2018 has proven to be a very good year indeed. She crossed the stage at Okanagan College’s Summer Commencement ceremony on Wednesday and recently stepped into a rewarding new career in the Okanagan’s booming wine industry.summer convo 2018 media release

After working in the hospitality industry for several years, Ogden decided to switch sectors. She set her sights on an administrative role and enrolled in the Introduction to Office Administration Certificate program offered at the College to gain the education she needed.

“It was so easy to learn here,” says Ogden. “The were phenomenal – they even encouraged me to think critically about what I wanted for my long-term career plans.”

While in the program, Ogden decided to apply her newly acquired skills in the wine industry.

“The hospitality industry definitely has some crossover with the wine industry and I’ve always been intrigued by that world,” explains Ogden. “I immediately started looking for ways to use my skills at a local winery and searching for job openings – it wasn’t long before I got one.”

Shortly before graduation, Ogden was hired as estate coordinator for Black Hills Estate Winery.

Ogden is one of about 140 students from an array of Continuing Studies programs who were recognized at Summer Commencement on Wednesday at the Kelowna campus. About 165 more will earn credentials at Summer Convocation taking place tonight at 6 p.m. in the courtyard at the Kelowna campus – the ceremony marks the last of eight convocation and commencement ceremonies Okanagan College will host this year.

“This year Okanagan College will send more than 2,000 graduates out into the world,” notes the College’s President Jim Hamilton. “Among those graduates are our future home builders, educators, health care professionals, entrepreneurs and many, many other vocations – too many to name – that all will be critical to strengthening our economy and enhancing our communities in the region and far beyond. I commend each of our graduates on their achievements.”

Okanagan College Foundation welcomes new board members

The Okanagan College Foundation recently welcomed to its board five new directors who collectively bring diverse experience and community impact across a wide array of sectors from health care and technology to entrepreneurship, human resources and finance.

The new directors joining the Foundation board are:

• Paulo Araujo, Vice President of Retail and Business Banking at Valley First (South Okanagan)

• Sheri Hamilton, Associate Vice President of Human Resources at Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union (Shuswap-Revelstoke)

• Dr. Gerry Karr, a former Penticton doctor and cofounder of the Okanagan Similkameen Healthy Living Coalition (South Okanagan)

• Christine Petkau, former Executive Director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Summerland (South Okanagan)

• Brea Retzlaff, Director of Operations at Accelerate Okanagan (Central Okanagan)

“It’s wonderful to welcome committed industry leaders from up and down the valley to our board,” says Kathy Butler, Executive Director, Okanagan College Foundation.

“Our new directors join us at an exciting time and will have the opportunity to make a big impact for students. We have a growing student population that continues to need financial aid and we’re embarking on future development that will continue to transform our campuses.”

“The calibre of our new directors reflects the importance of the work carried out by the Foundation,” says Sharron Simpson, Board Chair, Okanagan College Foundation.

“Education is transformative to individuals and our communities, and we’re excited to continue ensuring education is accessible and our infrastructure reflects the quality of the education Okanagan College provides.”

The new board members join current board directors Chris Derickson, Surej Dhillon, Bob Eby, Colin Edstrom, Gladys Fraser, Kimberly White Gilhooly, Jim Hamilton, Rob Phare, Alan Sanderson, Sharron Simpson, and Tom Styffe.

Full biographies of the new board members are below:

Paulo Araujo, Valley First Vice President, Retail and Business Banking 

During the last 18 years, Araujo has worked in various roles within the organization, including Director of Retail Banking, Regional Manager South Okanagan Region, Senior Manager of Retail Credit and Branch Manager. In addition to his current role as VP of Retail and Business Banking, Araujo also runs his family’s orchard in the South Okanagan. He is Lean Green Belt Certified and has taken leadership courses through The Banff Centre.

Dedicated to community leadership, Araujo is active in Valley First’s signature cause, Feed the Valley and an avid supporter of the South Okanagan Youth Soccer Association.

Sheri Hamilton, Salmon Arm Savings and Credit Union (SASCU) Associate Vice President, Human Resources

Sheri Hamilton is the Associate Vice President Human Resources at SASCU where she oversees a range of areas including talent management, performance management, organizational effectiveness, total rewards and employee relations. Hamilton manages the team responsible for SASCU’s award winning culture and strong employee engagement.

During her time at SASCU, the credit union has placed on the Progressive Employers of Canada List, B.C. Business Magazine’s Best Companies to Work for in B.C., and a WorkLife B.C. Award of Merit.

Dr. Gerry Karr

Karr’s professional education includes a PhD in Pharmacology, MD and FRCPC (Internal Medicine). After 8 years with the Faculty of Medicine at the U of Calgary, Karr recognized his overriding passion for clinical medicine, moving to his present home in Penticton where he practised internal medicine and nephrology until 2003. During this time he established the first renal program in the Okanagan Valley and, along with St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver, the program pioneered the development of evidence-based chronic kidney disease clinics in B.C. In 2003, he championed the innovative Integrated Health Center in Penticton, which merged the programs for diabetes, CKD and CHF care in the Okanagan Similkameen region. Karr accepted a role as Medical Director of Kidney Services with Interior Health from 2006 until his retirement in March 2012.

In retirement Karr has pursued his interest in primary prevention and health promotion prompted by many years of first-hand experience treating patients with lifestyle-related chronic disease. He was co-founder of the Okanagan Similkameen Healthy Living Fair and of the Okanagan Similkameen Healthy Living Coalition.

Christine Petkau

Christine Petkau is from Manitoba and is a graduate of the University of Winnipeg. 

Together with her husband and children, Petkau moved to Summerland in 2002. She has worked in the public sector, both in Manitoba and B.C., in the design and delivery of programs focused on entrepreneurship and employment as well as back to work strategies for job seekers. In the private sector she has owned two small businesses with partners and worked as a North American product manager for several companies.

For the past 6 years she was Executive Director of the Summerland Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Summerland.

Brea Retzlaff, Accelerate Okanagan Director of Operations

Brea Retzlaff is the Director of Operations at Accelerate Okanagan. She has been supporting the growth of the Okanagan tech community for over five years. She spends her days overseeing day-to-day operations, managing the team, and ensuring strategic goals are being met.

Retzlaff graduated from Okanagan College with a degree in Business, but it was her hands-on experience managing a summer camp that gave her a taste for the startup life. Retzlaff also spent time working with Disney’s Club Penguin, where she was responsible for curriculum development, customer service training and policy documentation.

About the Okanagan College Foundation

Okanagan College Foundation has a mission to advance the power of education by engaging individuals and communities in contributing to Okanagan College. The foundation raises and manages private resources for the development and expansion of educational programs, services, capital projects, and student financial aid through scholarships, bursaries, and grants. To learn more visit


Paulo Araujo

sheri hamilton
Sheri Hamilton


Christine Petkau

brea retzlaff 250px

Brea Retzlaff

Education is prescription for grad’s career fulfilment
Okanagan College Media Release

Lonie Reimer knew she wanted to be a Health Care Assistant at a young age, a long-time dream that will become reality tomorrow when she crosses the stage and receives her credentials at Okanagan College’s Vernon ceremony.Lonie Reimer June 2018

Tuesday’s ceremony begins at 4:30 p.m. at the Greater Vernon Recreation Centre and will see students from Business, International Development, Education Assistant, Adult Special Education, Health Care Assistant, Arts, Sciences and more receive their credentials.

