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Dreams take flight. You need only take the first step.
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.