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A global opportunity at hand for PacWest wineries
Okanagan College Media Release

Steve Warner Wine talks May 2018At a time when trade agreements and threats dominate headlines, the President of the Washington State Wine Commission has a simple message for the B.C., Oregon and Washington wine industries.


Steve Warner, who has led the Washington State Wine Commission since 2012, will be bringing his perspective on the opportunities and challenges for the wine industries of Washington, Oregon and B.C. to Penticton on June 18, as part of the Wine Talks series presented by Liquidity Winery and Okanagan College.

There are challenges enough for each of the individual region’s industries – interprovincial trade barriers for B.C. wineries are just one example – but there are opportunities abroad to establish the reputation for the entire Pacific Northwest wine region that should be seized upon, says Warner. “We live the quality of our wines every day,” says Warner, “but we need to demonstrate that in the global market. The Pacific Northwest has a growing reputation that we need to work together to build.”

That will help reinforce the message of quality that drives domestic consumption but will also open doors for a growing export industry.”

He and 14 wineries from Washington are on their way to Hong Kong for VinExpo 2018.

“Washington’s first AVA was established in 1983. That’s like being weeks old in an industry where there are wineries that date back thousands of years.”

“We (Washington, B.C. and Oregon) are more alike than we are different. We’re complementary.”

“Washington State produces less than one per cent of the world’s wine. We don’t need to compete with each other – we need to co-operate.”

Warner’s tenure at the Washington State Wine Commission came after a career in the international pharmaceutical industry. Working for Merck & Co., Inc. he served as Managing Director, General Manager and held marketing positions in Bucharest, Seoul, Bangkok and in the U.S. He has a master’s of business administration in international business and finance from Rutgers University. Before his private sector career he served in the U.S. military’s Special Operations Command, completing his career as a Lieutenant Command in U.S. Navy Special Operations.

“I guess you could say I’ve gone from guns to drugs to alcohol.”

The most recent economic analysis of Washington State’s wine industry points to an annual impact nearing $5 billion.

“Under Steve’s leadership, Washington State wines have seen tremendous sales growth particularly in the premium category,” says Ian MacDonald, owner of Liquidity Wines. “This is a unique opportunity for us to learn what they have done to position their wine region for local, national and international success.”

Tickets for the fourth instalment in the Wine Talks series, June 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the Penticton Campus of Okanagan College, are $20. You can register online by visiting


Finding the Good: conference seeks to generate new ideas for ethical International Development
Okanagan College Media Release

How can ideas that begin in the classroom grow into real-world solutions to attack poverty, hunger, and gender inequality around the world? And – on the flip side – how can front-line practice inform the way students and researchers comprehend increasingly complex challenges to fundamental human rights?

International Development scholars and practitioners from across North America will convene at Okanagan College next month for a unique conference aimed at finding innovative ways to advance social justice, inclusion and human rights in development efforts around the world.

The conference – Finding the Good – happens June 8-9 at the College’s Kelowna campus. The first day will offer thematic workshops, discussions, and networking, with a focus on developing a book project on the theme of Ethics in International Development.

“Finding the Good is about bringing people together for dialogue focused on bringing about real change in this field and out in the world,” explains conference organizer Dr. Rosalind Warner, who teaches Political Science at Okanagan College. “The idea behind the conference is to create a space where scholarly insights and practical development work collide. Hopefully, the result will be solutions that improve the lives of people experiencing marginalization, discrimination and oppression.”

“It’s a conference focused on generating big ideas but even more importantly it’s about coming up with a plan for how we put those big ideas into practice.”

Sessions will cover a host of topics from public-private sector partnerships to women, gender and feminism to putting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – a collection of 17 global goals set by the United Nations in 2015 – into a local context.

“The SDGs are indivisible, universal and aspirational goals and they apply as much at the local level as they do at the global level. The conference will therefore be of interest to those working to solve problems right here in the valley,” notes Warner.

Day two of Finding the Good will see keynote presentations by renowned International development professionals Chloe Schwenke and Michael Simpson.

Chloe Schwenke May 2018Schwenke, a former Director of the Global Program on Violence, Rights, and Inclusion at the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW), brings more than three decades experience as a human rights and social inclusion scholar and international development practitioner.

“There is a lack of effective, structured discussions on the current moral and economic climate in international development,” notes Schwenke, who currently serves as Interim Executive Director of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (
AWP), based at the University of Maryland in College Park.