“When I was younger, my grandparents went into an assisted living facility for extra care,” explains Reimer. “We lived in different provinces at the time and I remember feeling heartbroken that I couldn’t be there to help them and that it was a complete stranger that gave them the care they needed. It sparked a little fire inside of me and I knew I wanted to be able to do the same for someone else’s grandparents one day.”

Reimer’s passion to become a Health Care Assistant (HCA) brought her to the College’s Vernon campus where she found more than just an education.

“HCA’s are inherent people-persons and my entire class of 27 began to form these amazing relationships and this wonderful community where we all helped each other learn, get through the really tough parts of the program, share each other’s successes, and really grow together,” says Reimer. “I’m leaving the College with an education, a job in hand and an amazing community of friends, colleagues and instructors.”

Reimer has already found work in the healthcare industry and currently works as an HCA in a private group home for people with special needs and at a senior’s home. She credits her training and practicum – which saw her spend eight weeks honing her skills at four different care facilities – for the success and rewarding feeling she gets after each shift.

“Being an HCA can be intimidating because you’re working with real people who need real care,” explains Reimer. “I’m so thankful I got to do a practicum as part of the program. The hands-on experience is amazing. It reminded me how much I had learned in class and showed me I was able to apply it – experiencing those success moments reminds you of why you’re doing this and makes you want to work even harder.”

The Vernon Convocation ceremony on June 26 marks the sixth of eight annual ceremonies the College will host this year. Students will hear from Mollie QuilQuil Sneena Bono, an advocate for Aboriginal peoples and SD #22 Trustee, who will be recognized at the ceremony as an Honorary Fellow – the highest honour bestowed by the College.

Also addressing graduates will be the College’s President, Jim Hamilton

“Our Vernon Convocation ceremony is a chance to recognize students attending Okanagan College from Vernon all the way to Salmon Arm and Revelstoke,” explains Hamilton. “But even more notable than the number of communities they hail from is the diversity of backgrounds and programs represented. From business to health care to the technologies and the skilled trades, these graduates will be among those ensuring the future prosperity of our region and far beyond. On behalf of Okanagan College, I commend each of our graduates on their accomplishments.”

Two more ceremonies will be held on Wednesday, June 27 and Thursday, June 28 at the Kelowna campus. By the end of June, more than 2000 students will have graduated from Okanagan College.

All ceremonies will be live streamed on the Okanagan College Facebook page at


OC researcher’s new works put outdoor play in Canadian context
Okanagan College Media Release

Two new textbooks are furthering an Okanagan College researcher’s efforts to inspire Canada’s early childhood educators to embrace the benefits of outdoor play for Canadian children.Beverlie Dietze June 2018

Dr. Beverlie Dietze has studied children’s outdoor play theories and behaviours in countless settings in the Okanagan and across Canada. Her observations have fueled two new works that are part of a new collection designed to inspire Canadian early childhood educators to join the outdoor play movement.

Less than a year after the publication of their book
Empowering Pedagogy For Early Childhood Education, Dietze and co-author Dianne Kashin have published an all-new text entitled Outdoor & Nature Play Early Childhood Education through Pearson Canada.

“The outdoor play movement is building momentum in Canada,” says Dietze, who is Director of Learning and Applied Research at Okanagan College and a recognized expert in outdoor play curriculum for children. “In order for that momentum to continue, we need to offer more educators new knowledge, examples and practices that make outdoor play principles accessible and place them in a Canadian context.”

For Dietze, that meant ensuring educators flipping through the book would immediately get a sense of place. The book includes examples and insights – as well as some of her own photography – from outdoor play workshops she has hosted at parks and nature areas around the Okanagan.

The local content and context is fitting as the book was released as part of Pearson’s Canadian Early Childhood Education Collection.

“The collection is written by Canadians for Canadians,” explains Dietze.

“This book was informed by movements around Indigenous education and environmental sustainability in Canada, along with a wide array of outdoor play concepts,” she says. “We’ve looked at how – and for how long – children play in natural play settings versus traditional play spaces, and shared findings we hope will help more and more educators provide children with meaningful outdoor play opportunities.”

It’s not the only work by Dietze and Kashin in the collection.

This spring the duo also released a second edition of their popular
Playing & Learning In Early Childhood Education textbook (the first edition has been adopted by institutions and educators across Canada since it was published by Pearson in 2011).

The new edition reinforces how play prepares children to develop critical thinking, problem solving, their desire to be curious, and creative expression that facilitates a host of developmental and social benefits.

Since becoming Director of Learning and Applied Research at Okanagan College, Dietze has garnered more than $350,000 for outdoor play related research projects, including a $91,000 research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and neighbourhood developer New Monaco which seeks to develop a one-of-a-kind outdoor play space in the Peachland neighbourhood.

In 2016, Dietze led an Okanagan College project that received $195,000 in support from the Lawson Foundation. Under her leadership, the project brought together a number of other post-secondary institutions and experts to collaboratively develop a specialized training model for ECEs about children’s outdoor play that has been delivered in person or online to more than 1500 educators across Canada.


Young OC alumni honoured for community impact
Okanagan College Media Release

Two young Okanagan College alumni are being recognized for their contributions to the local tech and business sector.

Brea Retzlaff and Drew Vincent have earned top honours from the College for their outstanding contributions within the community.

The duo are this year’s recipients of the Okanagan College Alumni Association’s (OCAA) Young Alumni Awards, an award that acknowledges alumni who demonstrate excellence in leadership, environment, business or industry, public or community service or arts. The OCAA has been conferring these awards since 1964 and this year marks the first time in the awards’ history that two Young Alumni Awards have been given out.

Brea Retzlaff June 2018Retzlaff completed her Business Administration degree from the College in 2013 and got an early start working in the tech-industry immediately after graduation. Now the Director of Operations at Accelerate Okanagan (AO) – a tech accelerator organization that helps coach and mentor local entrepreneurs – Retzlaff helps lead AO’s strategic direction and contributes a strong voice in the booming Okanagan tech-sector.

“This is such an honour and a surprise to be recognized by the Alumni Association with this award,” she says. “The College is very near and dear to me and this award means a lot – I’m proud to represent OC alumni.”

Retzlaff is known for her extensive community involvement and actively serves on the YMCA Okanagan Board, Big Brothers Big Sisters Board, Okanagan College Foundation Board, is on the Program Advisory Committee for the College’s new Animation program and is an influential member in several other community organizations and events. She also helps mentor the College’s Enactus team, a project she says is close to her heart as she was once part of the team and helped grow a new chapter at the Penticton campus in 2009.

Vincent completed his Business Administration degree in 2014 at the Kelowna campus and is a former President for Enactus OC. He is well known for his contributions to a number of youth initiatives and social enterprises – as well as being a champion for sustainability in the region.

