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$5,000 prize and connections are the promise of Venture Okanagan
Entrepreneurs are already honing their presentation skills as preparations continue for the 10th edition of Venture Okanagan, Western Canada’s largest student-run pitch session for entrepreneurs.
The event will be held in Kelowna at Okanagan College’s campus on February 18.
Twice annually, Venture Okanagan brings five local entrepreneurs together to compete for the attention of local investors. It’s a rewarding experience for participants and for observers.
And it’s a chance for students from Okanagan College’s School of Business to put their education and skills to work in helping develop local businesses. A group of student volunteers, who are part of Enactus Okanagan College, are the driving force behind Venture Okanagan, led this year by Lauren McKay.
GreenStep Solutions Inc., a local consulting firm focused on environmental sustainability, was the fortunate winner in Spring 2014’s Venture Okanagan event. “The Venture Okanagan process gives invaluable feedback and experience to start-ups,” says Angela Nagy, the CEO of GreenStep. “Participating in the pitching forum adds credibility and exposure that continues to pay off in the long term.” To date, her firm has worked with more than 1,200 businesses and organizations in several sectors, including private, public, non-profit and academic institutions.
There’s also the lure of a $5,000 prize for the event’s winner, provided by the title sponsor, Grant Thornton LLP. “The Okanagan is home to an amazing number of innovative entrepreneurs and businesses, and Venture Okanagan helps connect them with the capital, resources and relationships they need to grow and succeed,” explains Kevin Santos, Partner with Grant Thornton’s Kelowna office. “We are encouraged by the entrepreneurial spirit here, and are excited to be part of the upcoming Investor Forum.”
Beyond the prize and the chance to promote business ideas to local investors, Venture Okanagan is also a premium networking event. Tickets for the event are $40.88 and are available at vowinter2016.eventbrite.ca. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and presentations start at 6 p.m.
Results are in from the fall’s Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Xtreme Programming world-wide competition; one of Okanagan College’s first-year Bachelor of Computer Information Systems teams made-up of Rob Bro, Martin Wallace, and Kevin Hall placed in the top 25 teams across Canada, and top 500 world-wide out of 2,000 global teams (and more than 6,400 students). This was the first year the College entered.
Four three-member OC teams (12 students) participated in the consecutive 24-hour competition that saw student teams solve 29 unique problems using different algorithms and then translate those algorithms into a computer language. Their solutions were tested for accuracy, speed and correctness. The students stayed at the Kelowna campus for the round-the-clock event, working hard to solve these problems. It was the first time any of them competed in a programming competition, and Computer Information Systems Department Chair Dr. Youry Khmelevsky and Professor Kenneth Chidlow coached them.
“I don’t think any of us knew what to anticipate,” said Bro. “Some of the questions were super simple, however there were questions that were solvable but required you to solve them in a particular way to pass the time constrains. It was quite the challenge but lots of fun.”
The students have now formed an IEEE student branch at Okanagan College and will be looking forward to many more activities through 2016 including the Global Game Jam on Jan. 29. For more information, visit the website.
Boeing predicts a global industry demand for 609,000 aircraft maintenance technicians over the next 20 years, making it the most in-demand occupation in the aviation industry.
Locally the demand is echoed at KF Aerospace, Kelowna’s largest privately owned employer. In the last four years, the company that boasts over 500 employees in Kelowna has hired 29 of Okanagan College’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineer Structures (AME-S) graduates (including the entire 2014 class), representing more than a quarter of their AME-S technicians labour force.
Those looking to have their career take flight within a year can still apply for the Feb. 1, 2016 intake of the AME-S certificate program at the College. Students are taught everything they need to become structures technicians that work on the skin and frame of an aircraft.
“Knowing I could finish classes and there was a high probability of a job right away was reassuring, and validated my choice in taking this program,” said 32-year-old Shael Riendeau who completed the College’s AME-S certificate program in December and started work immediately at KF Aerospace. “It’s not just a job, it’s a career, and in less than one year I was able to apply, take the program, graduate, and get hired.”
A career in the aircraft industry may have been written in the stars for Riendeau; his grandfather was a pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force for 25 years. As such he was always exposed to planes when growing up, and found them fascinating.
While being an AME is a craftsman job, many are drawn to the industry for its cleanliness, job security, and work-life balance. In class students learn aircraft design, construction, installations, repairs and work with composite materials. The curriculum is up to date with high tech modern equipment and follows strict Transport Canada guidelines.
Partnering with industry to connect grads with employers is a pillar of Okanagan College’s success. Uniquely, the AME-S program is taught at the Kelowna airport sharing hangar space with KF Aerospace.
“It’s a real dialogue between the College, KF Aerospace and other industry stakeholders to ensure our students are exposed to the latest technologies, regulations, and standards,” said Dale Martell, Okanagan College AME program chair.
For Riendeau this translated to an education that was hands-on and prepared him for a job. “There’s a lot of shop time and you practice all your hand-skills such as riveting, drilling, and accuracy continuously.”
He adds that going on tours of KF Aerospace throughout the year was a great way to develop a solid idea of what the job would entail upon graduation and to build a rapport with those whom he now calls colleagues.
“They’d take us on tours when they had an interesting project in the hangar,” explained Riendeau. “I remember once they were adding a cargo door to the body of an airplane that previously didn’t have one, that was really cool. Being able to ask questions and integrate this learning into my education was definitely an asset.”
“By sharing our facility with the College, we see the students, who are potential hires, evolve to develop the precision skills needed to be job-ready in helping make planes safe to fly,” said Grant Stevens, Director of Human Resources at KF Aerospace. “As a nice synergy, by the time we are ready to interview them they too have a foundation in who we are as a company, what we do, and what we look for.
“At KF Aerospace we hire for the long-term, and while we hire from all over Canada, hiring locally ensures that these individual are here for the long haul, as they have established roots in the region.”
Over 70 per cent of the College’s AME-S graduates are hired locally in the aircraft and helicopter industry, while others go on to work provincially, nationally or globally in this exciting industry that includes the armed forces, search and rescue and airline companies.
For more information about the AME-S program starting Feb. 1 and to apply visit: www.okanagan.bc.ca/ame.
For detailed topic descriptions of the speakers’ talks, visit: www.ocspeakersseries.weebly.com.