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Demand for Certified Energy Advisors powers success for OC alumnus
Okanagan College Media Release


For Brendon Gray, the Sustainable Construction Management Technology program at Okanagan College has sparked a new career with super-charged demand.

Brendon gray SCMT Nov 2019Brendon was a journeyman electrician who worked seven years for a local company, making his way from the construction site into the office as a project coordinator. With a background in trades, he realized he understood the projects he coordinated but needed more management fundamentals at his fingertips.

As an Okanagan College alumnus, he checked out what OC had to offer and discovered the Sustainable Construction Management Technology (SCMT) Diploma program.

“It paired what I wanted to do professionally with the sustainability and green building principles that really spoke to me,” Gray said. “I knew there was going to be a big shift in the industry to focus more on sustainable practices, and I wanted to get a grasp on the new technologies on the market.”

He discovered a class of students with a wide range of backgrounds, from those who had never set foot on a construction site before to leaders in the trades industry.

“There’s some pretty heavy material and a lot of content to go through, but as a result, there’s so many different avenues that people can take after the program,” Gray said.

The full-time program has a blended delivery format, which allowed him to continue working part-time at his past employer.

“After my first year, they brought in a guest speaker who is an energy advisor in the Okanagan. He gave us a tutorial of what he does for builders, and gave us a rundown on the changes coming up for the Building Code, and how there would be a demand for energy advisors. I could see myself filling that demand,” he said.

Gray was able to be mentored that summer by an energy advisor, which enabled him to become a Certified Energy Advisor. Coupled with his Diploma in Sustainable Construction Management Technology and trades training, he is now primed to meet the needs of the building and development industry.

And those needs are about to change drastically.

The BC Energy Step Code is a provincial standard designed to help municipalities and industries step up the performance of their buildings incrementally over time, to meet the net-zero energy level that will be required by 2032. For example, new homes will have to be 20-per-cent more energy efficient by 2022, and 40-per-cent more energy efficient by 2027.

To achieve those targets, the Energy Step Code shifts building efficiency requirements away from the prescriptive approach that focused on the individual elements of the home (insulation, windows, furnaces, water heaters, etc.). Instead, the new Step Code focuses on a performance-based approach, ensuring the home works as an overall system.

That’s where Certified Energy Advisors come in. Using computerized energy modeling software, advisors evaluate the building to identify things like solar heat gains, passive cooling, insulation and mechanical systems, and how efficient the building’s envelope should be. Then the model is tested with an on-site assessment: a blower door fan is installed in the exterior door and the house is depressurized enough to imitate 33 km/h winds going through the house. The air is measured to see if the pressure is maintained, indicating good building performance, and what the sources of loss might be.

Sustainable Construction Management Technology professor Brian Rippy said that, as part of Energy Step Code compliance, municipalities like Kelowna, Penticton and Lake Country are going to require assessments written by Certified Energy Advisors as early as Dec. 1.

“Building requirements are changing significantly in the years to come with respect to energy efficiency and more. Industry and employers need people with diverse skills and knowledge in order to guide sustainable development in the near future, and the SCMT program is meeting that need,” Rippy explains. “Graduates like Brendon will be playing a leading role in the construction industry in Canada and abroad.”

Gray has started his own business delivering energy efficiency consulting services that specialize in B.C.’s Energy Step Code for part 9 buildings, EnerGuide evaluations, home energy audits, energy modelling and blower door air tightness testing.

Starting a business in a brand new field has its rewards and challenges, Gray explained. Awareness of the changes coming to the BC Building Code has been the biggest hurdle to overcome so far.

“You’re dealing with builders and homeowners who aren’t clear on the changes and what they mean for their projects. Come December, there’s going to be a big learning curve,” he said, adding that smart business owners are looking to the changes as an opportunity.

“I try to tell people it’s about transparency: if you buy a vehicle, you want to know what the gas mileage is like, which model is more energy efficient. But when people look at the biggest investment in their life, a house, there’s no clear rating system that has been in place to inform them how energy efficient it is. For builders, these energy assessments can become a great marketing tool for them to showcase just how energy efficient their homes are to buyers.”

For information on the SCMT program, visit Check out Brendon Gray’s website at or the provincial Energy Step Code website at


OC Trades students convert seacan into literacy centre
Okanagan College Media Release


Okanagan College Trades and Apprenticeship students lent their hands and tools to support a literacy project in Africa.

OC partnered with Niteo Africa Society and CLAC to convert a shipping container into a model literacy centre similar to those that are shipped to Uganda by Niteo.Trades Seacan Project Nov 2019

The Global Child Literacy Centre will be permanently located at the Evangel Church parking lot in Kelowna and will act as an education centre as well as a permanent book collection station.

“This project has been so great for us and our students,” says Teresa Kisilevich, Associate Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. “We had carpentry students and staff build the windows, front entrance and roof. Our Women in Trades students built a book collection box, and students from School District 23’s Central School built bookshelves. As much as possible, we used recycled materials, making this a meaningful project on so many levels.”

A book drive was held on the campus at the same time, with many people donating their gently loved books to be donated to Niteo Africa.

The public is able to donate new or gently-used books at any time at the Literacy Centre’s collection box. The books must be in English language only, be age appropriate for a number of groups from toddlers to teens, and must not contain excessive violence or offensive content. Encyclopedias and magazines cannot be accepted.

“Literacy is the most basic unit of change for the world,” says Karine Veldhoen, Executive Director, Niteo. “Literate children become meaning makers, critical and creative thinkers. Literate children become change makers. We are thrilled to partner with CLAC and Okanagan College on this project. This space will enliven communities with literacy around the world.”