“It’s been very important to me in my education and my career to connect with the community and address needs of young professionals in a tangible way,” explains Vincent. “I am very humbled to be recognized as one of this year’s Young Alumni Award recipients. The future of the workplace in the Okanagan is positive and I’m making it my mission to help support and be a resource for the next generation of young professionals.”

Vincent’s dedication to leadership, social change and entrepreneurship while a student led to him being named one of the most influential people at Okanagan College over the past 50 years in 2013. He was also named the 2017 Alumni of the Year for all of Canada for his contributions to the Enactus organization, both within the College and helping to start and grow the program at UBCO. To this day, he continues to mentor and coach current business students.Drew Vincent June 2018

Upon graduation, Vincent began working with Okanagan start-up companies doing strategic planning, marketing strategies and project management. He now works with local companies assisting with their operations as well as with the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission running the Okanagan Young Professionals program, aiding the regions efforts to attract and retain skilled young professionals.

Vincent sits on the local immigration partnership council, aiding the region in its efforts to create a sense of belonging within the community. He is also on the board for the Okanagan Makers society, helping to launch a makers space to the region. His role as event director for Motionball Kelowna helps raise funds and awareness for developmental disabilities, last year raising $108,000 for Special Olympics Canada.

He is also heavily involved with the Kelowna Jaycees (Junior Chamber International) and was instrumental in moving the organization to co-ed membership for the first time in its history.

“Brea’s and Drew’s commitment to the community and the College is remarkable,” says Kara Kazimer, President of the Board, OCAA. “On behalf of my fellow board members, I congratulate both of them on their accomplishments and can honestly say I am excited to see what they do next – our community is a better place because of people like them.”

Retzlaff’s and Vincent’s achievements will be celebrated at the annual OCAA awards ceremony at the College’s Kelowna campus on October 15. For more information on the awards and previous recipients, please visit


OC culinary student finds recipe for success, wins trip to Italy
Okanagan College Media Release

Erin MacDougallOkanagan College Level 2 Apprentice culinary student Erin MacDougall cooked her way to victory and an all-expenses paid trip to Italy at the third annual OC Road to Riccione Cook-off competition today.

The competition saw four OC students design and prepare their own Italian-themed menu. They were tasked with creating a main entrée featuring arctic char and a dessert, all in a little over two hours. Competitors were given the opportunity to see the available ingredients on the common table beforehand but were told to anticipate a surprise ingredient, which turned out to be eggplant, a revelation that came just before they took to their stations in the kitchen.

“I’ve been practicing non-stop for this competition and it’s an amazing feeling to see that my hard-work and training has paid off,” says MacDougall. “I was totally shocked when I found out I’d won.”

MacDougall’s winning dishes consisted of oak crusted arctic char, mushroom risotto, sautéed eggplant, seared asparagus heads, fennel, citrus slaw and golden beets laid onto of a vibrant spread of asparagus coulis. For her dessert, she presented crepes with a lemoncello lemon curd, whipped mascarpone, macerated raspberries and candied hazelnuts.

MacDougall's winning dishWhile cooking and preparing their dishes, competitors were judged on their technical skills, station organization, safety and sanitation by OC Culinary Arts instructors Chef Stuart Klassen and Chef Geoffrey Couper. The final dishes were then judged on presentation, timing, doneness, innovation, textures and portion sizes during a blind tasting by OC’s Chef Jim Armstrong, Sysco’s Chef Brent Durec and former owner and chef of Gray Monk restaurant, Chef Willi Franz.

“We saw some well-thought out and beautifully presented dishes during today’s competition,” says Armstrong. “The competition was very close and we commend each student for their passion, guts, dedication and hard-work. Competitions like these aren’t easy, especially when you’re competing for such a big prize as a free trip to Italy.”

MacDougall will be joined by a winning student from an upcoming competition hosted by the Okanagan Chef’s Association, and OC instructors Chef Jim Armstrong and Chef Mike Barillaro when they travel to Riccione in early October. The trip will see students tour a prosciutto factory, watch culatello and parmesan being made, travel to the city of Modena to learn about traditional balsamic vinegar and to Bologna to experience a one star Michelin restaurant.

“I am so excited to travel to Italy,” says MacDougall. “I’ve never been to Europe and being a young mom with a two-year old, big trips like this aren’t really in the cards for me at this point in time. This is a life-changer for me.”

MacDougall will also have the opportunity to do a bit of cooking while in Riccione. The five chefs will be working together to prepare a traditional Canadian thanksgiving dinner at the renowned award-winning Hotel Belvedere.

Road to Riccione competition

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime trip and invaluable for up-and-coming chefs,” explains Chef Barillaro. “Each student put their heart into their plates and showcased a great level of composure, skill and technique in the kitchen today.”

Also competing in the cook-off were Culinary students Kassi Sherman, Leif Donglin Ye and runner-up Hannah Zheng.

The four students prepared meals in front of a crowd of friends and family and a few faces familiar to the College’s Culinary Arts program including former OC Culinary Manager Chef Bernard Casavant and 2016 Culinary Arts alumnus Josh Starrett. Casavant now serves as Director of Operations for RauDZ Creative Concepts Ltd. He oversees the company’s four restaurants including Sunny’s Modern Table where Starrett works and MacDougall is currently completing her co-op term.

“We came to support Erin today,” explains Starrett. “I competed in two of these competitions when I was a student and can tell you first-hand how valuable they were in my skills development. I think the secret to cooking in competitions is to cook happy and to not worry about whether you’re going to win or not, but to find happiness with the plate you put out.”

Longstanding businesses provide major gift to Vernon Trades Centre
Okanagan College Media Release

Two Vernon businesses with deep roots in the community are providing a strong foundation for the next generation of skilled trade workers training at Okanagan College.

R.E. Postill & Sons Ltd. and Postill Nixon Earthworks together are donating $25,000 to the new Trades Centre currently under construction at the College’s Vernon campus.Postill donation June 2018

The owners of the second- and fourth-generation family businesses have operated companies in Vernon for nearly 120 years.

Linsey and Jamie Johannson are the owners of R.E. Postill & Sons Ltd. and co-own Postill Nixon Earthworks with Braden Nixon. Linsey is the great granddaughter of Russell Eugene Postill, who founded R.E. Postill in 1944.

Braden's father, Paul Nixon, was involved in the development of the law firm now known as Nixon Wenger in 1975.

According to Linsey, giving back to the community has always been valued by her family and their businesses.

“It’s really important to support the community that has been supporting us for 75 years,” says Linsey.

Braden adds that investing in the Vernon Trades Training Centre was something the owners knew they wanted to support.

“We work in trades, and we know the value of having skilled trades people,” says Braden. “This state-of-the-art Centre will provide an opportunity for young people to get a quality education locally without having to move away, saving them money and making education more accessible.”

“We’re grateful for this generous gift from two Vernon families and companies whose contributions to the region span decades and industries,” says Michael Tindall, Chair of the Okanagan College Foundation’s Bright Horizons Building for Skills Campaign.

“Because of their support, and many others like them, we’re now $60,000 from our campaign goal. The community of Vernon is showing young people that we want to invest in their future while also creating an economic boom for the region by increasing the number of skilled trades people available locally.”

