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Dreams Take Flight: abundant opportunities in the world of aviation showcased at panel and film screening
Okanagan College Media Release


Dreams take flight. You need only take the first step.Alaric and Hsu Feb 2020

These were the thoughts that propelled Okanagan College professor Pam Nelson to create a community event that would combine two of her passions: aviation and education.

That dream will become a reality on Monday, March 2 when the College’s School of Business will host a celebration of careers in the air and spark dialogue about how to continue to make the sector more inclusive.

Dreams Take Flight will offer aviators and aviation enthusiasts of all walks of life, a chance to hear from local aviation leaders. Attendees will hear from a panel of six female aviators, all contributing to various areas of the industry.

The discussion aims to bring into focus some of the experiences that have helped each aviator get to where they are today – insights that might help others looking to follow in their footsteps.

The panel will be comprised of Tracy Medve, President of KF Aerospace; Shayne Dyrdal, Senior Manager, Airport Finance and Corporate Services at Kelowna International Airport; Laura Mortensen, Consultant and Aerospace Engineer; Rhea Mackay, Airline Pilot with WestJet; Kimberley Alaric, a pilot and a student in the College’s Commercial Aviation Diploma program; as well as Desarae Craig, a student in OC’s Aircraft Maintenance Engineering (AME) program.

“This event highlights the diverse ways women can participate in this amazing industry right here in the Okanagan,” says Medve. Before becoming President of KF Aerospace, Medve held various senior roles throughout the industry, and is currently the first female honourary life member and chair on the board of Air Transportation Association of Canada.

Laura Mortensen, who is an analyst and consultant, also notes how important the event is to highlight those who are already leading in the industry well, and encourage those who are interested in learning more.

“It has been shown that it’s much more difficult to ‘be what you can’t see’,” she says. “It’s so important to show that there are women working in this industry who truly love it, and that we are ready to welcome everyone who wants to take part.”

For Alaric, a moment on the stage means a chance to share her story, including how her upbringing informed her decision to step into pilot training.

“Growing up in the West Kootenays in the foster care system, I didn’t think it was realistic to become a pilot,” she says. “But from the moment I sat in the back of a tow plane, I knew this was something I wanted to do.”

Alaric is now finishing her last semester of the College’s Commercial Aviation Diploma program and anxiously anticipates what is to come after graduation.

“I’m excited to bring my perspective to the panel as a student, and having just gone through the program and being fresh in it, I hope I can inspire others. The opportunities are there, and the industry is very welcoming.”

Attendees will have a chance to learn about training and career paths with Okanagan-based companies such as KF Aerospace and WestJet alongside the College’s Commercial Aviation Diploma and Aircraft Maintenance Technician programs. Okanagan Mountain Helicopters, Kelowna Flying Club, the British Columbia Aviation Council, South Okanagan Flight Centre and Elevate Aviation will also be present.

Following the panel discussion will be a screening of “The Man Who Wanted to Fly” an award-winning documentary film that celebrates diversity and opportunities in the world of aviation. The film follows the story of farmer Bobby Coote from Ireland, who realizes his lifelong dream of flying at 80 years of age. 

The event will serve as the College’s kickoff to Women in Aviation Week, which runs from March 2 – 8. It’s a week that champions gender balance while highlighting opportunities for more women and girls to gain hands-on aviation experience. Started in 2009 by Mirelle Goyer, a pilot and aviation educator, the initiative and its growing number of events across the globe aim to fight the common misconception that aviation is a male-only career track. The event also neatly aligns with International Women’s Day on Sunday, March 8.

“We need to be able to transcend beyond gender,” says Nelson. “There are opportunities in aviation and, yes, women are very underrepresented in the sector but we don’t put gender labels in front of everything else. You don’t hear someone described as a ‘female teacher’ or a ‘woman doctor,’ so let’s try to work to remove the gender labels completely.”

The event is happening in the Lecture Theatre in the Student Services (S) building at the College’s Kelowna campus. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. The event is free and all are welcome, but reserving a free ticket is encouraged here.

For more information on the College’s Commercial Aviation Diploma program, head here. To learn more about the Aircraft Maintenance Technician program, head here.


Families, don’t miss this free outdoor play workshop
Okanagan College Media Release


Do you know a child who loves to stomp in the mud, look under rocks to see what crawly creatures might be living underneath or challenge themselves to walk the tightrope of a fallen log?

Outdoor Play 1Children will have a unique opportunity to express their creativity and engage their sense of wonder at an upcoming outdoor play workshop in March.

A loose parts play date and open house will be happening on Saturday, March 7 from 10 a.m. – noon at Cousins Park on Beach Avenue and 6th Street in Peachland. The event is being hosted by Okanagan College, Outland Design and New Monaco. It’s part of an ongoing research project that will help inform the creation of new play spaces unlike any other in the region.

At the workshop, children will have the opportunity to discover and explore playing with loose parts – a trending concept in the world of unstructured outdoor play. Feedback will be gathered from children and their families throughout the session on the types of materials, activities and spaces they prefer.

Residents will also have an opportunity to provide feedback on the parks designs for the New Monaco community, that incorporate these outdoor natural play elements.

“Research tells us that when children visit traditional play spaces, they spend about six minutes on the play equipment,” says Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Director of Learning and Applied Research at Okanagan College. “They spend more time playing with the gravel and the items that are underneath the play apparatus.

“With a natural play space, children will spend as much time as you allow them. There are options for them to pick up rocks and look at the bugs underneath. They can challenge themselves to balance on a tree stump or walk the length of a log. The play opportunities are absolutely open and expansive. When you add in man-made materials that we call loose-parts then all of those pieces require the child to do something, to actively engage in the play.”

The workshop in March will build on feedback that has been collected over the past four years as part of a $91,000 research project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and neighbourhood developer New Monaco.

The goal is to gain insight on the proposed designs and to discover if any further elements that spark children’s zest for curiosity, learning, and development should be incorporated into the parks of New Monaco. Using a research tool developed by Dietze, data on how children use the loose parts in their outdoor play will be compiled and relayed to the developer and landscape architects at Outland Design Landscape Architecture.Outdoor Play 2

“Our vision for the community is to be the healthiest place to live in Canada,” explains Mark Holland, Partner, New Monaco. “We’re very excited to be actively involved in this applied research project with the ultimate goal of understanding how we can create a new type of play space that is innovative, supports healthy lifestyles for children and their families, and goes beyond what people expect to find in a traditional playground.”

“New Monaco is committed to working with Peachland to attract more families to this great community and make it the best place to grow up in the Okanagan.”

The result of the open house will be to incorporate feedback from the children, families and local community into the parks designs for the New Monaco community. Enter Fiona Barton, Principal of Outland Design, who has been working on the designs over the past months.