The grand opening of the Global Child Literacy Centre will take place this Saturday, Nov. 30 from 10 a.m. – 2p.m. in the parking lot of Evangel Church, 3261 Gordon Drive, in Kelowna. The ribbon cutting will happen at noon. The public is invited to view the converted seacan and are encouraged to bring a kids book or a toonie to help with shipping costs. Refreshments will be provided.

“We are extremely grateful and excited at the opportunity to work in close partnership with the Okanagan College Trades and Apprenticeship program and Niteo towards achieving Niteo’s humanitarian vision of facilitating literacy locally and globally to those whose needs might otherwise go unnoticed,” says Quentin Steen, B.C. Representative, CLAC.

“Their vision is one that continues to capture our attention and imagination because it embodies our CLAC values of fairness, integrity, respect and dignity for all people.”

Photos from various stages of the project can be found on the College’s Flickr gallery.


Okanagan College nursing students reflect on impact of historic overseas practicum
Okanagan College Media Release


Nursing in Thailand Nov 2019_3When Thanadol Prasertsung came to Canada from Thailand five years ago, he had no idea he would have the chance to return to his village one day to care for people as a nursing student.

In fact, at the time he didn’t envision he could become a nurse at all. But the guidance of some good teachers inspired more than just a journey home. It opened up an all new path in life for Prasertsung. It also created an opportunity for his fellow Okanagan College nursing students – one that has never been seen before in a Practical Nursing diploma program in Canada.

“I was working at an Assisted Living home as a housekeeper, when I first moved to Canada,” explains Prasertsung. “I saw a Care Aide come to take care of the elderly. It inspired me, so I started in the Health Care Assistant program at the College. Then, one of my instructors told me that she saw me as a Licenced Practical Nurse instead. From her thoughts and my thoughts, I told myself ‘I could do this, even though English is my second language. If I try hard, I can succeed and be an LPN’.”

As the semesters went by, Prasertsung couldn’t help but think about how what he was learning could benefit so many people where he grew up. It sparked the idea to travel back over a summer and volunteer in a clinic.

“I was born in northeastern province of Thailand. People were living in very poor conditions and could not access proper healthcare. I thought I could bring what I learned from the College back to my country to where I am from, because I want to make change for people in rural areas who cannot access healthcare.”

When he shared the idea with his classmates, the group began to dream even bigger.Nursing in Thailand Nov 2019_1

“One of my friends talked to my instructor. She made everything come true. She put so much effort in to make this project a reality.”

That instructor was Lisa Matthews, Chair of the LPN program at Okanagan College.

“These trips are typical in Bachelor of Science programs in university,” says Matthews. “But to our knowledge it hasn’t been done before as a practicum experience in a Practical Nursing program in Canada.”

“When the idea was born, we weren’t sure if it would be possible, nor were we even thinking of it as fitting into the curriculum, but, when we explored it further, we saw how it actually really perfectly captured the objectives of our program. From then on, we started to build the relationships we’d need to make it happen.”

Prasertsung helped with that. He connected Matthews with her counterparts in the Faculty of Nursing at Mahasarakham University in Talat, about 470 kilometres Northeast of Bangkok. She and Lisa Kraft, Associate Dean of Science, Technology and Health travelled to Thailand to build the relationship and lay the groundwork for the practicum.

From there, the next hurdle – and not a small one – was fundraising.

“Students went to extensive fundraising efforts,” notes Matthews. “There was a dinner and silent auction in Armstrong that was hugely successful. A family of one of our students hosted it. The students also did bottle drives. They pulled out all the stops to make this happen. There was also support from the College to make it a reality.”

Matthews and fellow instructor Amy Bailey secured funding from OC, including the Derek Cook Innovation Award, an award recognizing a long-time College business professor who was dedicated to opening up overseas study and teaching opportunities for OC students and faculty.

Finally, after extensive planning and fundraising, the group of nine students and two instructors departed for Thailand on Oct. 17. They spent the next two weeks at clinical sites in the villages of Khamriang and Tha-khonyang.

Nursing in Thailand Nov 2019_2“Their clinical setting was within a primary care unit (PCU), with half the day in the clinic working with drop-ins. In the afternoon they would do house visits in the community (community care). We also helped with annual health assessments of monks in the temples, and as an interesting aside, we learned that nurses must remain kneeling the entire time when delivering healthcare to the monks within the temples,” explains Matthews.

“They also had the opportunity to use their theoretical work from Canada to teach health promotion activities at a daycare with preschool kids. The students had developed this teaching material in their previous PN course considering the health issues of the Thai population, and were able to apply and evaluate these teaching plans in the Thai preschools, teaching children with interpreters, which was very impactful for them.”

The diversity of ages and backgrounds, along with cultural, socioeconomic and linguistic differences, all contributed to a transformative learning experience.

“Observing day-to-day life in the clinic for the nurses, being involved in the programs they hold at the clinics, our teaching days for the children in the villages, being involved in the elderly class and seeing how they support health and activity for the elderly – all of it was a wonderful experience,” says student Courtney Schiller.

“I feel very blessed to have been able to be part of this trip. It was a really eye-opening experience and gave me a new perspective on how it feels to be immersed into a culture as a nurse.”

As Schiller notes, it’s a learning experience she and others won’t soon forget. Nor is it one they’ll have trouble applying to their practice after graduation.