The $6.2 million Trades Centre will have the capacity to train approximately 150 students per year.

The project is being supported through the federal government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. Through this fund, the province of B.C. is investing $2.9 million and the government of Canada has provided $2.7 million toward the new Centre.

The Okanagan College Foundation set a fundraising goal of $1 million. The funds cover the remaining capital costs and will provide program and student bursaries and scholarships that will increase access to training.

More information about the new Trades Training Centre and fundraising campaign is available at


Infusions unveils new Okanagan-inspired menu and summer hours
Okanagan College Media Release

Infusions June 2018Those in search of a new go-to patio to sip Okanagan wines and savour locally-inspired bites will find their table at Infusions Restaurant at the College’s Kelowna campus this summer.

Starting on Friday, June 22, the restaurant will be open Tuesday – Friday, serving up an appetizer-style light menu from 2 – 4 p.m. and dinner starting at 5 p.m. (last seating at 7 p.m.).

The menu was carefully crafted with input from those who will be cooking it – the College’s Culinary Arts students.

“This year marks the first time the restaurant has been open over the summer months, which is very exciting for our students,” explains Culinary Arts instructor Chef Mike Barillaro. “It inspired us and challenged us to get creative in crafting the perfect Okanagan summer menu, one that really showcases all the wonderful local ingredients of the season.”

The new summer hours build on a model that has benefitted the College’s culinary students – and local diners – for years.

“From menu design to prep to cooking, Infusions offers our chefs-in-training first-hand experience in a fast-paced, real-world kitchen. The menu will change slightly over the summer, as students are learning new things as part of the curriculum. They take tremendous pride in ensuring our guests have a great experience,” says Barillaro.

Also just in time for summer and the new menu is a new patio set-up that will enhance the restaurant’s already picturesque view of the College’s courtyard.

“I always like to remind people that we have a bright, summery space here on campus,” adds Barillaro. “It’s a bit of a hidden gem, in Kelowna’s patio scene.”

Another benefit for diners? Infusions is one of the few restaurants in the valley that doesn’t charge corkage fees.

“You can bring in your own B.C. VQA wine and have it opened at your table at no charge,” explains Barillaro. “Of course, the restaurant also has a great selection of local wines, and our fantastic staff is more than happy to help you select and pair the perfect wines with your meal.”

Apart from closures for curriculum purposes from July 30 – Aug. 17 and Sept. 24 – 28., the restaurant will be open and the new summer-hours will be in effect until Sept. 21, when regular lunch and dinner service will resume.

Reservations are recommended. To find the new menu, visit To book a table call 250-862-5455 or


Penticton Child Care Centre named one of Canada’s most sustainable buildings
Okanagan College Media Release

The list of green accolades continues to grow for the Little Learners Child Care Centre at Okanagan College’s Penticton campus – it was recently recognized as one of Canada’s most sustainable new buildings.OC Little Learners Daycare Dec 2017

The child care facility, which opened its doors last September, picked up the Institutional (Small) Award at the 2018 Canadian Green Building Awards, presented by Sustainable Architecture & Building (SAB) Magazine announced in Toronto on June 5.

Okanagan College’s project was one of nine lauded as examples of the most advanced sustainably-designed buildings in Canada for 2018.

The jury, made up of architects and sustainable design experts, had this to say about the child care facility: “As a structure designed to the rigorous Passive House standard, this building is notable for the beauty and simplicity of its environmental systems. The building relies mostly on local materials and very economical passive design strategies.”

The facility is built to meet Passive House principles, a performance-based, voluntary, international construction standard for energy-efficient buildings that developed in Germany in the 1990s.

Designed by Penticton’s Landform Architecture Ltd. and built by Ritchie Custom Homes, the facility has already garnered two other awards since it opened last fall.

Last December, it became the first Passive House certified child care centre in the country. It was also named a Silver Finalist at the 2018 Tommie Awards in the category of Best Environmental Initiative in Construction (Residential or Commercial).

“Okanagan College is committed to being a leader in sustainability and to raising the bar for ourselves with each new facility we build,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We are very proud to be recognized among the institutions – and the stunning new and renovated facilities – that made the list.”

The project was made possible by a $500,000 investment by the B.C. Ministry of Children and Family Development and support from donors throughout the area. The Okanagan College Foundation embarked on a fundraising campaign to raise $700,000. More information and ways to support is available at

The full list of 2018 Canadian Green Building winners is available at


Alumnus returning to OC as Vice President
Okanagan College Media Release

Curtis Morcom left Okanagan University College with a Business Administration Degree in 2004. He will return this August as Okanagan College’s Vice President, Employee and Corporate Services.Curtis Morcom June 2018

Morcom, a Chartered Professional Accountant, graduated from OUC’s Bachelor of Business Administration with honours the year before OUC transformed to become Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan (2005). The Business Administration program has carried on as one of Okanagan College’s two degree programs. He says the learner-centred educational programming and practical work co-op experience gained while at OUC has left him with an abiding respect for the College, its programs, and deep community partnerships.

“I have watched over the past years and am very impressed by how the College has grown and integrated with the communities it serves. And, of course, I am always proud to tell people I received my BBA from OUC.”

“Curtis’ experience in the public and private sectors, as well as a demonstrated entrepreneurial spirit, convinced us he would be a great fit with the College,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Our search for the position drew applicants from across the country, but it was fortunate that we found the best candidate in Kelowna, and even more remarkable that we can count him as an alumnus.”

Since 2010, Morcom has been Director of Integrated Planning and Chief Budget Officer at UBC Okanagan and also recently served as a member of the UBC Board of Governors. Morcom has more than 20 years of senior management experience across a range of industries including, education, health, professional services, leasing and land development. At 21 years of age, Morcom was the youngest person to be awarded a franchise agreement of a leading national retailer. By the age of 25, Morcom oversaw operations of 26 retail locations throughout Manitoba. Morcom has also obtained a Chartered Director (C.Dir) designation through McMaster University and the Conference Board of Canada. Morcom and family have called the Okanagan home for the past 17 years.

“I’m really looking forward to working with the entire team at the College. They have accomplished many remarkable things and have established a great reputation within the region and nationally since I finished my degree. It is an honour to serve in this position and have the opportunity to contribute to the continued success and growth of the College.”


OC apprentice builds his way onto the podium at Skills Canada Nationals
Okanagan College Media Release

For his display of skill and precision under pressure, an Okanagan College-trained carpenter was recognized among the best in the country at Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC).

Lukas Pfob June 2018Lukas Pfob, a Level 4 Carpenter apprentice, brought home the Silver medal in the Carpentry competition at SCNC, which took place in Edmonton on June 4-5.

SCNC is the only national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices in the country. This year more than 500 competitors from across Canada made the trip to Edmonton to put their nerve and know-how to the test in more than 40 skilled trade and technology categories.

“The whole experience from start to finish is mind-blowing,” says Pfob, who is employed by Team Construction Management in Kelowna. “It’s very much like the Olympics but for trades. Until you’ve seen it, you really can’t appreciate how hard the competitors work. It challenges you in so many ways.”