“Our partnerships with the developing world are changing rapidly and there is a definite need for scholars and practitioners alike to come together and discuss how we can inform new public policy, and how we can spark conversations that fuel paradigm shifts.”

As an educator, Schwenke says she has noticed more and more students stepping forward to join that conversation.

“There seems to be a growing interest in social inclusion issues and marginalization populations, from women to the LGBTQ community. Young people really relate to these topics and obviously we want to inspire and encourage them to add their voice to the conversation,” adds Schwenke.
Michael Simpson May 2018
Those interested in hearing more about Schwenke’s life and work as an LGBTQ scholar can also attend a book launch for her new memoir SELF-ish: a transgender awakening on June 8 at 5:30 p.m. at Infusions Restaurant at the Kelowna campus. Schwenke will share excerpts from the work in which she shares her experiences as an openly transgender Quaker woman whose life’s journey includes living in five countries and working on projects in more than 40, mostly in Africa and the Middle East. The event is free. Attendees can register in advance on Eventbrite.

Michael Simpson is the Executive Director of the British Columbia Council for International Cooperation (BCCIC). Prior to working for
 BCCIC, Michael was the Executive Director of One Sky – The Canadian Institute for Sustainable Living. His work with One Sky varied from leading major bilateral projects in West Africa including Nigeria and Sierra Leone to working in Latin America on projects ranging from forest conservation to leadership development. He is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker who has worked extensively in conflict and post-conflict areas around the globe.

Registration for Finding the Good is open online until June 1. Attendees can choose to register for a single day (Friday or Saturday) for $130 or both days for $170. Both days are open to public registration.

More information is available at Follow this event on
Facebook and on #ocfindingthegood.


Graduation brings it all into focus for College welding student
Okanagan College Media Release

After more than a decade working as a professional photographer in Ottawa, Mitchell Burton moved across the country, enrolled at Okanagan College and traded in his camera for a welding torch.Mitchell Burton May 2018

Today marks another important step toward that new career path as he and hundreds of others – from Aircraft Maintenance Engineers to RV Service Technicians – earn credentials at the College’s Trades Commencement ceremony.

“I felt I wasn’t getting any more traction in my career and didn’t know what was in store for my future in the photography industry,” explains Burton. “I was looking for something to happen, so I went back to basics and thought to myself, ‘why not find a new path that combines another one of my passions with work?’”

The answer to that question inspired Burton to get in his car and drive west across Canada to move to the Okanagan to pursue a new career path. An avid scuba diver, Burton was intrigued by the possibility of becoming a commercial level diver. Upon further research, he decided to explore a trade closely associated with commercial diving – welding – which led him to Okanagan College.

“Deciding to go to the College and enrolling in the welding program just felt right for me and now that I’m at the end of this program I can say it was the right choice,” says Burton. “Welding is such a versatile trade and you can really do so much with it and work in a ton of different venues which makes me very excited for my future because the opportunities are endless.”

For Burton, today’s ceremony marks the completion of his C-Level Welding Foundation Certificate which he hopes will propel him into the industry and open the door to future training.

“Graduating has given me a huge sense of accomplishment and I can’t wait to hit the ground running in this industry and start laying down some roots in the region,” says Burton. “I am excited to see where I’ll end up in this career.”

Burton’s next step will be to accrue the 1,000 hours of industry experience required to earn his Level 1 apprenticeship, after which he plans to return to the College to obtain B-Level Certification.

“Tradespeople play a vital role in building and sustaining our communities and trades training has always been at the heart of what we do at Okanagan College,” says President Jim Hamilton. “We commend all of our 2018 trades graduates on their achievements.”

More than 700 apprentices and foundation trades students will have received credentials since January. About 100 of those students were expected to attend Thursday’s ceremony.

Trades Commencement is one of eight convocation and commencement ceremonies Okanagan College will host this year. By the end of June, the College will have sent more than 2,000 graduates into the world to become nurses, engineering technologists, business leaders, computer programmers, educators, tradespeople and more.

Okanagan College is the second-largest trades training institution in the province behind BCIT.


With help from federal government and donors, new Trades Training House opens at Okanagan College
Okanagan College Media Release

The next generation of carpenters, plumbers, and electricians are stepping into a state-of-the-art new training space at Okanagan College this week thanks to investment from the Government of Canada, the College and a host of industry and community partners.