“One thing I brought back with me for my future nursing practice is how important cultural humility is as a nurse,” notes Schiller. “Being able to use my knowledge of cultural safety and humility was an important thing for me to experience. I have traveled before, but this experience was much different. I really got to experience the Thai culture and traditions and it was a really amazing thing to be a part of and experience.”

It’s a statement echoed by Schiller’s classmate Madison Catt, who plans to continue her studies to become a Registered Nurse.

“I took back with me the strong sense of community,” says Catt. “The community and nurses were one. Stronger together. There was no fear towards the healthcare system. My classmates and I also got to see first-hand how much a language barrier can affect messages, practice and directions. At times, this language barrier became frustrating, even with interpreters, and so I will always have this in mind when caring for anyone who doesn't speak English as their first language.”

The students penned a blog about their experience. Click here to see photos and follow their experiences.

“We could not be more proud of our students and instructors for having the vision for this project and for being so tenacious in their efforts to make it a reality,” says Yvonne Moritz, Dean of Science, Technology and Health at the College. “Cross-cultural opportunities like these are invaluable for students. I’m sure the experiences they had – working alongside fellow nurses, in such different settings as they may encounter here – will only serve them well in practice and enrich the great quality of education they’re receiving from our nursing faculty at the College.”

As for Thanadol Prasertsung, the originator of the idea, his sights are now set on graduation. He’s on track to complete his program in December. He also hopes the opportunity he had is one that could happen again in future for the students who will follow in his footsteps.

“I feel like my dream came true. To go back to where I came from, to make a difference, or at least help out, I am thankful for this experience. I hope we will continue this project for future students and I will support it however I can, as I want the next group of students to have this amazing lifetime experience.”


Spreading Joie for Culinary Arts
Okanagan College Media Release

A renowned local artist is bringing a unique holiday-inspired art show to Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, with some of the proceeds going to OC chefs-in-training.

Alex Fong is hosting Joie, a Christmas Art Show, at Infusions Restaurant on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 from 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.Alex Fong Nov 2019

Fong is well known for his watercolour artwork of splendor and whimsy, a blend of contemporary and impressionistic influences.

Fong will be joined by artists Glenna Turnbull, Bobby Vanderhoorn and Dave Watland who will be showcasing and selling original pieces. Partial proceeds from these sales will go towards students in the Culinary Arts program.

Fong will also be donating one of his pieces that guests will have the chance to win.

“For me, it’s always been about the students,” says Alex Fong. “I had no idea, but each year the Culinary Arts program sends students to Italy where they tour cooking schools and the region, and host a dinner.

“The money raised from this event will go towards this trip. It’s a great opportunity to support a student and allow them to see the world. It is such a big impact on them as people, and something that shapes who they are for the rest of their lives.”

“We’re looking forward to this event, and hope to see a great turn out from the public,” says Dani Korven, Manager, Culinary Arts. “There will be so many beautiful pieces that guests can take home with them, knowing that they are also supporting our Culinary Arts students. We’re grateful to Alex for supporting our students.”

The art show guests will also be able to sample wine from the Valley. Nighthawk Vineyards will be pouring tastings on the Saturday and Vanessa Vineyard will be providing samples on both Saturday and Sunday.

Culinary Arts students and instructors will prepare charcuterie and baked goods. There will also be coffee and tea.

Katherine Neufeld and her class of Floral Design Certificate students from the College’s Continuing Studies department will be providing the decorations for the event to get Infusions into the holiday spirit.

Guests are also encouraged to bring an unwrapped gift for The Kelowna Santas Initiative by Csek Creative that delivers gifts to children in need in the community.

“Kelowna Santas is a grassroots, volunteer initiative that strives to provide a better holiday season for the less fortunate children ages 0-17 that live in the areas of Lake Country to West Kelowna,” says Karen Montgomery, Marketing Associate & Strategist, Csek Creative.

“I think it’s a great initiative and it’s a nice tie-in to our event,” adds Fong.

The event is open to the public and is free of charge.


Community comes full circle for business student
Okanagan College Media Release

Kody Woodmass Nov 2019Every Saturday morning, 24-year-old Kody Woodmass takes part in the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society’s Saturday Outreach Breakfast, which delivers hot meals to approximately 100 people.

The meal brings a smile to many peoples’ faces. For Woodmass, helping create positive moments for people living on the streets, however small, drives him to continue using his skills to make a difference.

“There is a huge stigma around homelessness and my goal is to end that stigma,” says Woodmass, who is in his third year of the Business Administration program at the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College.

“There are all sorts of individuals who experience homelessness from families fleeing violence to seniors who are living off CPP and miss a payment. If I were to miss one or two pay cheques I could be in the same situation.”

Understanding the importance of community support is something Woodmass knows firsthand. He was able to cover his first semester of College through his savings but since then has worked full time while going to school.

Finding it difficult to cover the costs of school and living, Woodmass was debating whether to graduate with a two-year diploma or continue on to purse a four-year business degree. That’s when a colleague of his who was also an Okanagan College student suggested he apply for student awards. Woodmass received two student awards that semester, and two more the following year, enabling him to pursue his goal of a Bachelor of Business Administration. Woodmass will be graduating next year.

“These awards are the reason I’m still at Okanagan College, otherwise my studies would have ended sooner,” says Woodmass.

Woodmass is already applying his business skills to the real world. As an Aboriginal Outreach Worker with Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, he is developing an employment program for people living on the streets. The Clean Up Group is modelled after a successful social enterprise in Vancouver and teaches both on-the-job and soft skills to help people gain confidence and experience in order to find full-time employment.