It was Pfob’s second chance to seize the challenge at Nationals. Last year, he notched a strong showing but fell short of the podium in Winnipeg. He punched his ticket to Edmonton, and another shot at Nationals, with a gold medal-winning performance at the Provincial competition in Abbotsford back in April.

His nationals test this year? It was no child’s play.

After the fanfare of the opening ceremonies subsided, Pfob and his fellow competitors had just 12 hours over the course of two-days to construct an intricate play house from scratch. And while he says the time constraint was nerve-racking, Pfob also had to overcome the challenge of working almost elbow-to-elbow with the competition.

“Looking up and seeing the best apprentices from the other provinces and territories working a few feet away is tough,” he says, “but I knew from my experience last year – and from all the work I’ve put in with my instructors – that I had to ignore them and stay as focused as I could on the task at hand.”

That focus – and the years of preparation at the College and on the jobsite – paid off.

“When I found out I came in second, I was ecstatic,” says Pfob. “These truly are some of the best carpenters in Canada, so I take a lot of pride in this showing. I’m very grateful to all my instructors and everyone who has helped me along the way.”Pfob, Vanlerberg, Mclaren June 2018

The medal was Pfob’s first at nationals and fifth overall at Skills Canada competitions, including consecutive gold medals at Provincials the past two years.

“We’re immensely proud of Lukas for his achievements at Skills Canada competitions this year – and over the years – and equally so for the fine example he’s setting for his fellow students and apprentices at the College,” says Steve Moores, Okanagan College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship.

Pfob recently completed his Level 4 apprenticeship at the College. Prior to jetting off to Edmonton, he delivered the student address at the Trades Commencement ceremony at the Kelowna campus last month.

“Every instructor I have had, from high school to 4th year at the College, has pushed me to greater levels of success,” explains Pfob. “I hope one day to be able to do the same. I’d love eventually to have the opportunity to teach, to inspire others to push themselves to always keep learning, to take pride in their field and generally just strive to be the best they can be.”

Pfob was joined by two other Okanagan College students at Nationals. Vernon’s Bradley Vanlerberg competed in the Aerospace Technology category and Kelowna’s Conner McLaren competed in the Automotive Service category. All three students won gold at the provincial Skills Canada competition on April 18.


Car Dealers Rev Up Support for OC Automotive and Business Students
Okanagan College Media Release

New Car Dealers_1 June 2018The New Car Dealers Foundation of British Columbia is helping power success with $10,000 annually in new awards for Trades and Business students at Okanagan College.

The annual awards ranging from $1,000 to $2,000 each will support students in the Automotive Service Technician apprenticeship and foundation programs, plus the Business Administration program.

“The demand for skilled automotive service technicians and business professionals is increasing throughout the automotive sector,” says Blair Qualey,
President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of B.C.

“We see partnerships with training institutions like Okanagan College as integral to service delivery and the prosperity of our member dealerships.”

There are 29 new car dealer members in the Okanagan including six dealerships operated by Sentes Automotive.

Adam Rich, Sentes Automotive Group General Manager, says he hopes the awards will encourage more young people to enter the automotive industry and stay local after graduation.

“We’re always looking for more technicians. We know the value of the Okanagan College program, we’ve hired grads in the past, and we’re thrilled to support it,” says Rich.

“We are very grateful to the New Car Dealers Foundation for this investment in our students’ futures,” says Kathy Butler, Executive Director, Okanagan College Foundation. “The creation of these new awards will both help attract and retain students, ultimately connecting them to a vibrant and expanding industry, especially in the Okanagan.”

“These awards are unique in that they will open doors for trades students while also supporting the next generation of business professionals pursuing careers in the automotive sector.”

The New Car Dealers Foundation presented its first set of awards in Kelowna in April.

Among the recipients was Paul Whitlock, a student in the Automotive Service Technician program. Whitlock plans to complete his Red Seal Endorsement and then go on to business school.

“This award will make it easier for me to progress through my apprenticeship with less stress about being able to afford it all,” says Whitlock. “I can't thank the donors enough for this very generous gift. It will help me achieve my dream.”

The New Car Dealers Association of B.C. represents more than 390 New Car Dealers throughout the province, who generate more than $16 billion in economic activity, pump $2.9 billion net GDP directly into B.C.’s economy, and employ more than 30,000 high paying jobs in 54 communities they serve.

For more information on the new training hub visit


Enactus OC project transforms elementary students into authors in the South Okanagan

A class of Grade 4 students at Queen’s Park Elementary in Penticton are some of the region’s newest published authors thanks to a new initiative by Okanagan College’s Enactus team.enactus pen news

Carrie-Ann McAlpine and Christie Reid, both business students at the Penticton campus, recently spent three days in the classroom working with students to write and illustrate their own stories.

“We wanted to develop a fun, hands-on way for the students to think about reading and writing – and something that ultimately could help teachers make literacy more exciting and tangible,” says McAlpine. “Our aim was to transport them into the mindset of an author.”

The theme, fittingly, was transportation. Over the course of three days, students learned about transportation – past and present – and were tasked with working in groups to envision and write about future modes of transport.

And while the College students may have been used to group work, they quickly found out it was a new experience for their elementary school subjects.

“For many of the students, it was their first group project ever, or the first of this scale where they worked together over a few days,” explains McAlpine. “So it turned out to be a great learning experience on the literacy side of things, and it also challenged them to work together, listen to each other, and make decisions as a group.”

Before stepping into the classroom, McAlpine and Reid found a way to make the students feel more like the real-world authors they know and look up to.

“We approached the Kiwanis Club of Penticton which agreed to cover the cost of professionally printing the students’ stories,” explains McApline. “When we brought in the published works, the students eyes lit up. It was one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever been a part of, as a student or otherwise.”

Like the students they mentored, McAlpine and Reid have now turned their attention to imaging what the future could look like. They hope to grow the project and be able to replicate the writing and publishing experience for students in more classrooms and schools. They’re also looking into how the students’ published works could be sold to provide schools and community organizations such as Kiwanis with a new fundraising tool.

“This project really embodies what Enactus Okanagan College is all about,” notes Dr. Sheilagh Seaton, a professor with the College’s School of Business and a faculty advisor for Enactus OC.

“Carrie-Ann and Christie took a simple idea and found a way to bring it to life in the community to benefit others and foster new collaborations and opportunities. It’s been wonderful to watch how quickly they realized their vision and the positive impact it has had on students in the pilot project.”


Summertime activities and learning opportunities still available for Kelowna kids
Okanagan College Media Release

CampOC 2018From Minecraft to cooking camps to flight academy, Okanagan College’s Camp OC is back in July with a broad selection of educational day camps designed to keep kids busy while after camp care offers flexibility for parents at the end of the day.

Camp OC, coordinated by the College’s Continuing Studies department, offers week-long educational day camps full of interactive experiences, fun and adventure for youth.

Back for its 14th year in Kelowna, camps will once again be offered for students in Grades 2-12. Parents can choose from a range of camps including Minecraft programming, wood and metal fabrication camps, LEGO building, fashion and cooking camps, website design and flight academy camps, among others.

The sessions are a hit with Mia Salmon and her children, who have attended multiple camps. “The courses are packed full of fun things to do. Parents can be confident that their kids will come away with new friends, useful ideas and skills,” says Salmon.