“Our company is focused on re-thinking the way in which play spaces are designed and support optimal child development. It’s hard to imagine how the next generation will become stewards of the natural landscape if they haven’t actually spent time in it,” says Barton, who has worked with Dietze since 2016 to train her staff in the principles of early learning and outdoor play spaces.

“We look forward to embracing the challenge of applying natural outdoor play principles from the research work and incorporating those into a municipally managed, public park system that is beneficial to families in the Okanagan.”

Dietze hopes the project will serve as a model for public parks and play spaces in other areas.

“It would be wonderful to see what we learn with this project and help others create innovative play spaces in the Okanagan, across the country, and around the world.”

Joining Dietze and Barton at the workshops will be a team of designers and educators to support children in playing with loose parts. The outdoor play opportunities are free but families are encouraged to register in advance by emailing


RBC On Campus powers up financial literacy space at Okanagan College

A new collaboration between Okanagan College and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) will help OC students tap into free financial literacy support and services from RBC advisors.rbc on campus

On Monday, RBC officially opened the new “RBC On Campus” financial literacy hub outside the Library on the second-floor mezzanine level of the Centre for Learning at the Kelowna campus.

The space will be open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. Students will be able to drop in, free of charge, to speak with RBC advisors who can help students on a host of topics, from balancing budgets to planning for their future, reducing debt and building savings after graduation. The space will also include extra seating and stations for students to charge their electronics.

And while the kiosk is physically located at the Kelowna campus, digital resources and pop up events by RBC advisors local to each community will ensure that students on the College’s other campuses will also have access to similar support.

The partnership was developed in concert with the Okanagan College Students’ Union (OCSU).

“The OCSU is excited to be working with RBC to help increase financial literacy for post-secondary students. Financial literacy has been a big challenge facing many of our members and we hope to team up with RBC On Campus to help host workshops and events in an effort to reduce stress and create a stronger support system for students. 

Students will be able to benefit by having a third-party non-partisan financial educator and this will be available to students at all four campuses throughout the year. We have already heard from a few students who are looking forward to meeting with RBC as soon as they are set up. It's been great working with OC to help make this project a reality,” says Brianne Berchowitz, Executive Director for Okanagan College Students' Union.

Marissa Jonn, a Client Advisor for RBC, is one of the people who will be providing advice to students each week. She has experienced first-hand both the challenges of balancing a budget as a student, and can also speak to the support that OC students receive during their time on campus. Only a year ago, she was walking the same hallways as an Okanagan College business student.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration in June 2019, Jonn stepped directly into her role with RBC On Campus thanks to connections she made during her program.

“I always appreciated the knowledge and support OC provides to students. I got my current position thanks to a co-op I completed with RBC as a student, which was an amazing experience and opened up doors for me. Coming back and being able to support students in this way means a lot to me. There’s a lot of value we provide to OC students and staff.”

The partnership serves to augment existing financial services the College provides to students through its Financial Aid and Awards office and other areas.

As part of the partnership, RBC will also be supporting Okanagan College events, and will also be offering their own wellness-focused pop up events, such as bringing in registered massage therapists to help de-stress students during exam periods.

“We’re excited to welcome RBC On Campus to Okanagan College to support and enhance the services we have in place for students when it comes to their finances,” says Phil Ashman, Regional Dean for the Central Okanagan. “I think we can all appreciate that students have to juggle a lot between their studies, work and life outside the College, so having another resource they can access on campus to support them and help them gain confidence in their finances is a great benefit.

“We were also very encouraged by the feedback from other institutions who have had RBC On Campus, particularly in the way in which they have gone above and beyond not just to support students on the financial side of things, but also the way in which they’re dedicated to supporting wellness and other initiatives for students on campus.”

RBC has launched 16 other RBC On Campus branches at post-secondary institutions across Canada. Okanagan College is the fifth school in B.C. to host one.

RBC and the College will be working to install an enhanced RBC On Campus student service location in the Centre for Learning later this summer, to replace the current temporary location.


Mother's values recognized with large gift to College

A $50,000 donation to the Our Students, Your Health campaign will recognize a mother who survived and found lessons in the horrors of Germany's concentration camps.john sokolowski

John Sokolowski has donated $50,000 towards an Early Childhood Education classroom in the College’s new Health Sciences Centre, currently under construction on its Kelowna campus. The donation is made in memory of his mother, Janina Sokolowski.

“My mom was a champion of education for as long as I can recall,” says John. “The gift to the College will help educate future Early Childhood Educators, who can teach the values of acceptance and inclusivity from an early age.”

While Janina wasn't privileged enough to receive a full education, her life experiences shaped the values her son wants to recognize.

Janina was born to a single mother in Poland where she shared a one room home with her three siblings. Her upbringing was difficult, and at age 12 she was forced to drop out of school to support herself and escape from poverty. In her late teens, Janina went to work for a Jewish family in Warsaw. During this time Janina was taken by the Nazi regime as a prisoner and sent to Auschwitz and later Bergen-Belsen concentration camps.

Janina survived in the concentration camps for two years, witnessing unimaginable atrocities and the worst of mankind. During this time she searched for inspiration on how the world could be different. She realized that education was the essential vehicle to teach people acceptance of differences, respect and consideration of all.  She believed we all have a responsibility to respect each other’s rights and to protect basic freedoms for all.

Janina and her family immigrated to Canada where she was grateful for the country's open and inclusive society. She was a proud Canadian and thankful to Canada for giving her family the opportunity for prosperity and personal growth through universal education and health care.

“My mother always had a soft spot for children and so supporting Early Childhood Education would mean a lot to her,” says John.

“In her later years she also depended on the health-care system. Her back was broken in Auschwitz which created health issues for her later in life, so giving to a new Health Sciences Centre that will train future health professionals is really full circle for us as a family.”

Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director Helen Jackman says the gift is a strong investment in our community and future leaders.

“We know that qualified Early Childhood Educators have positive impact on life outcomes, from inspiring lifelong learning to improved social skills and resilience,” says Jackman.

“We’re very thankful for this investment, which will enable us to continue educating Early Childhood Educators and make it easier for parents to return to work with peace of mind.”

The College’s new $18.9-million Health Sciences Centre is a technically-advanced learning Centre to train and prepare future health care and social development professionals. The B.C. government if funding $15.4 million. The Okanagan College Foundation has set a fundraising goal of $5 million to fund the remaining building costs, purchase equipment and provide bursaries and scholarships for students entering high-demand careers.

To learn more, visit


Coyotes Baseball Win over #1 and #12
Okanagan College Media Release


The Coyotes are near the tail end of their season opening annual trip to Las Vegas and Phoenix and what a week it has been. On Monday the Coyotes headed to Coolidge, Arizona to face the 2019 Junior College World Series Champions and current # 1 ranked program in Central Arizona College.

