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College info session shines a light on green building careers

penticton campus pageAaron Spohr never could have predicted that a quick glance at a sign while driving past Okanagan College would open his eyes to a new career and change the way he looked at the world. An upcoming info session at the Penticton campus is inviting others to follow in his footsteps and join the next wave of sustainable construction managers.

Okanagan College’s Sustainable Construction Management Technology (SCMT) program is a hosting an information session on Wednesday, July 4 from 6 – 7 p.m. The location is a fitting one – visitors will have a chance to tour the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence, which in 2016 was named the greenest post-secondary building in Canada by Corporate Knights magazine.

Attendees will have a chance to meet instructors and learn about the College’s two-year SCMT diploma program which gives graduates the technical knowledge, business savvy, and practical skills required to effectively manage construction projects of varying size and complexity.

The diploma program (initially a three-year pilot) launched in 2014. The first cohort graduated last spring. Since then, Dr. Amy Vaillancourt, Chair of the SCMT program, says the success stories she has heard back from SCMT alumni have been nothing short of inspiring.

“Our grads have stepped into all kinds of opportunities in management and technologist roles,” notes Vaillancourt. “It’s definitely not a cookie-cutter career. It’s for anyone who is interested in blending sustainability, technology and construction. Quite a number of our grads have found it a springboard to management or supervisory roles, and some have started their own successful businesses.”

Aaron Spohr is one of those grads who has used the program to grow his career locally.

Originally from Kamloops, Spohr was driving through Penticton a few years ago when he spotted a signboard outside the College advertising for a new program focused on sustainable construction.

“I had a little construction experience and a bit of an interest in sustainability, so when I got home and thought about it further, I decided it was the perfect opportunity to marry those two interests. 

Spohr enrolled in the program and moved with his family to Penticton. While still a student, he was hired on as a Project Coordinator for Ritchie Custom Homes. He graduated last summer and is now a Project Manager. 

“I want to be on the right side of history,” he says. “The time is now for us to look at how we can build in a more sustainable way. More and more people in the industry are getting onboard, so we definitely need people with the skills and knowledge to make it happen.”

“It’s very gratifying to get to go to work every day and know you’re part of building a home that can have the least impact on the environment while being a beautiful, functional custom home for someone.”

Spohr says the program transformed his outlook beyond the jobsite as well.

“For us, it changed the way we go to the grocery store. The choices we make – like bringing along re-usable bags for produce. It really helped clarify and change some lifestyle choices. It gave me a practical application for a sentiment I was feeling and led to a career that matters – one that I take a lot of pride in.”

Attendees of the info session will also have a chance to hear about a new offering launching this fall – the Post-Diploma Sustainability Studies Certificate.

“Like the diploma, the certificate is designed to meet the industry demand for managers and technologists who are specialized in sustainable construction,” explains Vaillancourt. “It will appeal to professionals with a diploma in engineering, architecture, or construction management who are looking to further their training.”

The new certificate will take two years to complete and will be delivered through a combination of online delivery and a short but intensive residency during each of the four terms.

More information is available at