Trades Training House 1 May 2018Stephen Fuhr, Kelowna-Lake Country Member of Parliament, visited the Kelowna campus on Tuesday to officially open the College’s new Trades Training House.

The 2,700 square-foot facility is designed to simulate a real-world jobsite that will constantly change as new techniques, technologies and building materials emerge.

The opening wasn’t Fuhr’s first trip to the Trades Training House site. In March 2017, on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, Fuhr helped the College break ground for the building after announcing $332,485 in support for the project from the Federal Government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund.

“Skilled tradespeople play a vital role in ensuring the economic prosperity of the Okanagan and communities across the country,” said Fuhr. “Between the Trades Training House in Kelowna and the Trades Training Centre under construction at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus, the Federal Government has invested nearly $3 million to enhance the College’s infrastructure and support its work to equip the tradespeople of today and future generations who will train in these facilities. The Trades Training House is going to benefit students and our local employers looking for skilled workers for years to come.”

Beyond future carpenters, plumbers and pipefitters and electricians, the facility will also serve students in the College’s Residential Construction, Sheet Metal Worker, Women in Trades Training and Aboriginal Gateway to the Building Trades programs.

Kelowna’s Sarah McGuire is one of those students.

“The more hands-on training we can get, the more experience and confidence we’ll have when we step onto the jobsite,” says McGuire, who is currently completing the Plumbing and Piping Foundation program. “Having a space that functions just like the real-world and gives us lots of variety in terms of equipment we’re working on, and the various stages of installation and repair, is incredibly valuable.”

Among those donors investing in the training of students like McGuire is Lee Keenan, Owner of Legacy Garage Doors. Keenan’s company contributed garage doors to the project, worth about $3,100.Trades Training House 2 May 2018

“The success of our business is based on our ability to offer our customers extremely high quality products and services – and a big part of that is having access to skilled workers,” notes Keenan. “We’re proud to be a part of the Trades Training House and supporting the futures of the countless tradespeople who will train here.”

“The beauty of the Trades Training House is that it will benefit students across so many programs and stages of training, while offering us the flexibility to offer new programming as industry needs change locally, across the province and beyond,” said Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “We’re immensely grateful to the Federal government for its investment in trades training at the College. I would also like to extend our gratitude to the many donors and industry partners who have stepped up with significant and varied contributions to help outfit the space.”

The house will also give the College and industry a space to pursue new programming, work-integrated learning and applied research projects.

Plans are in the works to add a solar photovoltaic array to the roof to capture energy and provide a tool for the College to be able to offer training in solar panel installation, maintenance and repair in future.

It is expected that more than 300 students will train in the facility per year.

The total cost for the project was approximately $1,060,000. To date – not including the federal government’s commitment – the College has received more than $384,000 in donations and gifts-in-kind toward the project. The College will contribute the remainder of the cost.


Enactus OC students showcase new initiatives on national stage
Okanagan College Media Release

After a strong showing at the Enactus Canada Regional Competition earlier this spring, 27 Okanagan College business students are heading across the country to once again assert their place among Canada’s best. One of the new projects they’ll be showcasing on the national stage is already having an accelerated impact in local classrooms.

Accelerate Youth

For fourth-year Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) student Jamie Park and her teammates, earning first-place at Regionals in Calgary in the Scotiabank Youth Empowerment Challenge for the Accelerate Youth project – one of Enactus OC’s newest initiatives – was a major confidence boost and a milestone in the project’s rapid development over the past year.

Accelerate Youth teaches practical life skills such as budgeting, banking, cooking and more to at-risk youth. Joining Park on the team are fellow business students Jessica Egyed, Jessica Overland and Marshall Kutyn.

The project began to take root when Christine Thygesen, an instructor and counselor at the Westside Learning Center, approached the College for an innovative solution and support to teach life skills to students in alternative schools.

“For students who have experienced difficulties in past academic endeavors, adolescence is often the time when they acknowledge their negative outlook on the future,” explains Thygesen. “My vision was to improve the mindset of these teens by creating a program that would support and accelerate them to their next level of potential through hands-on learning.”

Over a 10-week span made up of 20 sessions, Enactus OC teammates visited the Westside Learning Centre to work with students.

“We started with needs versus wants, something every teenager knows about,” explains Park. “After a few weeks the youth started to open up to us and come to realize the importance of financial and nutritional literacy. Once we had covered the basics, we started looking at credit, insurance and taxes.”