Wyatt Hummel, (West Kelowna, RHP, Sr) took the ball for his first start of the season and didn’t disappoint. The Coyotes pitching staff leader turned in 4 strong innings striking out 4 surrendering 3 runs. He then turned the ball over to Nic Taylor, (Calgary, AB, LHP, Soph) who also pitched extremely well going 5 innings to pick up the win in a 9-7 affair.

“Central Arizona is consistently the premier program in Junior College in the country that have multiple MLB draft picks and MLB alum,” adds Head Coach Geoff White. “For us to go in to their field and win a great game 9-7 was extremely satisfying for this team.”

Brendan Luther (Toronto, ON, INF, Soph) paced the offense going 2-4 with a triple, 2 runs, an RBI and a stolen base. Luther has had an incredible start to his season hitting over .500 for most of the trip and playing outstanding defense at short stop. Ethan Loran (Oyen, AB, OF, Soph) also went 2-4 with a triple, 2 runs, and 2 RBI.

“We had some timely hits and made excellent pitches to hold off an extremely talented team,” adds White. “We have been talking about the capabilities of this team and the high expectations we have, and I think we just showed what we can do by taking a win off the # 1 team in the nation.”

The Coyotes weren’t done there as they headed back to Las Vegas to take on the College of Southern Nevada currently ranked # 12 in the nation. The CSN program is where MLB superstar Bryce Harper came from and has produced many other MLB players and numerous draft picks. The Coyotes kept the momentum rolling on Thursday night as Chris Wyslobocki (Etobicoke, ON, RHP, JR) turned in 7 shutout innings while only surrendering 2 hits while striking out 8 on route to a 6-2 win for Okanagan College. Once again Brendan Luther lead the way going 2-4 scoring 2 runs with a walk and an RBI. Nolan King (Saskatoon, SK, OF, Soph) had a massive 2 RBI double in the top of the 9th to keep the game out of reach. Local Kelowna product Adam Sarafinchin (Kelowna, BC, RHP, Freshman) picked up the save as he worked out of a bases loaded, 0 out situation in the bottom of the 8th.

“Chris really was fantastic, he had all three pitches working and we made plays behind him,” says White. “They have an outstanding program and for us to pick up another win against a ranked opponent really shows this team’s ability. We have shown that we can play with some really tough competition, and this trip isn’t easy as we play 15 games in 8 days, it shows how deep this team is.”

The Coyotes will wrap up their annual trip over this weekend against the College of Southern Nevada and Community Christian College from California who the Coyotes beat 4-2 earlier in the week.


Okanagan teens take on booming tech industry at JABC TechWorks
Okanagan College Media Release

More than 200 teens from high schools throughout the Okanagan spent their Thursday on OC’s Kelowna campus for a full day learning about technology and innovation.JABC Techworks Feb 2020

Organized by Junior Achievement British Columbia (JABC), the day focused on introducing middle school-aged students to the vast variety of opportunities that permeate the tech world. The morning opened with a plenary, led by Andrew MacLean, co-founder of HighTech U, a learning community based out of the University of Victoria. Other speakers included Okanagan College Regional Dean Phil Ashman, Ashley Ramsay of Yeti Farm Creative, Ray Warren of RBC and Veronica Best from Dyspatch.

“To see this event go from a smaller theatre in Victoria all the way to Kelowna now has been fantastic,” says MacLean. “What JABC is doing with this program is really setting students up for success by showing them different pathways that then inspire and show them what they can do. Right now, there is still a perception that you can be a doctor, a lawyer, a teacher, or maybe a programmer, but people don’t realize just how many opportunities there are in tech in BC, let alone the rest of the world.”

Following lunch, students divided into breakout sessions, consisting of presentations and deep dives on various tech topics led by instructors. With five sessions to choose from, ranging from visual effects and animation to robotics and LED tech, students interacted with the presenters from Sony Pictures Imageworks, Best Buy, the Industry Training Authority and KF Aerospace and the College.

Held outside Vancouver for the first time since the event’s inception in 2016, the sessions offered a hands-on experience for students to test technology and ask questions. In the session led by Best Buy, students used iPads to code five-inch tall Star Wars BB8 robots, leading them through a maze on the ground.

“This event exposes kids to what their future might look like in terms of careers,” says Sheila Biggers, CEO of JABC. “Most careers, if not all, will be tech-enabled and our whole mission is to prepare students for lifelong success. The importance of today is that this really opens up young people’s minds to that idea and hopefully we give them information on how to prepare themselves so that they can benefit from the future they may graduate into.”

For a photo gallery from the event, click


Pushing the green building envelope: builders and educators working together
Okanagan College Media Release


Okanagan College, UBC, City of Kelowna co-host net zero life cycle workshop

Workshops often involve questions and answers; this one focused on the real-world queries and solutions that may unlock a greener future for us all.

Building Net Zero PanelOkanagan College, the University of British Columbia Okanagan (UBC Okanagan), the City of Kelowna and a host of industry partners convened in Kelowna at the Innovation Centre on Tuesday.

Building Net Zero was a one-day workshop designed to bring together building and energy innovators to tackle an ambitious green agenda. It offered attendees a behind-the-scenes look into the growing number of collaborations that are advancing affordable high-efficiency buildings in the Okanagan.

Speakers shared new research, technologies, materials and building techniques aimed not only at advancing sustainability, but also bringing it within reach for more builders and occupants across a host of settings – from smarter schools and other high-performance buildings to greener, healthier homes.

“This workshop was all about creating a forum to learn more about some of the exciting partnerships that are driving advancements in green building across the region,” says Andrew Hay, Vice President Education for Okanagan College.

“As an institution, we’re committed to continuing to raise the bar for ourselves and the Okanagan when it comes to building the most sustainable buildings possible on our campuses. We’ve added new programming to help train the leaders of tomorrow, such as our Sustainable Construction Management Technology program. We are working with local builders on several applied research projects. The key aspect is effective collaboration and communication, and that is what the workshop was all about.”

The sessions illuminated listeners to an array of green building topics.

James Allen, Program Manager, Conservation and Energy Management for FortisBC, delivered a presentation on achieving cost effective applications of the Energy Step Code in multi-unit buildings.

Tim McLennan, Director of Design and Operations for Faction Projects Inc., spoke about the evolution of sustainable design and construction standards for institutional buildings.

Kasun Hewage of UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering discussed life-cycle-thinking-based green construction.

Dr. Sharia Aam of UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering and Ashley Lubyk, a professor in the College’s Sustainable Construction Management Technology program highlighted goals and early work coming out of the Green Construction Research and Training Centre, which was launched as a partnership between OC and UBCO in July 2019.