After a successful launch last year, camp organizers are once again offering optional after camp care for students who will be entering Grades 2-6 this fall. With camps running 8:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Monday to Friday, parents once again have the option of enrolling their child in weeklong after camp care where qualified staff will engage them in activities until 5 p.m. The cost ranges from $24-30 for the week.

Camp OC is also a chance for high school students to boost their resumes and chalk up volunteer hours required for graduation. And with more than 100 scheduled camps in Kelowna alone this year, youth volunteers are still needed to fill some key summer camp roles.

“Volunteering at Camp OC gives high schoolers some of the required credits they need toward graduation,” explains Helena Jordo, Camp OC Coordinator for Kelowna. “We track and report back all volunteer hours to the school districts and it’s a great way for students thinking about attending the College to spend time on campus and learn their way around.”

Last year more than 1,700 students took part in more than 140 different camps as part of Camp OC across the College’s campuses in Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and Revelstoke. The program has seen incredible growth since it launched in the summer of 2004, then with only 70 kids enrolled in about 10 camps.

More information about Camp OC is available at


College’s Vernon Trades Centre gets a boost from Kalamalka Rotary

Kalamalka Rotary has stepped forward with a major gift to support amenities for students in the new Trades Centre under construction at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus.Kalamalka Rotary ver 1

“Kalamalka Rotary is proud to contribute $25,000 from the club’s Annual Dream Auction to support the College’s new Trades Training Centre,” says Club President Neil Perry. “We’re pleased to be able to support a space that will enhance the facilities available at the College, help to grow a skilled workforce in the North Okanagan and meet the increasing demand for skilled trades workers in the area.”

The club’s support will specifically help the College outfit men’s and women’s locker rooms in the $6.2 million, 13,450 square-foot facility, which is slated to open in August.

The gift also marks a significant milestone in the fundraising campaign for the project.

“Kalamalka Rotary’s support brings us over the $915,000 mark and within $85,000 dollars of our goal,” notes Michael Tindall, Chair of the Okanagan College Foundation’s Bright Horizons Building for Skills Campaign. “We’re deeply grateful for all the support we’ve received – it’s come from individuals, it’s come from families, businesses large and small, and with just a couple months left to go before students step into the building, we’re confident the good people of Vernon will help us meet our goal.”

The new building will provide space for approximately 150 students per year to train in more than a half-dozen programs, including Carpentry, Electrical and Welding. It will help the College deliver specialized offerings like Aboriginal Trades Training and Women in Trades Training, as well as contract training to meet the needs of employers in the region.

“Skilled tradespeople play a significant role in the economic prosperity of the North Okanagan, as they do in many communities throughout the region we serve,” explains Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Our new Trades Training Centre in Vernon is going to give our students a bright, modern and truly state-of-the-art facility that will match the quality of instruction they have always received at the College. And in so doing, it will help ensure we can continue to train the skilled workers needed to address the skills gap looming or already being felt in many areas across the province and the country.”

“We’re thankful to Kalamalka Rotary and all the donors who are investing in Okanagan College and in our students’ futures for years to come.”

The total cost for the new Trades Centre is $6.2 million. The project is being supported through the federal government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund. Through this fund, the province of B.C. is investing $2.9 million and the government of Canada has provided $2.7 million. The Okanagan College Foundation is fundraising for the remainder of the capital cost and to provide program and student support to increase access to training.

More information about the new Trades Training Centre and fundraising campaign is available at


Graduation inspires College student to think locally and globally
Okanagan College Media Release

Jennifer Meyer had long envisioned a career in International Development before an opportunity to make an impact locally sparked a change in plans. When she crosses the stage at Spring Convocation on Saturday, she’ll do so with a new perspective and big plans for how she can put her skills to work to benefit others in the Okanagan.Jennifer Meyer June 2018

Meyer is one of nearly 500 students who will graduate during two ceremonies Okanagan College is hosting on Saturday at the Kelowna campus.

The morning ceremony begins at 10:30 a.m. and will see students from Arts, Science, Engineering Technologies, Computer Science and Health and Social Development programs receive their credentials. Patrick Waunch, CEO and President of Rambow Mechanical Ltd. will be recognized as an Honorary Fellow of Okanagan College – the highest honour bestowed by the College.

At the afternoon ceremony starting at 1:30 p.m., the College will confer degrees, diplomas and certificates to graduands from the Okanagan School of Business. Retired MLA Rick Thorpe will also be named Honorary Fellow and will address the graduands.

“I’ve always been a ‘yes’ person,” explains Meyer, who will receive her Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree in the afternoon ceremony. “I think it’s exhilarating to try new things and uncover new passions along the way and it’s because of this that I’ve got this really neat mixture of skills, experience, training and education that are preparing me for a really exciting future.”

Born and raised in Kelowna, Meyer began at the College in 2013 where she enrolled in the Associate of Arts degree program with intentions of completing the two-year program and transferring to a university to pursue a degree in International Development. Her plans changed when she decided to say yes to the opportunity to enrol in the College’s BBA program in accounting – an opportunity which also saw her move to France for half a year to study abroad.

The time away found her thinking about how she could apply her blossoming business skills to good use when she returned to Kelowna.

“This is my hometown and I’m really passionate about making an impact here,” says Meyer. “My time in the School of Business gave me a chance to gain a more global perspective but it also inspired me to look more closely and how I can drive change right here at home.”

Meyer’s first chance to apply her education came long before graduation. After being elected to the Okanagan College Student’s Union (OCSU), she worked with other students to come up with new ways of organizing the budget, lobbying for more student benefits, presenting to College boards and more.

“I’m an accounting student, so numbers are definitely my thing and I do have a tendency to think about that bottom line and how to make numbers work for you,” says Meyer. “But I also have this whole other side to me and I feel very motivated to do something bigger for my city.”

Meyer envisions a future in municipal or federal government but for now is focusing on graduation, starting a rewarding career at KPMG and working towards her Chartered Professional Accounting designation.

She’s also not the only Meyer who will be crossing the stage on Saturday.

“My brother Christian will be graduating with his Associate of Science degree in the morning ceremony,” explains Meyer. “My whole family is coming to watch both of us graduate.”

The ceremonies this weekend are two of eight convocation and commencement ceremonies Okanagan College will host this year.

“I want to congratulate all graduates and recognize them for their hard work, dedication and achievements both inside and outside of the classroom at Okanagan College,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “The future of the Okanagan looks incredibly bright and whether students stay in the region or move away, I am confident they will help transform themselves, people around them and the communities they live in.”

A ceremony in Vernon will be held on Tuesday, June 26. At that ceremony, the College will confer the title of Honorary Fellow upon Vernon’s Mollie QuilQuil Sneena Bono who will also address graduates. The final summer convocation ceremonies in Kelowna will follow on Wednesday, June 27 and Thursday, June 28 and will confer approximately 380 diplomas and certificates.

More than 2000 students will have graduated from Okanagan College in 2018 by the end of June.