Woodmass is one of approximately 330 students who are receiving scholarships and bursaries at three awards receptions hosted by Okanagan College. The first event took place in Penticton Nov. 13, followed by Vernon, Nov. 14 and Kelowna’s event takes place this Thursday.

The award receptions are an opportunity for people in the community who set up scholarships to meet the students and learn firsthand how the financial support is helping them succeed in school.

In total, more than 750 awards valued at nearly $600,000 will be handed out to Okanagan College students.

“We are thankful to all donors who have created student awards for our growing student base,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.

Hamilton notes that since 2005, Okanagan College’s student base has grown by more than 70 per cent. More than 21,000 students per year now take a course at OC, while the College saw 9,244 full-time students enrolled in 2018-19.

“The investment demonstrates that our community values the transformative power of education. It also acknowledges the far-reaching impact graduates can have on their families and indeed communities. Congratulations to the award winners and thank you to our donors for investing in students.”


New Chair for OC Board
Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College’s Board of Governors has a new Chair and Vice Chair.

Gloria Morgan has been elected Chair, following the resignation of Chris Derickson, who left the position as a consequence of his recent election as Chief of the Westbank First Nation. Juliette Cunningham was elected as Vice Chair, replacing Morgan.
Morgan and Cunningham Nov 2019

“I’m looking forward to serving in this role,” explains Morgan, who has been an RCMP officer, a general practice lawyer as well as a Crown Prosecutor. “With a new building and new programs about to come on stream, and work beginning on our next strategic plan, Okanagan College is at an exciting juncture.”

Morgan was Chief of the Splatsin Indian Band from 2001 to 2005. She is a former President of the Enderby and District Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the RCMP’s E Division Aboriginal Advisory Committee. She also served on the board of the Provincial Community Co-ordination for Women's Safety. She was the 2016 recipient of the Community Leader Awards - Community Builder award for the North Okanagan. Morgan has been on the Board of Governors since 2016.

Juliette Cunningham is a former Vernon City Councillor, as well as Vice-Chair of the Regional District of the North Okanagan, and Vice-Chair of the Okanagan Basin Water Board. She is a business owner with an extensive history of working with non-profit boards such as the Women’s Centre, Junction Literacy, People Place, Museum and the Early Years Council. Cunnigham was also named Vernon’s 2016 Woman of the Year by Vernon Women in Business.

Derickson announced his resignation as Board of Governors’ Chair on Tuesday and explained the position warrants more attention than he can offer given his responsibilities as Chief of one of Canada’s most progressive First Nations bands. “I’ve learned much in my years serving on the College Board, including what a vital role the College plays in the cultural and economic fabric of this region. I look forward to building on the already-strong relations between OC and the Westbank First Nation.”


Three generations give to Health Sciences Centre
Okanagan College Media Release 

A three-generation Kelowna dental family is supporting the future of dentistry by donating to Okanagan College's new Health Sciences Centre.

Leitch Family Nov 2019The Leitch family have pledged $65,000 to support the new dental clinic that will train Certified Dental Assistants (CDAs) at the College's Kelowna campus.

There is a long tradition of dentists in the Leitch family. Mac Leitch practised dentistry in Kelowna from 1955 to 1992 and was followed by his son, Ian, who started in 1983. Ian's son-in-law, Scott Martyna, is now an oral and maxillofacial surgeon in Kelowna. Ian's wife Theresa and sister Melanie Grant are both dental hygienists.

“Our family is happy to contribute to the new Okanagan College dental clinic to acknowledge the importance of training and providing CDAs for the Kelowna dental community,” says Ian.

“We would like to honour our father, Mac, for his dental contribution to Kelowna. We are grateful for his love of people and dentistry, which encouraged many of our family to pursue a career in dentistry.”

Mac and Ian share that the CDA program at the College is outstanding, with some of their best employees coming from the program. Both have taken on many practicum students over the years.

“CDAs have always been a vital part of our dental teams. Okanagan College has provided our family with first-class dental assistants for over 60 years,” says Ian.

“We have benefited from the CDA program and we feel an obligation for our family to give back, and to enable the future success of dentists in the Okanagan.”

The Leitch family’s donation will support a classroom for CDA students.

“The Leitch family has a long history in our local dental community and we're proud that they are endorsing our program in this way,” says Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director.

“Thanks to their gift, students will be learning in a leading-edge facility that reflects the rapid advances in dentistry and health care so they're well prepared to enter today’s modern dental clinics.”

Okanagan College's new $18.9-million Health Sciences Centre will replace its current Health building, which dates back to 1963. The new Health Sciences Centre will include state-of-the-art labs and simulation spaces, ensuring students are equipped to meet the needs of our community.

The Centre will train eight in-demand health care professions including CDA, Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Health Care Assistant.

The B.C. government is funding $15.4 million of the Centre. The Okanagan College Foundation’s Our Students, Your Health Campaign aims to raise $3.5 million to complete the building and $1.5 million to upgrade technology and equipment, and create new scholarships and bursaries for students entering care professions.

To learn more, visit


Residential Insulator program back by popular demand
Okanagan College Media Release

A booming insulation industry, coupled with growing consumer interest in making their homes more efficient, continues to add up to a strong need for skilled workers in the Southern Interior.Residential Insulator Nov 2019

Okanagan College, in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Work BC, and local industry leaders, first launched the Residential Insulator program in Vernon in spring of 2018 to help meet industry demand.

The response from students and industry was so positive, the program is back for another round this fall.

The best part? Eligible applicants can access the training for free. More information about the program and eligibility requirements can be found at

The 25-week Residential Insulator program provides tuition-free specialized training for eligible applicants with funding from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. It starts in Kamloops on Dec. 9 and will run until June 12.

