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Across Canada, there are hundreds of tree planters who have reason to be thankful for Okanagan College and the research of one of its therapy assistant program professors, Darrel Skinner.
And while the tree-planters might not know – and may not even care about such things – today (Feb. 26) is B.C. Colleges Day, proclaimed by the provincial government and celebrated in Victoria at the Legislature.
Where does tree-planting intersect with provincial proclamations? At the point where Colleges contribute to the economic, cultural and social fabric of this province and country.
Darrell’s story is a great example of how Okanagan Colleges and the other Colleges of Canada contribute in ways that might go generally unrecognized.
In summer 2017, Darrell – aware of the many injuries (especially tendonitis) suffered by tree planters - undertook research (funded by Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, one of the three major research granting councils in this country) that looked at what could be done to prevent or treat those injuries.
The outcomes were positive, although tree-planting business owners have used much more enthusiastic descriptors: “revolutionized injury management” and “game-changing” are two of the phrases that we’ve heard.
To put Darrell’s applied research in a nutshell, the taping techniques he developed, with a partner firm in Houston, British Columbia, and a tree planting company in Smithers, have reduced initial injuries among planters, shortened the recovery time of those who are injured, and have yielded increased income for planters, and improved productivity for businesses.
The initial research grant was $23,000.
Darrell is surprised by how far and fast the research outcomes have pervaded the industry and how quickly firms across Canada have picked up on the techniques. One of Canada’s largest treeplanting firms made the taping mandatory for first- and second-year treeplanters.
Darrell’s story is not unique.
The record of the School of Business, its professors and students contributing to significant community projects extends throughout the Okanagan and Shuswap valleys. Witness the recent Economic Scorecard developed for Kelowna – Dr. Heather Banham, a retired OC Dean of Business, and Dr. Lynn Sparling, the current chair of OC’s Business Administration department, were engines helping drive development of that tool.
Whether it is in teaching budgeting and financial literacy to thousands of elementary students or helping launch entrepreneurial efforts in the Shuswap, the records of achievement and accomplishment are pervasive.
The same is true of our Trades and Apprenticeship department, whether it is OC’s leading-edge Women in Trades program, support for building social housing, helping companies such as KF Aerospace meet their need for skilled workers, or engaging in research projects that demonstrate the value of the latest green building techniques and materials.
Cultural contributions abound, whether it is nationally-recognized novels written by our English professors or plays produced by the College’s Red Dot Players.
The list goes on and on, and changes from year to year. It is a continuum of contributions that dates to 1963 when the federal and provincial governments established OC’s predecessor, the British Columbia Vocational School.
Okanagan College is bigger than ever today, serving more local students with more programs and bringing more people from outside our region to our campuses and centres to learn and contribute to our economy and culture.
Our staff and our students are engaged in building our communities in ways that are impossible to track but are worth noting when they come to our attention.
Ask the treeplanters and their employers.
And take a minute today to celebrate B.C. Colleges Day.
- Jim Hamilton
President, Okanagan College
When it comes to green, Okanagan College is better than gold.
Okanagan College can now boast of having two of the 14 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) Platinum-certified buildings in all of Canada’s post-secondary sector. The College learned this week that its new trades building in Kelowna has been certified by the Canada Green Building Council (CaGBC). It is the second for OC – the first was the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence at the College’s Penticton campus.
LEED Platinum certification is the highest standard awarded in the rating system which measures green building. The system is in use in more than 160 countries. In order to achieve platinum a building must measure up across an array of factors, from the incorporation of sustainable building materials to water and energy efficiency to human-factor behaviours like recycling programs housed within a building.
“You don’t have to look hard to find advances in sustainability across all the trades, from automotive to welding, so in expanding and re-invigorating our Kelowna trades training facilities, we set out to provide our students and employees with a world-class learning environment that would celebrate them, their chosen career paths and the future of the trades,” notes Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “Our institution has a reputation as a leader in sustainable building. We are proud of being able to raise the bar in sustainability and wouldn’t have been able to create spaces such as this without the help of forward-thinking builders like PCL (PCL Constructors Westcoast Ltd.), our industry partners, and the incredible community support and donations that made the project possible.”
The provincial government contributed $28 million toward the $35 million, 10,000-square-metre Trades Complex project which involved new construction and extensive upgrades to existing facilities. The new building accounts for about 5,200 square metres of the overall project.
Feedback from the building’s most important critics – students and staff – has also been glowing.
“Students and staff have truly embraced the new building as their home from the moment it opened,” says Steve Moores, the College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. “I think it’s safe to say that the sustainability factor has contributed to their sense of pride in the space.”
Moores has also witnessed how the building’s design has inspired industry and other post-secondary institutions.
“We’ve had feedback from many people who have taken tours and asked about how we were able to incorporate certain technologies and sustainability features, and what it meant for the training environment. One of the other benefits of the building is that has already proved itself as a wonderful model for others in terms of what can be achieved.”
Students at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus are helping Fido stay warm in the winter weather with a donation of insulated doghouses to the local SCPA.