Key learnings from the Wilden Living Lab were also shared. That project is a pioneering collaborative three-year learning and research undertaking by Wilden developer Blenk Development Corp., AuthenTech Homes, UBC Okanagan, Okanagan College and FortisBC.

The Lab was designed by professors and students from UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering, while Okanagan College trades students and staff lent their hands to the project, completed in late 2016. It involved two homes – one built to current building code utilizing today’s standard building materials, and a second “the home of tomorrow” which incorporated the latest and emerging green building techniques and materials. Since completed, UBC Okanagan researchers have collected and examined extensive data to showcase how much better the home of tomorrow has performed – and how those learnings can be applied to future builds not just in the Okanagan but around the world.

Peter Robinson, Chief Technology Officer for Community Energy Association and Christian Cianfrone, Executive Director of ZEBx offered insights into what a number of organizations outside of the region are doing, and how those learnings can be used to continue to advance the Okanagan’s green construction industry.

The event concluded with a panel discussion on opportunities in regional Energy STEP Code implementation. Making up the panel was Ashley Lubyk of OC and Kasun Hewage of UBCO; joined by Trevor Butler, President of Archineers; Charles Cullen, Project Manager for Team Construction Management Ltd., Chris Ray, Community Energy Specialist for the City of Kelowna and Kim Larson, Director of All Elements Design.Manage.Build.

Peter Robinson, who moderated the panel, was encouraged by the packed theatre in the Innovation Centre and abundance of dialogue and questions throughout the day.

“It’s amazing how much innovation is happening around the valley in green construction,” he says. “Days like today help us continue to build on the momentum, to foster new collaborations and, above all, to help spread the word that green building is thriving. It is not just viable, but thriving in the Okanagan.”

The workshop was made possible by support from BC Hydro, FortisBC, and The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Workshop partners included ZEBx, Team Construction Management Ltd., All Elements Design.Manage.Build, Archineers, Innovation Okanagan Network, Community Energy Association and the Canadian Home Builder’s Association Central Okanagan.

View a photo gallery from the event here.


Signature Speaker Series explores slavery, murder, and piracy on the high seas
Okanagan College Media Release

How do piracy, human trafficking and other serious international maritime crimes relate to commercial fisheries and the choices we are left with as a consumer?Karsten von Hosselin Feb 2020

How does one go about solving cold cases?  

What is it like to defuse a hostage crisis and provide support to victims in the aftermath?

Karsten von Hoesslin will delve into all this and more during his presentation “Slavery, Murder, and Piracy on the High Seas: Is there a direct line between human trafficking and the seafood that ends up on your plate?” on Monday, March 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Okanagan College Vernon campus.

His talk is the latest in the Vernon campus’ Signature Speaker Series.

“If you want to commit the perfect crime, just do it at sea,” muses von Hoesslin, noting that despite technological advances, maritime crime-solving remains as challenging and complex as ever.

von Hoesslin has held a variety of harrowing roles from intelligence to hostage negotiation and crisis intervention to criminal investigations, SWAT and tactical medicine. He is also known for hosting National Geographic’s Lawless Oceans and has been featured in National Geographic’s Underworld, Inc. series.

von Hoesslin specialises in HUMINT (Human Intelligence) infiltration and investigative methodologies, which are derived from his PhD studies. He also holds a Masters in Strategic Studies and a BA in Political Science and History.

He is also a Response Consultant and commanded the marine component for the hostage rescue of the highest ransom case in Somali pirate history to date – the Smyrni case, which involved the safe release of 26 crewmembers of the MT Smyrni, a Liberian-flagged Suezmax tanker vessel.

As a Detective, von Hoesslin investigates and has solved a number of high-profile cold cases (unsolved mysteries) ranging from homicide to environmental crimes. He is trained in SWAT and tactical medicine and is a Paramedic candidate with an EMT-level certification. von Hoesslin has also been part of special medical teams in Nigeria providing assistance to Boko Haram victims and has also provided support in post-disaster environments including Typhoon Yolanda.

Presented by Okanagan College, the 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 at or pay at the door.


Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative launches Phase II of new project

Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College duo Kerry Rempel and Kyleen Myrah launched phase two of a new research project in conjunction with the Kelowna Homelessness Research Collaborative. This collective brings together Okanagan College, UBC Okanagan, Interior Health and the Central Okanagan Journey Home Society. The second of three phases, this session built on research from Phase I conducted in late January. The two sessions gave those with lived experience and social service providers an opportunity to share and discuss ideas around homelessness. 

The project, which is funded through a grant from the Vancouver Foundation, looks to connect researchers with the community to understand vulnerability around homelessness. In short, what makes people vulnerable to housing instability? 

“We wanted to get a grounding of what vulnerability looks like from a Kelowna perspective,” says Rempel. “We want to highlight the Kelowna context on homelessness which is different from other communities. What is also unique about our project is that the outcome of all of this isn’t just to report our findings to the academic world for use in future research, but to create a how-to guide for other communities looking to bring community and researchers together.”

The first workshop revealed a common thread of systemic and societal problems that often contribute to a downward spiral towards homelessness. The applied nature of the research and output also invites those with lived experience to take part in various stages of the project, including the analysis to help steer the work. 

“With this project, we are trying to embed the tenets around community engaged research and have participants guide where we’re going. Nothing is prescriptive.”

The final phase acts as an invitation and launching pad for researchers to collaborate with the community to identify proactive steps to combatting homelessness.  

Chefs’ Table Society sets up Harry McWatters Scholarship Fund
Okanagan College Media Release

A Canadian wine icon is honoured — scholarship will fund deserving students for overseas studies

Harry McWatters Feb 2020When Canadian wine icon Harry McWatters passed suddenly last summer, the sense of loss that so many felt went well beyond his extensive personal relationships. At McWatters’ service in Penticton, many of the 1,500 in attendance wondered just who might fill the void in the British Columbia wine industry which he helped invent, then cultivated for more than 40 years.

“Harry’s mentorship is rightly legendary,” says Jonathan Rouse, Associate Dean of the Okanagan School of Business; and Director of Food, Wine and Tourism at Okanagan College. “He always had his eye on emerging talent in the business, and vigorously mentored young people, through his roles as founder of the BC Wine Institute and his many ongoing industry affiliations.”

Rouse recalls an overseas trip that McWatters helped arrange. “Years ago Harry and I discussed the importance for students to experience different regions of the world with rich histories of food and wine. Harry arranged for me to visit Italy’s Castello Banfi, and of course, at the highest level.”

“My visit coincided with a Banfi-sponsored scholastic tour,” Rouse says. “So I had the opportunity to meet students from a wide range of American universities, such as Cornell, famous for its hotel and hospitality disciplines. Without Harry’s introductions, we would likely not have a number of new wine student exchange agreements in place with European universities.”