The program develops practical skills and provides safety certifications in the first 15 weeks of classroom instruction. The remaining 10 weeks are spent in work placements with local employers providing valuable work-related experience.

“Building codes are changing as technology advances, so we’re seeing need in the industry for workers with solid knowledge and skills pertaining to buildings materials, tools and techniques,” says Luke Egely, Residential Insulator program instructor.

“We saw the success our students had last round, and opportunities that this training opened up for them, and so we’re excited to see more students tap into this great training opportunity,” says Egely. “It’s a great industry to get into right now.”

Contact the WorkBC Centre at 250-377-3670 for more information.


Two new members for Okanagan College Board
Okanagan College Media Release

The provincial government recently named Okanagan residents Karley Scott and Dale Safinuk to Okanagan College’s Board for a one-year term, ending July 31, 2020.

Karley Scott Nov 2019Scott has her own business, Karley Scott Consulting, where she drafts law, policy and strategic plans with Indigenous communities and works as an arbitrator, reconciliation coach and carries out Indigenous awareness training. Scott also works with the Parole Board of Canada, participating in hearings in correctional institutions and granting or denying parole. Safinuk is a financial services executive with more than 20 years leadership experience, most recently as District Vice President of TD Bank Financial Group.

Both Safinuk and Scott have served on several community-focused boards and agencies. Scott has been with the boards of the Metis Community Services Society, as well as the local and provincial John Howard Society. Safinuk has served on the Ch’Nook Indigenous Business Education, the United Way of Kamloops, and the TD Friends of the Environment Foundation.

Scott and Safinuk replace departing Board members Charity Gerbrandt (who served six years on the Board) and David Porteous (who served a year on the Board).

“Karley and Dale bring extensive experience to the Board and a commitment to community service in their new roles,” says Board Chair Chris Derickson. “They will be valuable additions to our Board.”

“I believe in the power of education and it has been a large part of my life. I pursued post-secondary education at a young age and then returned later in life, after having my children, and I know how fortunate I am to have had this opportunity. Providing opportunities for post-secondary education is critical to our region, whether for young people or for those who are changing careers,” observes Scott. “I’m excited to be helping direct the development of an institution that has a great reputation for access and student success.”Dale Safinuk Nov 2019

“In my professional life, I saw the direct benefit of Okanagan College’s programs, hiring grads for a number of positions,” notes Safinuk. “I know the quality of the educational offerings and am looking forward to serving on the Board of Governors.”

Several current members of the Board of Governors were reappointed to their positions, including Bob McGowan, Tina Lee, Juliette Cunningham and Shelley Cook. McGowan’s term expires next July, while Lee, Cunningham and Cook have terms that expire in 2021. Other government appointed members of the Board include Derickson and Gloria Morgan, the Board’s Vice-Chair.

Elected members of the board include Devin Rubadeau (representing faculty), Blake Edwards (representing support staff),
Sophie Chair and Neeraj Sharma (representing students). Ex officio members of the Board include President Jim Hamilton, and Education Council Chair Chris Newitt.


OC Coyotes step into new locker rooms before season home openers
Okanagan College Photo Release

OC Locker Unveiling Nov 2019
A year of hands on training opportunities for OC trades and apprenticeship students has yielded a slam dunk result.

Today, just hours before they take to the court for their first home games of the season at Quigley Elementary, the OC Coyotes men’s and women’s basketball teams stepped into custom-built locker-room facilities.

Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores and Principal Lawrence McMullen of Okanagan Christian School joined OC Coyotes players, coaches and volunteers to cut the ribbon on the new facilities as OC students and team supporters cheered them on.


RBC invests 50k to boost students following tech careers
Okanagan College Media Release

RBC gateway to tech donation Nov 2019At only 15 years old, Matias Hartwig has already created several technology apps including a digital tape measure that measures distance by sound waves.

Having fallen in love with technology at a young age, it was not a stretch for Hartwig, a W.L. Seaton Secondary student in Vernon, to enrol in Gateway to Tech, a collaborative program offered by Okanagan College and local school districts.

The program is helping high school students understand how current technology will shape their careers by offering a 17-week course exploring how various technologies function. While the program is offered at the College, students receive credits towards their high-school graduation.

The original funding for Gateway to Tech came from B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training. Now, the innovative program is receiving a major boost with a $50,000 donation from RBC.

The funds will specifically help the College create a work-integrated learning component to Gateway to Tech when it is offered in Salmon Arm this spring. The addition of work-integrated learning will allow students to gain indispensable, real-world experience and connections with local technology companies before they graduate.

“With this generous gift, RBC is demonstrating how much it values investing in youth to succeed in the careers of today and tomorrow,” says Dennis Silvestrone, Okanagan College's Director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Training.

“We know technology will significantly change our economy and more people will need coding and technical skills to meet the needs of our future workforce. The opportunity for students to work directly with local tech companies gives them a much better understanding of the skills they’ll need to be successful and contribute to our communities.”

The $50,000 investment comes from RBC’s Future Launch program. Future Launch is RBC’s commitment to empower Canadian youth to be prepared for the future of work, and they are dedicating $500 million to help young people access meaningful employment through work experience, skills development and networking.RBC cheque presentation Nov 2019

“We’ve found that cultivating a robust professional network is key to building a successful career,” said Mark Beckles, RBC Senior Director, Youth Strategy and Innovation.

