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Orchard Ford and Kelowna Ford Lincoln Dealer Principal Dan Assam has pledged $100,000 to assist the College in outfitting a new student lounge in its renovated and expanded trades training facilities in Kelowna. To the delight of automotive students and car buffs, the lounge will feature a mural depicting a Ford GT50 – a nod to Assam’s father Norm who owned a classic GT40 and for whom the lounge will be dedicated.
“My father was a big supporter of education and training,” says Assam. “Helping staff advance their skills was important to him, as was giving back to the community. This gift honours and celebrates his legacy, and we hope it will inspire the next generation of automotive tradespeople training at Okanagan College.”
The valley’s automotive dealers and collision repair shops have been among the strongest supporters of the renovation and expansion project, contributing more than $850,000 to the Okanagan College Foundation’s Bright Horizons fundraising campaign since it launched in October 2014.
“We are deeply grateful to Dan and his family for this phenomenal support,” says campaign Chair Dennis Gabelhouse. “This gift sends a powerful message to students at the College that local employers are behind them and gives them a sense of the long legacy of trades in the valley that they are a part of.”
Founded in 1983 by Norm Assam, Orchard Ford remains a family-owned and -operated dealership (as is Kelowna Ford Lincoln) with Assam’s son at the helm carrying on his father’s legacy of supporting skilled training. The two dealerships currently employ 20 Okanagan College-trained Red Seal Automotive Service Technicians, with another six on staff who are currently completing their apprenticeship training at the College.
Existing shops across a host of trades, from automotive to welding, have now been completely re-vamped at the College’s Kelowna campus. Upgrades were made to match the same LEED Platinum-targeted standard as the new building, as a testament to the College’s commitment to sustainability.
The Automotive Service Technician (AST) shop was one of the first new shops to come online for students in late 2014, and features new and emerging technology in the industry. Feedback from students and instructors on the new space has been overwhelmingly positive according to the College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores.
“Industry support is absolutely vital to what we do,” says Moores. “Quality learning environments support quality instruction and the proof is in the pudding in our students’ accomplishments.”
Okanagan College recently tied its best-ever results at the provincial Skills Canada BC competition in Abbotsford, earning 11 medals overall. Automotive Service Technician students from the College dominated the podium, taking home gold (Aaron Schmit), silver (Dale Blumhagan), and bronze (Hugo Beaumier-Martin) medals.
The new complex will allow the College to accommodate more than 2,700 students each year and comes at a critical time for training as BC faces a potential shortage of skilled labour over the next decade. It is projected that more than 160,000 job openings will exist for trades and technical workers by 2022, with more than 10,000 needed in the Thompson Okanagan region alone by 2024.
To date the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign has raised more than $6.2 million toward its $7 million goal, which includes $5 million for capital construction and $2 million for program and student support through awards, bursaries, and emergency funding.
“Creating access and supporting students is at the heart of this campaign,” notes Gabelhouse. “As we enter the summer and approach the grand opening of the new building this fall, community and industry support is going to help us reach our goal and open a world of new doors for students.”