The Chefs’ Table Society of BC quickly recognized the need to salute Harry’s enduring legacy. “Our member chefs serve hundreds of bottles of B.C. wines every day,” says Robert Belcham, president of Chefs’ Table, “and I like to think there’s a little bit of Harry in every one of them. In retrospect, it’s astounding what Harry and his fellow pioneers accomplished in just over three decades — B.C. wines are securely on the global map.”

In honour of McWatters, Chefs’ Table is launching a new scholarship through the Okanagan College Foundation with an initial contribution of $2,000 per annum for a minimum period of five years. Students enrolled in a Wine or Tourism program at Okanagan College and are participating in an international education experience will be eligible for the scholarship.

“The operative word is ‘Fund’ says Belcham. “We’ve donated first, but it’s really a call to action: We invite industry associations, wineries and private individuals to enhance our gift by donating online or contacting the Okanagan College Foundation and pledging their support.”

“This is a very special award that honours Harry, his passion for mentoring students and his connection to Okanagan College,” says Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director.

Jackman notes that Harry taught at the College and was bestowed an Honorary Doctorate from Okanagan University College for his vast contributions in putting B.C. wine on the map and as a steward of wine education in and beyond the region.

“Now, his legacy will continue as students get the opportunity to experience and learn from other cultures and infuse those insights into the unique food and drinks of the Okanagan Valley.”

Lisa Lalonde, Harry’s wife for many years, together with Harry’s children, Christa-Lee and Darrien McWatters, commented jointly. “Out of tragedy can arise positive outcomes. We are very grateful, and honoured, that the Chefs’ Table Society and Okanagan College have joined in this positive partnership to honour Harry and salute his legacy. It’s a perfect fit and much in keeping with Harry’s profound interest in global wine connectivity.”

Lalonde added “Harry collected experiences. He loved nothing more than planning trips based on where we would dine, what we would drink and who we would visit. We think Harry would love the creative use of these funds, and our family is pleased to add to CTS’s initial contribution in the amount of $1,000 per annum. Now we hope that others will see the benefit in adding to this Fund and bringing international wine experiences and knowledge back to the Okanagan.”

To donate to the Harry McWatters Scholarship Fund, visit or contact Anne Kirkpatrick at the Okanagan College Foundation at 250-492-4305 ext. 3254 or


Okanagan College spotlights STEM education and career paths in Feb and March
Okanagan College Media Release

What do soccer-playing robots, spaghetti bridges and soaring aviators have in common?

Over the next month, Okanagan College will be opening its doors to elementary, middle and high school students to attend a series of events aimed at encouraging young people to step into Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).

“We want learners of all ages to hear the message that there has never been a better time to get into technology careers. There is a very real need for skilled workers in everything from animation to electronic, civil, network and telecommunications and water engineering. With advances in green building, there’s also strong demand for sustainable construction managers – which is a career some students may not have heard of or considered before,” says Yvonne Moritz, Dean of Science, Technology and Health for Okanagan College.

“There is also a huge push locally, nationally and internationally to encourage and support more women getting into engineering and technology careers. So, events like these are just one of many ways we are working to create entry points, moments of inspiration and pathways into technology education.” 

14th Annual Western Canada RoboCup JuniorRoboCup

On Friday, Feb. 14, Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus will be transformed into a high-energy learning arena as it hosts a day of epic robot battles. Teams of students from school districts around the Okanagan and as far away as Vancouver will bring along robots of their own making to compete in soccer and rescue challenges.

Students and staff from the College’s Electronic Engineering Technology (ELEN) program help to coordinate and judge the event, which is sponsored by ASTTBC, Anodyne Electronics Manufacturing Corp and Tekmar Control Systems.

More information is available at

Experience OC

On Wednesday, Feb. 19, more than 700 high school students from the Central Okanagan will converge on the College’s Kelowna campus to experience a brief taste of what it’s like to attend college. Students have the opportunity to attend three of their top choices from sessions covering more than 45 program areas, including tech programs such as Animation, Sustainable Construction Management Technology, along with OC’s Civil and Electronic Engineering programs. The event offers students a chance to test-drive possible education and career paths by chatting with instructors, learning about programs, exploring campus and having their questions answered.

JABC TechWorks

On Thursday, Feb. 20, more than 200 teens from high schools throughout the Okanagan will be at OC’s Kelowna campus for a full day event organized by JA British Columbia (JABC) to learn about careers in the tech sector. This event has been held in Vancouver for the past four years, and Victoria for the past two. This marks the first time it will be held in the Okanagan. 

Andrew MacLean, Co-founder, HighTechU, will serve as emcee for the morning plenary session. The Honourable Rob Fleming, Ministry of Education, will provide a video welcome. Students will then have a chance to hear from a number of B.C. business leaders, including Ashley Ramsay, President and CEO of Yeti Farm Creative, Ray Warren, Vice President Commercial Banking for the Okanagan and Kootenay Region for RBC and Veronica Best, Director of Product at Dyspatch.

Students will then step into breakout sessions including:

  • Visual Effects and Animation presented by Sony Pictures Imageworks,
  • Women in Technology,
  • Robotics presented by Best Buy,
  • LED Tech Infused into Everyday Items presented by the Industry Training Authority (ITA), and
  • Innovation in Aviation, presented by KF Aerospace.

Students attending the Innovation in Aviation session will have a chance to hear from a number of OC alums who can speak to the benefits of technologies, trades and business training and career paths in the aviation industry.

37th Annual Spaghetti Bridge Building ContestSpaghetti Bridge

The 37th Annual Spaghetti Bridge Building Contest is happening at OC on Friday, March 6.

More than 250 students from elementary schools to post-secondary institutions all across B.C. trek annually to the Kelowna campus for a day of bridge building, testing and real-world, hands on learning about STEM concepts.

As of Wednesday, Feb. 12, there were 121 job opportunities on Accelerate Okanagan’s #OKGNtech online job board. The Okanagan is home to more than 200 animation, film and digital media firms, employing some 2,450 people – and this is just a fraction of the overall pool of skilled technology workers employed in the region.

Provincially there is expected to be more than 3,300 technology jobs created by 2025. There are more than 6,000 people currently working in the water and waste water engineering workforce, with more than 2,300 job openings expected in that sector over the next eight years.

Find more information and register online at


Community, industry support propels College’s Tourism Management program
Okanagan College Media Release

Students from Revelstoke and around the world chasing tourism career dreams

Julia Dorrius Feb 2020

For Julia Dorrius, born and raised in Revelstoke, the College’s new Tourism Management (TMD) diploma has done far more than just open her eyes to the booming demand for skilled tourism professionals – it’s also opened doors, giving her a chance to gain work experience with local employers.