“Research indicates that as many as 85 per cent of jobs are filled via networking, so we hope that through our partnership with Okanagan College on our RBC Future Launch initiative, we can help young Canadians make meaningful connections to bridge the gap between education and employment.”

For students like Hartwig, Gateway to Tech is only reaffirming his passion for computer science. Not only is he enjoying the program, he has big goals for his future.

“I want to develop something that people will use in their day-to-day lives,” says Hartwig.

Okanagan College’s Gateway to Tech program is currently running in Vernon with a Kelowna, Osoyoos and Salmon Arm intake this Spring.

To learn more about RBC’s Future Launch, click


Kelowna Toyota revs up support for Health Sciences Centre
Okanagan College Media Release

Kelowna Toyota is donating $50,000 to Okanagan College's new Health Sciences Centre – a heartfelt gift they hope will inspire fellow business owners to follow their lead.

Jamie Kaban, Kelowna Toyota General Manager, says the donation is made in memory of his cousin Kira Goodwin. Goodwin was a Registered Nurse who died at age 32 in an avalanche while backcountry skiing.Goodwin Kaban Nov 2019

“Kira lived her life taking care of people and giving back,” says Kaban. “This gift honours her values by helping students who will graduate and become caregivers in our community.”

Okanagan College announced its $5-million fundraising campaign to open a new Health Sciences Centre last week. The modern Centre will feature hands-on labs and simulation spaces to educate eight front-line health care practitioners including nurses.

This is Kelowna Toyota’s second gift to the College. Kaban says donating to the Kelowna Trades Complex opened his eyes to the importance of quality training spaces for the future workforce.

With a shortage of health care professionals predicted to grow in the coming years, a new Health Sciences Centre will encourage students to study in the Okanagan and stay once they graduate.

“We are going to need so many health care positions filled in the Okanagan,” says Kaban. “If we are attracting students here we are ultimately attracting our workforce as well, which we are going to need.”

Kaban is not stopping with his donation, he is volunteering on the Okanagan College Foundation’s fundraising cabinet to encourage other companies to help meet the fundraising goal.

Jack Kofoed, the former owner of Kelowna Toyota, and Enterprise Rent a Car are also donating to the Centre.

“We are so thankful to Kelowna Toyota for their donation and leadership on this campaign, which will help us continue to train excellent health care professionals for the Okanagan,” says Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director.

“Community support is instrumental to the College's success and growth and we are grateful for the continuous involvement of business and community organizations in the region.”

The Okanagan College Foundation's Our Students, Your Health Campaign aims to raise $3.5 million to complete the building and $1.5 million to upgrade technology and equipment, and create new scholarships and bursaries for students entering in-demand health care professions.

To learn more, visit


New year, new career in health care
Okanagan College Media Release

Tamra Robinson HCAKelowna residents considering a change in the new year can start working towards a sought-after health care career this January.

The next intake of Okanagan College’s Health Care Assistant program is scheduled for Jan. 6, 2020, giving students in Kelowna direct access to training for one of the most in-demand positions in B.C.

“Now is a great time to become a health care assistant,” says Cassandra Ritchie, Health Care Assistant Recruiter, Interior Health.

“The need for health care assistants within the Interior Health region is growing. There are many opportunities for individuals who have this training. Whether you want to work in a team environment in long-term care or one-on-one with clients in home support, it is a great career choice for those who enjoy working closely with others, and those who like making a positive impact on the lives of others.”

According to WorkBC, health care assistants have been identified as a priority occupation for the B.C. Ministry of Health. Average employment growth rates in this field continue to rise with 19,210 job openings expected within in the next ten years. This demand is anticipated to increase even more after the Government of B.C. announced funding to increase staffing levels in residential care homes for seniors, which aims to fund more than 900 health care assistants by 2021.

“We’re hearing from our industry partners that employers in the Okanagan are desperate for health care assistants.Baljit Sandhu HCA Students will be making a living wage right out of school, in a profession that offers a variety of shifts, making it easy to find work that best fits their lives,” says Lisa Kraft, Associate Dean of Science Technology and Health for Okanagan College.

“Most importantly, health care assistants find their work extremely rewarding. Graduates often tell us how much they appreciate the opportunity to have a significant impact on the quality of life for people in care.”

An information night for people to learn more about the Health Care Assistant program and field will be held on Wed, Nov. 13 from 6:30 - 7:30 p.m. in Room E103 in the Centre for Learning building at the Kelowna campus, 1000 K.L.O Rd.

The six-month intensive program runs for 26 weeks and will feature four months of classroom instruction and two months of hands-on practicum for students to learn within the health-care environment.

For more information and to apply, visit


Speaker to detail transformative changes required to achieve a sustainable planet
Okanagan College Media Release

The UN Biodiversity Report suggests the current global response to climate change is insufficient, and that “transformative changes” are needed to restore and protect nature.

But what does that mean, and most importantly, can those changes even be achieved?Dr. Kai Chan Nov 2019

Dr. Kai Chan, a professor of at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia (UBC), will unravel some of the issues at play during the Okanagan College Vernon campus’ Signature Speaker Series.

“Is Transformative Change for a Sustainable Planet Achievable?” will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the lecture theatre of the Vernon campus.

“Global societies and economies are on a deeply unsustainable trajectory, with up to one million species at risk of extinction and many crucial societal goals in jeopardy. Sustainable trajectories can only be found in transformative changes across social, economic, and political dimensions yielding a global sustainable economy,” says Chan. “This presentation will break down ‘transformative change’ into its key components, including five management and legal interventions, and eight crucial points of leverage. This will illustrate how change can be produced, opposition can be overcome and how a stable and fair world is in our sights.”