All ceremonies will be live streamed on the Okanagan College Facebook page at


A global opportunity at hand for PacWest wineries
Okanagan College Media Release

Steve Warner Wine talks May 2018At a time when trade agreements and threats dominate headlines, the President of the Washington State Wine Commission has a simple message for the B.C., Oregon and Washington wine industries.


Steve Warner, who has led the Washington State Wine Commission since 2012, will be bringing his perspective on the opportunities and challenges for the wine industries of Washington, Oregon and B.C. to Penticton on June 18, as part of the Wine Talks series presented by Liquidity Winery and Okanagan College.

There are challenges enough for each of the individual region’s industries – interprovincial trade barriers for B.C. wineries are just one example – but there are opportunities abroad to establish the reputation for the entire Pacific Northwest wine region that should be seized upon, says Warner. “We live the quality of our wines every day,” says Warner, “but we need to demonstrate that in the global market. The Pacific Northwest has a growing reputation that we need to work together to build.”

That will help reinforce the message of quality that drives domestic consumption but will also open doors for a growing export industry.”

He and 14 wineries from Washington are on their way to Hong Kong for VinExpo 2018.

“Washington’s first AVA was established in 1983. That’s like being weeks old in an industry where there are wineries that date back thousands of years.”

“We (Washington, B.C. and Oregon) are more alike than we are different. We’re complementary.”

“Washington State produces less than one per cent of the world’s wine. We don’t need to compete with each other – we need to co-operate.”

Warner’s tenure at the Washington State Wine Commission came after a career in the international pharmaceutical industry. Working for Merck & Co., Inc. he served as Managing Director, General Manager and held marketing positions in Bucharest, Seoul, Bangkok and in the U.S. He has a master’s of business administration in international business and finance from Rutgers University. Before his private sector career he served in the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command, completing his career as a Lieutenant Command in U.S. Navy Special Operations.

“I guess you could say I’ve gone from guns to drugs to alcohol.”

The most recent economic analysis of Washington State’s wine industry points to an annual impact nearing $5 billion.

“Under Steve’s leadership, Washington State wines have seen tremendous sales growth particularly in the premium category,” says Ian MacDonald, owner of Liquidity Wines. “This is a unique opportunity for us to learn what they have done to position their wine region for local, national and international success.”

Tickets for the fourth instalment in the Wine Talks series, June 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Penticton Campus of Okanagan College, are $20. You can register online by visiting


Finding the Good: conference seeks to generate new ideas for ethical International Development
Okanagan College Media Release

How can ideas that begin in the classroom grow into real-world solutions to attack poverty, hunger, and gender inequality around the world? And – on the flip side – how can front-line practice inform the way students and researchers comprehend increasingly complex challenges to fundamental human rights?

International Development scholars and practitioners from across North America will convene at Okanagan College next month for a unique conference aimed at finding innovative ways to advance social justice, inclusion and human rights in development efforts around the world.

The conference – Finding the Good – happens June 8-9 at the College’s Kelowna campus. The first day will offer thematic workshops, discussions, and networking, with a focus on developing a book project on the theme of Ethics in International Development.

“Finding the Good is about bringing people together for dialogue focused on bringing about real change in this field and out in the world,” explains conference organizer Dr. Rosalind Warner, who teaches Political Science at Okanagan College. “The idea behind the conference is to create a space where scholarly insights and practical development work collide. Hopefully, the result will be solutions that improve the lives of people experiencing marginalization, discrimination and oppression.”

“It’s a conference focused on generating big ideas but even more importantly it’s about coming up with a plan for how we put those big ideas into practice.”

Sessions will cover a host of topics from public-private sector partnerships to women, gender and feminism to putting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015 – into a local context.

“The SDGs are indivisible, universal and aspirational goals and they apply as much at the local level as they do at the global level. The conference will therefore be of interest to those working to solve problems right here in the valley,” notes Warner.

Day two of Finding the Good will see keynote presentations by renowned International development professionals Chloe Schwenke and Michael Simpson.

Chloe Schwenke May 2018Schwenke, a former Director of the Global Program on Violence, Rights, and Inclusion at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), brings more than three decades experience as a human rights and social inclusion scholar and international development practitioner.

“There is a lack of effective, structured discussions on the current moral and economic climate in international development,” notes Schwenke, who currently serves as Interim Executive Director of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (
AWP), based at the University of Maryland in College Park.

“Our partnerships with the developing world are changing rapidly and there is a definite need for scholars and practitioners alike to come together and discuss how we can inform new public policy, and how we can spark conversations that fuel paradigm shifts.”

As an educator, Schwenke says she has noticed more and more students stepping forward to join that conversation.

“There seems to be a growing interest in social inclusion issues and marginalization populations, from women to the LGBTQ community. Young people really relate to these topics and obviously we want to inspire and encourage them to add their voice to the conversation,” adds Schwenke.
Michael Simpson May 2018
Those interested in hearing more about Schwenke’s life and work as an LGBTQ scholar can also attend a book launch for her new memoir SELF-ish: a transgender awakening on June 8 at 5:30 p.m. at Infusions Restaurant at the Kelowna campus. Schwenke will share excerpts from the work in which she shares her experiences as an openly transgender Quaker woman whose life’s journey includes living in five countries and working on projects in more than 40, mostly in Africa and the Middle East. The event is free. Attendees can register in advance on Eventbrite.

Michael Simpson is the Executive Director of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC). Prior to working for
 BCCIC, Michael was the Executive Director of One Sky – The Canadian Institute for Sustainable Living. His work with One Sky varied from leading major bilateral projects in West Africa including Nigeria and Sierra Leone to working in Latin America on projects ranging from forest conservation to leadership development. He is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has worked extensively in conflict and post-conflict areas around the globe.

Registration for Finding the Good is open online until June 1. Attendees can choose to register for a single day (Friday or Saturday) for $130 or both days for $170. Both days are open to public registration.

More information is available at Follow this event on
Facebook and on #ocfindingthegood.


Graduation brings it all into focus for College welding student
Okanagan College Media Release

After more than a decade working as a professional photographer in Ottawa, Mitchell Burton moved across the country, enrolled at Okanagan College and traded in his camera for a welding torch.Mitchell Burton May 2018

Today marks another important step toward that new career path as he and hundreds of others – from Aircraft Maintenance Engineers to RV Service Technicians – earn credentials at the College’s Trades Commencement ceremony.

“I felt I wasn’t getting any more traction in my career and didn’t know what was in store for my future in the photography industry,” explains Burton. “I was looking for something to happen, so I went back to basics and thought to myself, ‘why not find a new path that combines another one of my passions with work?’”

The answer to that question inspired Burton to get in his car and drive west across Canada to move to the Okanagan to pursue a new career path. An avid scuba diver, Burton was intrigued by the possibility of becoming a commercial level diver. Upon further research, he decided to explore a trade closely associated with commercial diving – welding – which led him to Okanagan College.

“Deciding to go to the College and enrolling in the welding program just felt right for me and now that I’m at the end of this program I can say it was the right choice,” says Burton. “Welding is such a versatile trade and you can really do so much with it and work in a ton of different venues which makes me very excited for my future because the opportunities are endless.”