“I graduated high school last June and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do,” explains Dorrius. “My dad sent me a link to the program and suggested I take a look at it. I just finished my first semester and, so far, I’ve found it to be a great way to get the most out of the first two years of a business degree. You really learn a lot in a short amount of time, while getting work experience.”

Dorrius is among the inaugural intake of students, nine in total, who stepped into the program last fall. The Revelstoke grad is already putting her new business knowledge and skills to work.

“At the moment, I’m completing a co-op with the Railway Museum in town, doing marketing for them, and I am really enjoying it. It’s been a great experience, and something I likely would never have had the opportunity to do without the program.”

Her supervisor, Hayley Johnson, Interim Executive Director for the Revelstoke Railway Museum, has been one of the many local industry leaders who have championed the program since before it began.

“We all know tourism is vital to the Revy economy, and the fact is we need more skilled professionals to meet the demand right now. It’s very hard to find qualified staff,” says Johnson.

“Having this program based in Revelstoke is incredibly beneficial to students and employers alike. The students get a chance to build experience in exactly the types of jobs and settings they’re interested in, and we get to tap into a new cohort of well-educated up-and-coming tourism workers. It’s a win for everyone.”

That strong support from leaders like Johnson and scores of others is not lost on students, says Dorrius.

“It’s been great being able to stay at home and have the support from my family and the rest of the community. The community in town has been super supportive of the whole program and everyone taking part in it. The staff and professors at OC have been amazing too, so you can really feel the support for students across the board.”

Stephen Jenkins, owner of The Explorers Society Hotel, is among that group of business leaders trumpeting the merits of the program.

“Tourism is the growth engine for our economy, no doubt,” says Stephen Jenkins. “So, training students here means they can get a very clear sense of the tourism sector in Revelstoke. The program has been tailormade with our local workforce needs in mind.”

Jenkins says the program’s focus on giving students hands-on experience in industry is well thought out.

“I started my career through internships, so I’m a big supporter of opportunities that give students a chance to see the end product of all those hours in the classroom. Giving them a chance to work in and around various roles builds excitement. They come away with a better understanding of what to expect after graduation. And for those looking to take the initiative, to really stand out and excel in this industry, it gives them a chance to distinguish themselves by demonstrating their work ethic.”

One of those students who took the initiative is Stephanie Sonsona, who campaigned enthusiastically for a co-op position at the Explorer’s Society Hotel.Stephanie Sonsona Feb 2020

Sonsona, who hails from Bohol in the Philippines, is more than 11,000 km from her hometown. Thanks to the program, she’s found a new adopted home in Revelstoke.

“Before I came to Canada, I was given the opportunity to work in the hospitality industry and that set me on a new career path. Coming to Revelstoke and taking the program has opened my eyes to how big a career in tourism can be – just how many opportunities there are, and what an exciting time it is to get into the tourism sector,” says Sonsona.

While she doesn’t have any firm long term plans yet for where she wants to work, Sonsona says the experience has equipped her to work in a variety of settings in the field. Each student completes a tourism sector study, for example, which allows them to experience both the depth and breadth of roles in tourism.

“The program is innovative and unconventional in that it challenges us and gives us the freedom to explore the industry and get hands-on experience, to build on the business knowledge we’re acquiring in the classroom,” she says. “Having professors who are experts in their respective fields, and who genuinely care about us as students, has really paved the way for me to learn.”

For Danielle Tighe, Manager of the Revelstoke Centre, the focus is now on working with the current group of students to continue to ensure they get the most out of the experience as the first cohort through. Tighe is also once again working closely with industry partners to ensure support is in place for the second cohort to start this fall.

“We’re really encouraged by the feedback from students so far, particularly around how strongly the community has rallied behind them. From providing co-ops to helping us find accommodation, support from the good people of Revy has been overwhelmingly positive, and it has made all the difference.”

A host of other businesses and individuals have helped with student co-op placements, notes Tighe.

“Brady Beruschi, host at the Best Western and The Regent, has four of the nine students on co-op. We’re so grateful to everyone who has supported the launch of TMD in Revy.”

The College is now accepting applications for the program for September. Those interested can contact Kristine Wickner, Recruiting and Events Coordinator for OC Shuswap-Revelstoke at 250-762-5445 Ext. 8259 or by email at News and updates about the program and upcoming info sessions will also be posted to 


Councillor gives from the heart
Okanagan College Media Release


Kelowna City Councillor and local community champion Maxine DeHart is giving a gift from the heart this Valentine’s Day.Maxine DeHart Feb 2020

DeHart is donating to the Our Students, Your Health campaign, which is raising funds to build a new Health Sciences Centre at Okanagan College and create scholarships and bursaries for health care students.

DeHart is the Campaign Ambassador for the fundraising campaign and is spearheading the media campaign encouraging others to get involved. She says the project’s goals touched her heartstrings and inspired her to give her time and resources to the campaign.

“We do not have anything if we do not have our health,” says DeHart. “Okanagan College grads play an important role in keeping our community healthy, and that includes caring for our family, friends and even ourselves.”

While DeHart is opting to keep the nature of her gift private, she says supporting health care students who will go on to keep our community healthy resonated with her. And she’s inviting others to step up and give a gift from the heart that’s meaningful to them.

“These students need our help now, so they can care for us in the future. We should all open our hearts and give what we can.”

DeHart adds that with growing health care staffing shortages, investing in a state-of-the-art training Centre will put Kelowna on the map for health care students.

“I think it will make us one of the most sought after communities for people to come and study here,” says DeHart.

“They can learn here, they can graduate here, they can find jobs and they can stay here. That’s what you’re giving to, and your giving to people that are going to be helping you for the rest of your life.”

“We are so grateful to Max for giving her time, talent and treasure to support the training of health care professionals for our community,” says Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director.

“Our more than 11,000 graduates have an immense impact on the local health-care system. So we hope people will hear the messages that Max and others are sharing, and will be inspired to give and help us make this project a reality.”

The B.C. government is funding $15.4 million of the $18.9 million Health Sciences Centre. The Okanagan College Foundation is fundraising $3.5 million to complete the building and $1.5 million for scholarships and bursaries for students entering high-demand health care careers.

To learn more or to donate, visit


OC Business students triumph at national case competition
Okanagan College Media Release


It was a golden weekend for a trio of Okanagan College business students.

OC business team Feb 2020Kevin Heller, Nora Glanzner, and Spencer McIntosh, all third-year students at the Kelowna campus, took top spot on the podium at the Scotiabank Canadian Case Challenge at Vanier College in Montreal.

The annual competition saw 27 of the country’s top business schools represented this year.

The high-pressure competition challenges students to apply their business strategy, marketing and management savvy to a live business case in three hours while in total lockdown without access to the internet.