Chan is an interdisciplinary, problem-oriented sustainability scientist trained in ecology, policy and ethics from Princeton and Stanford Universities. Striving to understand how social-ecological systems can be transformed to be both better and wilder, Kai leads the UBC-based CHANS (Connecting Human and Natural Systems) lab and is co-founder of CoSphere (a Community of Small-Planet Heroes). He is a UBC Killam Research Fellow; a Leopold Leadership Program fellow; senior fellow of the Global Young Academy and of the Environmental Leadership Program; a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists; Lead Editor of the new British Ecological Society journal
People and Nature; a co-ordinating lead author for the IPBES Global Assessment; and the 2012 Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Presented by Okanagan College, the Signature Speaker Series is sponsored by the Prestige Vernon Lodge and Uprooted Kitchen and Catering Co. Admission is $10, or free for Okanagan College students. Participants can register in advance online – – or pay at the door.


Canadian colleges collaborate on Cannabis
Okanagan College Media Release

Five Canadian colleges and a national advocacy body have formed the Canadian College Consortium for Cannabis, an entity that will serve as a first-of-a-kind in the post-secondary sector.

Okanagan College will be the first institution in B.C. to join the consortium, which also includes NorQuest College in Edmonton, Niagara and Durham Colleges in Ontario, Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick (CCNB), along with Colleges and Institutes Canada (CiCan). All recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) outlining opportunities to work together through the Consortium to explore and pursue joint Cannabis training and applied research opportunities.

“Cannabis training is so multi-faceted,” says Dr. Dennis Silvestrone, Director of Continues Studies and Corporate Training at Okanagan College. “We continue to work very closely with industry to ensure we’re offering education and training that reflect the very real skills gaps and challenges they face – from cultivation to retail to investing in emerging technologies like Blockchain, all of which play a role in the overall picture of a rapidly evolving industry.”

“Collaborating with other post-secondary institutions and bodies that are developing training, conducting research, or otherwise have depth of knowledge in this area is only going to help us deliver programs that are beneficial for students and for the industry.”

Providing a clear conduit to share knowledge and help drive innovation was one of the goals guiding the launch of the consortium.

“Cannabis is a rapidly growing industry. Creating this consortium is a great example of how post-secondary institutions from across Canada can join forces and leverage coordinated efforts to solve problems and drive education and innovation in the economy,” says Marian Gayed, Vice President of Business Development at NorQuest, Edmonton’s community college.

Okanagan College made headlines in fall of 2017 when it became one of the first in the sector in B.C. to implement a Cannabis course – “The Emerging Marijuana Industry” – through its School of Business. The course educated students to the regulatory process and emerging business impacts of legalization, in the context of the Canadian economy.

The College’s Continuing Studies and Corporate Training Department launched programming in fall of 2018.

Uptake and feedback on the offerings has been very positive over the past year, notes Silvestrone.

“We’ve seen a lot of interest across the board, from the cultivation side of things to courses on implications of cannabis and the workplace, around facility practices and business fundamentals. We’re encouraged by the breadth of interest so far, which helps us continue to refine and build out our program array.”

In June of this year, Canada’s first class in commercial cannabis production graduated from Niagara, while Okanagan, Durham, and CCNB all have cannabis related courses ranging from cannabis cultivation to pest management for cannabis production and medical cannabis fundamentals for business professionals.

It is expected that the consortium will grow in size as more colleges enter the world of cannabis programming.


Changing the Narrative: OC Alumna Organizes Indigenous Women’s Leadership Summit
Okanagan College Media Release

IWLS Nov 2019_2The idea was born on a December morning in 2017, when OC alumna Nicole Taylor-Sterritt sat across from her mom, Laurie Sterritt, talking and eating breakfast together before anyone else in their house was up.

“She shared this desire to create a network of support for Indigenous women in leadership across the country,” says Taylor-Sterritt. “We weren’t really sure how to do it but we saw a need and said yes without too many questions.”

Turning words into action, the mother-daughter duo quickly crafted a plan from the ground up and by the time fall of 2018 came around, they hosted the first-ever Canadian Indigenous Women’s Leadership Summit (IWLS). Held at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Quebec, just two kilometres from Parliament Hill, the event marked the start of a movement for Indigenous women in leadership.

Earlier this month, the second iteration of the event was hosted in Vancouver at the Fairmont Hotel. A three-day event included an evening reception to foster networking followed by two days of round-table discussions, speakers and panelists. Topics focused primarily on women in leadership, but expanded to include education to health, justice and finances. More than 250 women attended.

Nicole took on the role of event manager, balancing full-time studies towards her business degree at Okanagan College while her mom took on the production side. This year they brought with them a team of 15 volunteers and a social media coordinator to juggle the workload.

The full circle moment came for Taylor-Sterritt when her former Okanagan College classmate Saige Girouard stepped into the room, having been sponsored by the College alongside fellow student Jillian Seronik to attend the summit.

“When she showed up, I got chills,” says Taylor-Sterritt. “It’s changing for me to know that this event profoundly impacted someone I know at a personal level.”

Speakers and panelists included Andrea Menard, Métis musician and speaker, and Melanie Mark, British Columbia’s first female First Nations MLA and current Minister of Advanced Education, Skills and Training as well as many other female speakers who brought depth of insight and an abundance of stories.

“It’s about changing the narrative,” says Taylor-Sterritt. “This is about Indigenous women in leadership and how we approach life, our professions and personal lives and how we lead in our communities. We have a bigger voice than we think we do.”