For Burton, today’s ceremony marks the completion of his C-Level Welding Foundation Certificate which he hopes will propel him into the industry and open the door to future training.

“Graduating has given me a huge sense of accomplishment and I can’t wait to hit the ground running in this industry and start laying down some roots in the region,” says Burton. “I am excited to see where I’ll end up in this career.”

Burton’s next step will be to accrue the 1,000 hours of industry experience required to earn his Level 1 apprenticeship, after which he plans to return to the College to obtain B-Level Certification.

“Tradespeople play a vital role in building and sustaining our communities and trades training has always been at the heart of what we do at Okanagan College,” says President Jim Hamilton. “We commend all of our 2018 trades graduates on their achievements.”

More than 700 apprentices and foundation trades students will have received credentials since January. About 100 of those students were expected to attend Thursday’s ceremony.

Trades Commencement is one of eight convocation and commencement ceremonies Okanagan College will host this year. By the end of June, the College will have sent more than 2,000 graduates into the world to become nurses, engineering technologists, business leaders, computer programmers, educators, tradespeople and more.

Okanagan College is the second-largest trades training institution in the province behind BCIT.


With help from federal government and donors, new Trades Training House opens at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

The next generation of carpenters, plumbers, and electricians are stepping into a state-of-the-art new training space at Okanagan College this week thanks to investment from the Government of Canada, the College and a host of industry and community partners.

Trades Training House 1 May 2018Stephen Fuhr, Kelowna-Lake Country Member of Parliament, visited the Kelowna campus on Tuesday to officially open the College’s new Trades Training House.

The 2,700 square-foot facility is designed to simulate a real-world jobsite that will constantly change as new techniques, technologies and building materials emerge.

The opening wasn’t Fuhr’s first trip to the Trades Training House site. In March 2017, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Fuhr helped the College break ground for the building after announcing $332,485 in support for the project from the Federal Government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund.

“Skilled tradespeople play a vital role in ensuring the economic prosperity of the Okanagan and communities across the country,” said Fuhr. “Between the Trades Training House in Kelowna and the Trades Training Centre under construction at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus, the Federal Government has invested nearly $3 million to enhance the College’s infrastructure and support its work to equip the tradespeople of today and future generations who will train in these facilities. The Trades Training House is going to benefit students and our local employers looking for skilled workers for years to come.”

Beyond future carpenters, plumbers and pipefitters and electricians, the facility will also serve students in the College’s Residential Construction, Sheet Metal Worker, Women in Trades Training and Aboriginal Gateway to the Building Trades programs.

Kelowna’s Sarah McGuire is one of those students.

“The more hands-on training we can get, the more experience and confidence we’ll have when we step onto the jobsite,” says McGuire, who is currently completing the Plumbing and Piping Foundation program. “Having a space that functions just like the real-world and gives us lots of variety in terms of equipment we’re working on, and the various stages of installation and repair, is incredibly valuable.”

Among those donors investing in the training of students like McGuire is Lee Keenan, Owner of Legacy Garage Doors. Keenan’s company contributed garage doors to the project, worth about $3,100.Trades Training House 2 May 2018

“The success of our business is based on our ability to offer our customers extremely high quality products and services – and a big part of that is having access to skilled workers,” notes Keenan. “We’re proud to be a part of the Trades Training House and supporting the futures of the countless tradespeople who will train here.”

“The beauty of the Trades Training House is that it will benefit students across so many programs and stages of training, while offering us the flexibility to offer new programming as industry needs change locally, across the province and beyond,” said Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “We’re immensely grateful to the Federal government for its investment in trades training at the College. I would also like to extend our gratitude to the many donors and industry partners who have stepped up with significant and varied contributions to help outfit the space.”

The house will also give the College and industry a space to pursue new programming, work-integrated learning and applied research projects.

Plans are in the works to add a solar photovoltaic array to the roof to capture energy and provide a tool for the College to be able to offer training in solar panel installation, maintenance and repair in future.

It is expected that more than 300 students will train in the facility per year.

The total cost for the project was approximately $1,060,000. To date – not including the federal government’s commitment – the College has received more than $384,000 in donations and gifts-in-kind toward the project. The College will contribute the remainder of the cost.


Enactus OC students showcase new initiatives on national stage
Okanagan College Media Release

After a strong showing at the Enactus Canada Regional Competition earlier this spring, 27 Okanagan College business students are heading across the country to once again assert their place among Canada’s best. One of the new projects they’ll be showcasing on the national stage is already having an accelerated impact in local classrooms.

Accelerate Youth

For fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) student Jamie Park and her teammates, earning first-place at Regionals in Calgary in the Scotiabank Youth Empowerment Challenge for the Accelerate Youth project – one of Enactus OC’s newest initiatives – was a major confidence boost and a milestone in the project’s rapid development over the past year.

Accelerate Youth teaches practical life skills such as budgeting, banking, cooking and more to at-risk youth. Joining Park on the team are fellow business students Jessica Egyed, Jessica Overland and Marshall Kutyn.

The project began to take root when Christine Thygesen, an instructor and counselor at the Westside Learning Center, approached the College for an innovative solution and support to teach life skills to students in alternative schools.

“For students who have experienced difficulties in past academic endeavors, adolescence is often the time when they acknowledge their negative outlook on the future,” explains Thygesen. “My vision was to improve the mindset of these teens by creating a program that would support and accelerate them to their next level of potential through hands-on learning.”

Over a 10-week span made up of 20 sessions, Enactus OC teammates visited the Westside Learning Centre to work with students.

“We started with needs versus wants, something every teenager knows about,” explains Park. “After a few weeks the youth started to open up to us and come to realize the importance of financial and nutritional literacy. Once we had covered the basics, we started looking at credit, insurance and taxes.”

The students were soon buoyed by a partnership with a local non-profit organization, Start Fresh, which allowed them to add some hands-on culinary education for the students. Launched in 2016, Start Fresh serves up education on everything from kitchen skills to life skills in a wide variety of settings.

‘Working with Accelerate Youth has been a fantastic experience for our Chefs here at Start Fresh,” says Sarah Martin, Operations Manager at Start Fresh. “We were able to come in to the project, share our skills and knowledge with the students and have a lot of fun doing it. We’re always grateful to support and work with youth in a meaningful way.”

Accelerate Youth also received a $2,000 grant from the Central Okanagan Foundation for Youth and United Way Gennext, which provided the critical seed capital needed for its launch. So far, 25 youth have benefited from the program and the project partners are already looking at how it can be expanded to other regions and districts in future.

“It’s inspiring to see the collaboration between the Enactus team and the students who have built this incredible community learning environment,” says Enactus OC Faculty Advisor Dr. Kyleen Myrah. “The response from community partners who are offering their specialized expertise and financial support for this program has been outstanding. I am excited to see the future direction of Accelerate Youth.”

Enactus OC will be competing in three competitions at the National Exposition held May 14-16 in Toronto. Alongside Accelerate Youth, the entrepreneurial team will also highlight the Launch-a-Preneur and Start-up Weekend projects. The national team will present on all projects from the year. Alongside Myrah, three other Faculty Advisors – Dean Warner, Terry Kosowick and Scott Overland – will accompany and support the teams.