They then have just 20 minutes to present their findings to a panel of five professional judges from the Montreal business and academic community.

On Saturday, the team from Okanagan College placed in the top two teams in their division earning them a berth to Sunday finals where they would receive an all-new case and the chance to compete against five other teams for top spot overall. As they prepared for the final day, they drew on months of practice and advice from their coaches and fellow students.

“We started practicing as a team in late November and did six or seven full 3-hour lockdown simulations between December and February,” explains Glanzner, who hails from Germany and is currently completing a dual-degree from OC and FH Worms. “Leading up to the event, we practiced at least seven hours a week, right up until we stepped on the plane to Montreal.”

“Our case involved providing recommendations to a financial services firm that was struggling to attract a younger demographic,” explains McIntosh. “It was interesting to get to put ourselves in the shoes of a professional consulting firm, and think about how best to approach providing really detailed, well thought out business advice to a challenge like this.”

At the end of the day on Sunday, the team from OC was elated to hear their names called as the gold medal winners.

“It was the best feeling,” says Heller. “It was very suspenseful. My heart was racing. When we heard our names read out, it was instant relief. And there may have been some screaming and phones being thrown in the air. We worked incredibly hard to get there, and, in the end, it was an immensely valuable experience.”

“It’s hard to put into words what a challenging and invaluable experience a competition like this is for these students,” says Blair Baldwin, who coached the team along with fellow Okanagan College School of Business professors Mark Ziebarth and Caroline Gilchrist. “The way they came together as a team, supported each other and performed at a high level, will, I’m sure, be something they can take great confidence from in their studies and careers after graduation. Employers take note, these are the future business leaders you want working with you.”

This year marks the eighth time students from Okanagan College’s School of Business have competed in the competition. The golden result also means that OC students have now covered off every spot on the podium in recent years.

Last year, students Nico Dirksen, Nathan Ziebart and Cooper Simson, coached by Baldwin and Mark Ziebarth brought home bronze.

Jacob Kuypers, Talasa Larder and Lathan McKinney formed the College’s silver-medal winning team in 2017, coached by Baldwin and Stacey Fenwick.

This year’s winning team had the chance to learn from those who blazed the trail as a number of past competitors

“There is not a chance we could have done this without the support and advice of our coaches and the alumni teams who supported us. They were so generous with their time and gave us some insights into what it would be like in the competition. That really put us at ease when we got there and the pressure started to rise,” notes McIntosh.

“Results like these are months, if not years, in the making, as students in our programs build their knowledge, hone their skills, and develop their confidence as business professionals,” notes Bill Gillett, Dean of the Okanagan School of Business. “Congratulations to the students and faculty on this tremendous result and all the hard work they put in to make it happen. We’re proud of them for representing the Okanagan School of Business so well on the national stage.”


Coble earns doctoral degree, shines light on Indigenous students’ post-secondary experiences
Okanagan College Media Release


James Coble 1 Feb 2020When James Coble crossed the stage to pick up his doctoral degree from the University of Calgary he was overcome with many emotions.

But for Okanagan College’s Director of Student Services and father of two, there was no emotion greater than the pride of setting a positive example for his children.

“For me, it was the completion of a seven-year journey,” explains Coble. “At the end, as I did at every stage, I reminded myself that my kids were always at the top of the list of reasons why I was doing this.”

Coble graduated with a Doctor of Education degree from U of C’s prestigious Werklund School of Education late last year. And his two daughters weren’t the only ones cheering him on.

In earning his doctoral degree, Coble also became the first member of the Westbank First Nation to do so.

“On behalf of Westbank First Nation, I am honoured to congratulate Dr. James Coble. I think it’s very fitting that the first doctoral degree earned by one of our members is a Doctor of Education, and you would be hard pressed to find a more dedicated educator and advocate for students pursuing their higher education goals than James. Through his work with students at Okanagan College, his involvement in our community, his dedication to his family and his many academic achievements James is an excellent role model and example. Both the WFN Community and Okanagan College benefits from his leadership. James, we are extremely proud of your accomplishments!” said Westbank First Nation Chief Christopher Derickson.

For his doctoral research, Coble sought to bring Indigenous students’ experiences in post-secondary into focus – literally. He employed a unique method called photovoice, a participatory action research method that employs photography and group dialogue, often as a means for marginalized individuals to communicate their understanding of a community issue or concern.

“I’ve always been interested in Aboriginal student experiences and when I came across this method in emerging research circles, I thought it would be the perfect means of enabling students to take charge in telling their stories as authentically as possible.”

Coble worked with three Okanagan College students over the course of the study. He provided each with a camera and instructions to take photos of the places, people and things that had an impact on them during their time in post-secondary. The photos were then used as the focal point of discussions.

“We talked a lot together, both in individual and group settings, considering and responding to questions like ‘what story is this photo telling us?’ or ‘how does this represent your unique student experience?’”

Students were then encouraged to tell their stories in their own words, their own voice.James Coble 2 Feb 2020

“Storytelling is ingrained in Indigenous cultures across the land, so it made sense to me to empower students to think about and share their experiences through stories. My role was simply as listener at first, and then later, I worked with them to re-story their experiences. It was all about respecting the individual, honouring their voice and perspective. It was very important to me to stay true to their reasons for sharing their stories and to recognize each as unique, discreet, and rooted in context,” says Coble.

“What emerged were very intense, focused and deeply personal narratives. Each encapsulated and reflected that student’s own lived experience. And when read together, it was fascinating for us to see the common narrative threads, the shared experiences. It reinforced for me that we as educators and administrators need to understand that every student carries with them their own stories, perspectives, histories – and that we need to respect and support them as they embark on their own educational journeys.”

Coble has served as Director of Student Services for Okanagan College since 2014.

He has played pivotal roles in supporting students at the College for nearly two decades, since joining OC in 2001 as an education advisor and Aboriginal mentor. In 2006 he took on responsibility of coordinating the Aboriginal Services department, a position he held for eight years before stepping into his current role.

“James is a tireless champion for students at the College, and a highly valued member of our leadership team,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “His intelligence, intrinsic leadership abilities, caring demeanor and drive for lifelong learning are an inspiration to all of us who have the pleasure of working with him.”

Prior to commencing his doctorate, Coble earned a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Victoria and a master’s degree in exercise psychology, also from UVIC.


Unique ECE program supports community needs, incorporates Indigenous culture

If you were to finger paint early childhood education (ECE) programming that incorporates Indigenous ways and knowledge as well as land-based play, the resulting picture would look a lot like an Okanagan College classroom at the Salmon Arm campus.erica seymour

A special intake of the College’s ECE program incorporating Indigenous knowledge wrapped up last last year.

The course was developed in consultation with local First Nations and Métis, and was launched to address the need for early childhood educators in the region.