Creating a network from coast to coast was at the forefront of the duo’s mind, but it wasn’t until the event unfolded in 2018 that they understood the impact. The second time around only reinforced the importance of solidarity for those attending.

“The initial reason for the summit was to ask for help,” says Taylor-Sterritt. “It’s common for women not to ask for help, or feel like by doing something yourself is a way to show your femininity or a can-do attitude. To know that there is a group of women across the country for support is powerful.”

For current fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration student, Saige Girouard, it was hard to describe the energy in the room.IWLS Nov 2019_1

“I have never experienced anything like the feeling of walking into that room,” she says. “Indigenous women are strong, powerful, and fearless and yes, we’re still healing and yes, there’s still a long road ahead, but we are breaking the cycle and we are taking control of our futures.”

On a personal note, Taylor-Sterritt, Girouard and Seronik are thankful for the experience to learn more about their own personal heritage.

“I’ve been brought up knowing I have First Nations heritage, but without any in to the community or ways of learning compared to my mom,” says Taylor-Sterritt, “this was a great opportunity for me to learn about my own heritage in a way I had never done before.”

“I’ve always known I was of Indigenous decent,” says Girouard, “but I’ve never really felt as if I’ve truly understood what that meant. The IWLS showed me that I am just as Indigenous as any other Indigenous person, as a Métis, and it gave me the tools to change that dialogue in my own head.”

Seronik, who is in her second-year of her BBA, adds that her time at IWLS is helping her in her search for more information.

“It’s up to me now as an adult to go out and learn, and I’ve felt supported here at the College to find out more. It’s encouraged me to be more vocal about my heritage, to not be ashamed and to use it to my advantage.”

After two successful years, Taylor-Sterritt is still reeling from the momentum but notes that it hasn’t been an easy road, noting sponsors and being a full-time student as potential roadblocks. As she moves into full-time work, she anticipates what next year could hold.

If I can balance a new job and a conference, I’d love to keep doing it because it means a lot to me. I’m hopeful for it to happen again.”


A Place to Call Their Own: New Amenities for OC Hoopsters
Okanagan College Media Release

Basketball Lockers 1 Nov 2019It was one year ago that Okanagan College trades students laced up their work boots to begin work on new locker facilities for the OC Coyotes. This week, both the men’s and women’s teams will lace up their sneakers for their season home openers in a space all their own.

The new locker rooms, located at Okanagan Christian School, will be unveiled during a ceremony on Friday, Nov. 8 that will bring together Coyotes players, Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton, Dino and Andrew Gini, coaches of the men’s and women’s teams and other volunteers and supports of the Coyotes program.

The space first started to take shape last fall when OC students arrived to install framing, followed by pipes and plumbing in a pre-existing space at Okanagan Christian School. The finishing touches along with individual locker installation finalized this summer to ready the rooms for the team’s first home games on Friday, Nov. 8.

The project offered a chance to unite College students and staff to work together to create an inspiring new space for the teams.

“I love it when we can collaborate,” says Steve Moores, the College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship, “when we can partner with the community and on a site like this one, it makes the training that much more realistic.”

The project began with 13 female students from local School District 23. They completed the initial stages of framing, in a program modelled after the Industry Training Authority (ITA) Youth Explore Trades Sampler. The foundation and walls, pre-existing on the west side of the gymnasium, provided a space for the all-female cohort to hone their newly found skills, some using tools for the first time in their life. The 19-week program was a partnership between the College, ITA and the school district and the framing served as one component for learning and applying skills.

As the partitions took shape, various groups of students from the College’s Trades and Apprenticeship department stepped in to complete the space. Students from the electrical foundation program threaded wiring, plumbing foundation students jackhammered the floor to gut and relay pipes, and carpentry foundation students helped with drywall and flooring.

From the ITA perspective, the time spent learning a trade hands on is irreplaceable for both high school and post secondary education.

“Opportunities like this bring the learning experience to life for students,” says Shelley Gray, CEO for the ITA, “their hard work materializes in front of them and they get a chance to experience the value of hands-on training and real world skills. We’re proud of the students who took part in this program and hope they came away inspired to consider continuing on in their trades education and exploring the skilled trades as a career path.”

For the OC Coyotes, the new space comes at an important time and is much more than a place to hang up their jerseys. The hoopsters are entering their sophomore season in the Pacific West (PACWEST) conference.Basketball Lockers 2 Nov 2019

In addition to having their own locker rooms, with each athlete having an individual space for their gear, they now have a shared team room big enough to facilitate meetings, watch game tapes during the week, as well as receive physiotherapy treatment.

Following the ceremony at 2 p.m. on Nov. 8, both teams will head a few blocks north to the gymnasium at Quigley Elementary, where their home openers will be staged. Both the women’s and men’s teams will face Camosun College Chargers, with jump ball at 6:00 p.m. for the women and the men to follow.

While the Coyotes will play their home games at the Quigley Gymnasium for the remainder of the season, they will now have a convenient space nearby to practice regularly at Okanagan Christian School.

“For the athletes, having their own space that is exclusively theirs is important and it means opportunity for growth,” says Sperling. “They have the space to rely on.” The PACWEST season runs from November to February, but the teams depend on the space in the off season as well.

The quality and craftsmanship of the space is the added final touch that reflects not only the ability of the students, but the successful programs emerging from the College.

“The willingness to collaborate is a reflection of our programs here at the College,” adds Sperling, “people contacted us, reaching out wanting to be a part of this build. In that sense, it’s really a full team effort.”

More information about the OC Coyotes, including season schedules and team rosters can be found at