The students were soon buoyed by a partnership with a local non-profit organization, Start Fresh, which allowed them to add some hands-on culinary education for the students. Launched in 2016, Start Fresh serves up education on everything from kitchen skills to life skills in a wide variety of settings.

‘Working with Accelerate Youth has been a fantastic experience for our Chefs here at Start Fresh,” says Sarah Martin, Operations Manager at Start Fresh. “We were able to come in to the project, share our skills and knowledge with the students and have a lot of fun doing it. We’re always grateful to support and work with youth in a meaningful way.”

Accelerate Youth also received a $2,000 grant from the Central Okanagan Foundation for Youth and United Way Gennext, which provided the critical seed capital needed for its launch. So far, 25 youth have benefited from the program and the project partners are already looking at how it can be expanded to other regions and districts in future.

“It’s inspiring to see the collaboration between the Enactus team and the students who have built this incredible community learning environment,” says Enactus OC Faculty Advisor Dr. Kyleen Myrah. “The response from community partners who are offering their specialized expertise and financial support for this program has been outstanding. I am excited to see the future direction of Accelerate Youth.”

Enactus OC will be competing in three competitions at the National Exposition held May 14-16 in Toronto. Alongside Accelerate Youth, the entrepreneurial team will also highlight the Launch-a-Preneur and Start-up Weekend projects. The national team will present on all projects from the year. Alongside Myrah, three other Faculty Advisors – Dean Warner, Terry Kosowick and Scott Overland – will accompany and support the teams.

Aircraft industry demand still un-met in the Okanagan
Okanagan College Media Release

Michelle HanryWith local, national and global demand for Aircraft Maintenance Engineers (AME) soaring, Okanagan College is working with its industry partners to train the next generation of skilled technicians.

For area students that means significant career opportunities with companies such as KF Aerospace, one of the region’s largest employers (over the past four years, the company has hired every student to successfully complete the College’s AME Structures program). Among those alumni is 2014 grad Michelle Hanry.

“Getting hired straight after graduation and working for KF for the last three years has been an amazing experience,” explains Hanry. “I have learned a lot from the senior structural engineers. KF’s growth and involvement in numerous contracts that require a variety of maintenance experience allows new apprentices to ease into the work and grow their skills quickly.”

An open house on May 9 co-hosted by Okanagan College and KF Aerospace in Kelowna aims to open students’ eyes to the training and job opportunities in their flight path in both the College’s Structures (S) and Maintenance (M) programs.

“The industry demand is still so strong that even after a national search and hiring the entire class from the new November intake, we’re still looking for 30 more employees,” says Grant Stevens, Director of Human Resources for KF Aerospace. “KF has been on quite the expansion and in the last 10 years has built three new hangars and tripled the floor space and the number of aircrafts – staffing growth is our number one obstacle to expansion.”

Those looking to train for careers as aircraft maintenance engineers can choose from two offerings at the College – the Maintenance or M-License program, which covers everything from engines to electrical components in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters or the Structures (S-Licence) program, which covers the fabrication, assembly, installation, and repair of an aircraft’s structure.

The 62-week (approximately 15 months) M-Licence program is offered in partnership with Northern Lights College (NLC) in Dawson Creek, B.C. The first 48 weeks of training take place at Okanagan College Aerospace Campus in Vernon. The final 14 weeks of training take place at Northern Lights College in Dawson Creek.

Michelle Hanry 2The 37-week (approximately 9 months) S-Licence program operates out of the College’s Aerospace Campus in Kelowna. Students train steps away from KF Aerospace’s cutting-edge hangars and have opportunities to tour, meet and speak to KF’s experienced AME-S technicians and apprentices – many of whom are OC alumni.

“Aircraft Maintenance Engineers, both M and S streams, have always been some of the most sought-after workers in aviation,” says Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship at Okanagan College. “To help address the demand locally, the College opened an additional intake last November with support from KF Aerospace and the Industry Training Authority and we look forward to continuing to work together to address the demand.”

The open house starts at 6 p.m. on May 9 at OC’s Aerospace campus adjacent to KF Aerospace’s hangars at the Kelowna International Airport. It will provide prospective students with a chance to learn about both programs while also learning about job prospects and career paths in the aviation industry. Attendance is free and open to the public.

More information about the College’s AME programs and the upcoming open house, is available at