“We are very fortunate for the leadership role taken by local Indigenous communities around early childhood development,” says Joan Ragsdale, Shuswap-Revelstoke Regional Dean for the College. “A lot of the First Nation communities have child care centres on site, and they need trained workers. They worked with us to enrich the curriculum and think about how local culture, and ways of knowing and doing can be part of the professional outcomes for ECEs in training.”

The provincially accredited program prepared students to work with young children in a variety of inclusive early childhood environments, including day cares, preschools, infant/toddler centres and other early childhood initiatives that focus on healthy early development.

“This program maintained the integrity of the ECE program of Okanagan College, but it infused Indigenous knowledge and culture into the curriculum in support of the community,” explains Yvonne Moritz, Dean of Science, Technologies and Health.

Traditional knowledge was woven into the curriculum through a variety of ways, including teachings on Indigenous healing practices, medicines, plants, animals and Secwepemctsín (Secwepemc language). Wherever possible, students were connected with community members and industry leaders, to build connections and share knowledge.ece classroom sa

“Traditionally, our Elders raised us with the values to learn through storytelling and resources we used from off the land. The unique ECE program will provide this traditional way of learning and bring our valued upbringing back to our children,” says Tammy Thomas, Director of Education for Neskonlith Indian Band.

For the in-class playgroup that visited the class last fall, students developed a play space for children that reflected the Secwepemc territory – featuring animals that are local to the region, and materials that would be found in natural environments close by.

“I’ve learned that relying on other people and asking for help is okay, and that local people in our community can help us learn and grow,” says student Erica Seymour. “Culture is very significant in my life, especially language. This program looks to our backyard to make sure culture is represented. The outdoor classroom gives us a chance to breathe, smell all the different trees, enjoy the grasses and flowers growing at the time, and listen to the birds flying by.”

The program was developed by Continuing Studies and Corporate Training in Salmon Arm in partnership with the Splatsin Indian Band, Adams Lake Band, Little Shuswap Lake Indian Band, Salmon Arm Métis Association and Neskonlith Indian Band.

Additional supports were put into place to meet the unique needs of students, including challenges with transportation to campus, child care and access to technology. For example, the Electronic Recycling Association out of Calgary donated laptops for each student, to ensure their academic needs were adequately resourced alongside their aptitude with child development.

“This has been an amazing opportunity for student growth. They have been learning new skills and producing assignments of a professional quality and depth,” says Diane Little, one of the ECE instructors. “We have an emergent approach to the classroom: as life and learning emerges, it comes into the program. Indigenous ideals and values live in this program, giving students meaningful learning experiences in their communities.”

Video interviews with the instructor and students can be viewed here.


Mapping a world-wide worry: OC student charts coronavirus spread in real-time

Sean Heddle was looking for a career change after an injury left him unable to work as a concrete construction foreman.

He could never have imagined that his foray into the study of geographic information systems (GIS) would see him building a real-time map of a global public health emergency.sean heddle news blog image

Heddle, who hails from Kelowna, is currently enrolled in the GIS Certificate course at Okanagan College in Salmon Arm. His professor, Shelley Desautels, recently issued an assignment to her class, inviting students to build a digital map of a place or topic of their choosing.

Heddle decided to think outside the box, and ended up making the world his classroom. He created an interactive map of the spread of Novel Coronavirus, which was first reported in Wuhan, China on Dec. 31.

After continuing to refine the map over the past week, he is now attempting to stay on top of the waves of data around confirmed cases, deaths and how many people have recovered from the virus. Heddle is pulling data from the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the Johns Hopkins Centre for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) and other sites around the world.

“By day I’m a College student, but every morning and every night I’m updating the map,” says Heddle. “I would like to keep it going for as long as I can. It’s quite time consuming, but It’s been great hands-on experience working with the software we are learning in class, on a daily basis, and on something so complex.”

Heddle credits instructor for helping him gain confidence in his newfound tech career path.

“I’ve always had a tech background and an interest in technology,” he says. “But GIS involves very complicated software. There’s so much you can do with it, so many applications. Having a teacher like Shelley Desautels, who has been so patient and helpful, has really helped me get up to speed quicker than I expected to. I’m excited about the career and volunteer opportunities that GIS will open up for me.”

“I really like how Sean has used this project as a way to take an analytical look at spatial data. It’s turned into a multi-week project for him and he continues to learn as he goes, so I applaud his dedication to it,” says Desautels.

In his spare time, Heddle maintains 5iveby5ive media, providing everything from video production to drone services. As an experienced drone pilot, he often aids pet owners searching for missing pets. He also donates his product BEES NEEZ, an all-natural Okanagan bee wax paw and snout balm, to homeless individuals with pets.

More information about the Geographic Information System certificate program at Okanagan College is available at


College spotlights health care assistant training across the region

Amid surging demand for health care assistants (HCAs) across the Southern Interior, Okanagan College and Interior Health are spotlighting training opportunities in February.

The College has intakes of its Health Care Assistant program starting in April at the Kelowna, Penticton and Salmon Arm campuses.

Those interested in learning more about the training and career opportunities can attend upcoming info sessions:

  • Kelowna campus – Feb. 12, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m., Room E103 (E building), 1000 KLO Rd.

  • Penticton campus – Feb. 18, 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Room C03 (Sunoka Building), 583 Duncan Ave. West

OC’s six-month intensive program features four months of classroom instruction and two months of hands-on practicum for students to learn within the health-care environment.oc hca students

“There’s never been a better time to become a health care assistant,” says Cassandra Ritchie, Health Care Assistant Recruiter, Interior Health.

“There’s strong demand for HCAs across the Interior Health region. For new graduates and experienced HCAs alike, there are lots of opportunities right now across a many different settings, whether you want to work in a long-term care environment or one-on-one with clients in home support. If you are someone who wants to get into the health care field and make a positive impact on the lives of people in our communities.”

According to WorkBC data, Health care assistants have been identified as a priority occupation for the B.C. Ministry of Health. There is expected to be more than 19,000 job openings across the province over the next decade.

“There continues to be a pressing need for health care assistants throughout our region. The HCA certification provides students with a variety of gratifying career opportunities,” says Mal Griffin, Interior Health’s Vice-President of Human Resources. “Interior Health is proud to hire Okanagan College graduates. They come out of the program well-trained and well versed to provide exceptional care across the diverse settings HCAs are needed.”

Program alumni often report that they find their career path very fulfilling, notes Yvonne Moritz, Dean of Science Technology and Health for Okanagan College.

“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 their care,” explains Moritz.

“For someone looking to get into the health care field, it’s a short program and one that offers graduates the chance to make a living wage right out of school, in a career that offers a variety of shifts, so there’s flexibility to mold their new work around their lives.”

More information about the program is available at