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For Brendon Gray, the Sustainable Construction Management Technology program at Okanagan College has sparked a new career with super-charged demand.
Brendon 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 www.okanagan.bc.ca/scmt. Check out Brendon Gray’s website at www.egnitesustainability.ca or the provincial Energy Step Code website at www.energystepcode.ca.
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.
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.
When 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.
“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.
“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.”