Five large breed dogs adopted from the Vernon SPCA in the coming days will have the option of receiving one of the doghouses, ensuring they have a warm welcome in their new homes. The doghouses were built and insulated as a part of the hands-on training students are gaining in the Residential Insulator program.
The program, which piloted last year and is now in its second cohort, provides students with specialized training in the increasingly technical building science surrounding residential insulation. Five teams of students each built and insulated a doghouse as a part of their training.
“We were looking for an alternate project for our program and loved the idea of building and insulating doghouses that would be comfortable for dogs as they are adopted into their new homes,” says instructor Luke Egely. “The students had a chance to bring their creativity to their projects and contribute to the community.”
An SPCA staff member and one of their adoptable dogs, Hawkin, were on-site at the College recently to check out the completed doghouses and meet the students who built them.
“We are very excited to be able to offer extra care items to people who are adopting a dog. It’s a great incentive for anyone who might not already own all of the supplies they need to provide shelter for an outdoor dog,” says Chelsea Taylor, branch manager of the Vernon and District SPCA.
The booming insulation industry, coupled with consumer interest in reducing environmental impact, has created a significant need for skilled workers. Okanagan College, in conjunction with the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction, Work BC, and local industry leaders, developed the 25-week program to help meet industry demand and prepare skilled workers.
The program provides tuition-free training for eligible applicants with funding from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction. The program is geared toward helping students develop practical skills and provides safety certifications in the first 15 weeks of classroom instruction. Beginning in mid-April, the current cohort of students will spend 10 weeks in work placements with local employers, providing valuable work-related experience.
“After the pilot program last year, we have added more content to further develop the curriculum,” says Egely. “We’ve created a program that gives students a solid foundation in most of the applications seen in residential insulating and covers a broad range of topics to build the knowledge these students need.”
Anyone interested in adopting an animal can visit the SPCA website for a current listing of animals in care, see photos and read more about them.
Okanagan College business students are boasting bronze after capturing third place from a field of 30 student teams at the Scotiabank Canadian Case Challenge.
The competition, held at Vanier College in Montreal, melds business strategy, marketing and management into one of the most challenging collegiate competitions in the country. The first day, all 30 teams are sequestered in isolation as they wait to be given the business case. Once given the details, students have 3.5 hours to analyze the information given, put together recommendations and build a presentation to deliver to a panel of industry leaders.
“It’s a major competition, the judges are incredible and the entire experience is extremely intense,” explains Blair Baldwin, Okanagan School of Business professor who coached the team alongside Mark Ziebarth.
The students' first case was from a coffee company based on Prince Edward Island that was seeking recommendations that would grow their company, with a specific marketing budget in mind.
Nathan Ziebart, a third-year marketing student on the team, explained the team’s recommendation to expand wholesale distribution to similar clients in other regions was a challenge.
"Coming up with three good alternatives was quite difficult. The analysis was pretty straightforward, but because of the limited budget and being a business-to-business case, there were limited options that we could present,” Ziebart explains.
“In a competition like this we really get to apply all of the skills and knowledge that we learn in class and bring it out it to be tested. It adds a new level to the learning,” said Cooper Simson, a finance student also on the team.
Their approach worked, as the team found out Saturday night that they would advance to the final round on Sunday. That case featured a Calgary-based alternative fitness business specializing in parkour ninja warrior-style training, seeking expansion opportunities that would see them grow market share.
The team suggested changes to their business model to allow memberships and hourly rates for specific drop-in times, in addition to holding an accessible competition tailored to families, youth and non-competitors.
Once the finals were over, Baldwin recalls multiple people praising the OSB contingent’s performance.
“Our team put on a very creative presentation to the judges. So many students, presenters, coaches came up and shook their hands saying, ‘Okanagan School of Business keeps raising the bar,’” he says.
"What stood out for me was the countless hours — over 40 hours in training for five weeks — prior to going to Montreal. Their dedication to learning and representing the Okanagan School of Business was admirable. They knew they were entering a tough competition and wanted to compete at a high level."
"It's opportunities like this that really exemplify why the Okanagan School of Business is such a great place to study, getting to challenge ourselves and hone our abilities,” said Nico Dirksen, who is specializing in accounting.
A harrowing 90 minutes after they presented, the judges announced the winners, and Okanagan College took home the bronze.
“Podium finishes at a case competition of this calibre cannot be achieved without a great deal of preparation and work. I congratulate the students and the faculty for the incredible effort they put in and for representing the College so well,” says Bill Gillett, Dean of the Okanagan School of Business.
Okanagan College’s Bachelor of Business Administration degree program has received high marks from the international organization overseeing the investment management profession.
The CFA Society Okanagan hosted a special reception event at Manteo Resort recently, where CFA Institute’s CEO Paul Smith recognized the College’s School of Business for its finance specialty programming.
“Okanagan College’s Business program has a long history of producing investment management leaders in the region, many of whom have gone on to achieve their CFA designation. University affiliate status is a strong signal to students and employers of the quality of the curriculum,” says Smith. “We welcome Okanagan College as the newest university affiliate, which is our third in British Columbia.”
The Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) credential is recognized internationally as the standard of certification for investment professionals, and the institute has more than 158,000 members worldwide who promote the highest standards of education, ethics, and professional excellence in the investment profession.
Okanagan College is one of 31 institutions in Canada that are affiliates of the CFA Institute. In addition to added prestige for the School of Business, the new affiliation also brings another benefit for students: scholarships.
Starting this year, up to nine scholarships will be provided to College students who pursue the CFA exams as part of the affiliation, to be administered by the Okanagan School of Business.
“Demonstrating knowledge and skills to prospective employers is valuable for new graduates, and the CFA designation can give those pursuing careers in the financial management industry an edge,” says William Gillett, Dean of the Okanagan School of Business. “With Okanagan College now part of the CFA affiliate program, our finance students are getting a head-start in the investment management profession.”
Ever wondered what health care and real estate have in common? Both are among the countless industries that will be impacted by an emerging technology called blockchain – and a new program at Okanagan College will soon help students tap into the know-how to ride this wave of change into new technology careers and frontiers.
Okanagan College’s Continuing Studies department is launching a new certificate program centred on blockchain. It will offer an introduction to how it works, the technology, the networks and platforms it uses, as well as some of the applications that use blockchain technology.
“Blockchain is like a network of highways,” notes Wayne Van Damme, a technology expert and developer of the program, who will also be teaching the first session, which powers up in March.
Bitcoin, the decentralized cryptocurrency, uses blockchain to facilitate peer-to-peer transactions through this network. Currently, bitcoin is one of the only vehicles (applications) that travels on this roadway but others are expected to follow, explains Van Damme.
“This highway has potential to carry much more traffic and many types of vehicles. Right now, we have the opportunity to decide what kind of vehicles we want to design for the roadway,” says Van Damme. “Blockchain gives us a safe way to transfer information and now we can create the concepts that will influence business and social interactions in the years to come.”
The eight-week certificate program will be offered online, so students organize their own study schedules. To bring it to life, Okanagan College enlisted support from industry experts at BlocksEDU Learning Corporation, a Vancouver-based emerging technology education courseware training company. The certificate will explore the details of blockchain technology and open students up a range of possible career and business applications.
“Equipping students with just the right blend of technology theory and industry applications is our goal – that’s what we’re hearing employers calling for,” explains Dr. Dennis Silvestrone, Director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Training at Okanagan College.
The certificate program explains blockchain technology and prepares learners to think about the variety of ways this technology could impact their businesses and their lives. Applications are possible within banking and payments, insurance, charity, voting and other government systems, health care and real estate, to name a few. The opportunity to use this technology to establish trackable supply chain management is also being explored by many industries – something that should be of interest to businesses and consumers alike.
“We know blockchain technology is an emerging area of interest, not only for those in the technology industries, but for anyone who is committed to building a skill set that will stay current with the changing technologies that will drive the new economies,” adds Silvestrone. “It’s knowledge that will benefit small business owners too, who are increasingly needing to serve as their own IT department and look after their own security and e-commerce solutions. There are many applications emerging.”
Anyone interested in learning more about the training can drop by an info session on Wednesday, Feb. 13, at 7 p.m., in Room E402 in the Centre for Learning on the Kelowna campus.
Okanagan College’s popular Business Expo & Employment Fair is back for its twelfth year, once again connecting students and community members with an abundance of local, provincial and national employment opportunities.
The Okanagan College School of Business and OC’s Student, Graduate and Co-op Employment Centre is presenting the Business Expo & Employment Fair on Wednesday, Feb. 6. The event is happening in the Centre for Learning (E building) Atrium at the Kelowna campus from 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
“This event is for everyone from all different industries – not just business – and would appeal to anyone living in the Okanagan region” says Jamie Morrow, Okanagan School of Business Program and Event Coordinator. “It’s meant to connect those looking for work with those who do the direct hiring for their companies. Sometimes being in front of the right people at the right time is the edge you need in such a competitive job market.”
Participants will have the opportunity to network with more than 60 local, provincial and national employers and even apply for positions as many exhibitors are hiring.
“We are always looking for individuals for our Member Service Advisor and Contact Centre Agent roles,” says Erika Nisbet, Human Resources Consultant with Interior Savings. “We also hire students for Teller roles as part of our co-op program. Students receive training during the summer months and then have the opportunity to work shifts that fit their schedule.”
Interior Savings, along with many other B.C. companies have attended the Business Expo consistently for years.
“We’ve been attending for the past eight years,” explains Nisbet. “We go to hire, to educate participants about career opportunities that Interior Savings has to offer and to let people know about our organization and all we do in the communities we serve.”
Exhibitors from multiple industries – including municipalities, wine, law enforcement, hospitality, finance, construction, technologies, retail and more – will be present, ensuring there is something for everyone.
A full list of exhibitors and further information is available at www.okanagan.bc.ca/businessexpo.