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Campus Life - Okanagan

Ben Klick’s new EP hits a high note: College to host public CD release party

Okanagan College Media Release

Ben Klick Sept 2015When rising country music star Ben Klick’s second extended play (EP)
Today dropped on Sept. 15 it only took two days to climb the iTunes country album download chart, landing at #37.

“To be up there with Keith Urban and Brad Paisley, the big names who are all over the radio, and my personal idols in country music, was extremely humbling,” said West Kelowna resident Klick.

In celebration of his new six-track recording, the public is invited to a family-friendly CD release party at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus lecture theatre on Saturday Oct. 10. Fans, family, and friends will meet and mingle with Klick during the pre-reception starting at 6:30 p.m., followed by a live performance of the new tracks at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door, and kids under 12 are free to attend.

An Okanagan College Audio Engineering and Music Production certificate program alumnus, Klick made the conscious choice to host the event at the College.

“The instructors and staff at the College have taught me a lot, given me a lot. I wanted to give back to the College in some way,” shares Klick.

He adds that hosting the event over the Thanksgiving weekend is also a way of saying thank you to all those who have supported him in the pursuit of his childhood dream. A dream conjured after attending a Shania Twain concert at the age of four and being mesmerized by the guitar player on stage.

Following in the footsteps of country music legends Klick headed to a recording studio in music city Nashville to record his new tracks. There, he found that the hands on training he received at the College proved valuable.Ben Klick CD Cover Sept 2015

“As an artist it’s important to find a unique tone. Certainly I put a lot of trust in my producers, but I’m grateful that they gave me the freedom to be the artist that I am,” says Klick, who wanted to be involved in the business of his own career from the get-go.

“Because of the skills I learned at the College, I could go in the studio and give direction, using proper terminology. I understood the technology and that helped make the creation of this EP something I had a big hand in. It definitely made the whole process very professional and collaborative.” 

Balancing out the technical knowledge, on the creative side Klick finds inspiration all around him for his songs that are diverse in order to appeal to a wide variety of folks.

“I hear stories and it sparks something in me, it inspires the songs.”

As an example, the new track
Off Road (the EP’s first radio release) was inspired by a friend Klick made at the College.

“Back in class after a weekend, she was passionately telling me about having gone off-roading. It’s a pretty popular thing to do in the Okanagan I hear. It struck a chord, I called my co-writer and we got to work,” shares Klick. He adds that the friend who inspired the song doesn’t know, yet, about her influence in creating this track.

Copies of
Today will be available for purchase at the Oct. 10 event for $10 which Klick will sign during the pre-reception. Fellow country artist Danielle Marie from Vancouver will also play an acoustic set of her own music prior to Klick taking the stage.

Klick’s music career is kicking into high gear. He is nominated for five 2015 BC Country Music Association Awards, including the Mike Norman All Star Band Guitar Player of the Year award. On the heels of the CD release Klick and his band will go on tour with dates already booked in Vancouver and Kamloops, and sights set on touring across Vancouver Island and Alberta. For tour information and updates visit

Fall Enrolments up at Okanagan College, 11th year of exceeding targets in sight

Okanagan College Media Release

Fall enrolment numbers are showing that Okanagan College is headed for an 11
th straight year of exceeding government targets for student enrolment.

Information from mid-September—when the deadline has passed for students to register for most academic programs and courses—indicated an overall increase in student numbers of about 5.9 per cent: 6,967 in 2015 compared to 6,577 in 2014. That includes students registered in degree, diploma and certificate programs, as well as those registered in trades, vocational and upgrading programs.

Helping fuel that number is a significant growth in international student numbers (although international student enrolments don’t count toward government targets): September enrolments show an increase of more than 20 per cent, with 534 students from 50 different countries at OC’s campuses (predominantly Kelowna).

It’s important to note that the mid-September numbers tell only part of the year’s story for Okanagan College. There are trades, vocational, and continuing studies programs that commence at different times through the fall and into January and early 2016. The complete enrolment picture won’t be known until well into the spring of 2016.

In 2014-15, Okanagan College reported exceeding government targets for funded student spaces by six per cent. In each of the 10 years since the split of OUC in 2005, the school has surpassed government-set targets.

The fall enrolment numbers for this year show the institution may achieve the same sort of performance.

Each of Okanagan College’s four major campuses showed growth from last fall to this fall, with Salmon Arm reporting 5.2 per cent growth (16 additional students, total 319 in 2015), Kelowna with 7.6 per cent (327 more students, total 4,622), Penticton with 2.8 per cent (793 up from 771) and Vernon showing 1.8 per cent growth (783 in 2015, up from 769 last year at the same time).

Significant growth was seen in the College’s business portfolio, with combined academic and vocational programs showing a 7.8 per cent growth (1,821 students compared to 1,689 in 2014). There was also notable growth in the College’s technology programs, including computer information systems: total enrolment in that area grew by 10 per cent, from 461 in 2014 to 509 in 2015.

Enrolment in the trades area, including foundation-level and apprenticeship programs, has also shown seven per cent growth year-over-year, to 780 students as of Sept. 19. In 2014-15, Okanagan College was the second largest trades training institution in the province.

$25,000 in scholarships to celebrate 10 years of giving

Okanagan College Media Release

Corrie Knapp Sept 2015Ten South Okanagan students will receive a boost to their college fund next spring thanks to the generosity of two local donors whose award fund has provided more than $125,000 in scholarships at Okanagan College and UBC Okanagan over the past 10 years.

“Given that 2016 will mark the 10th year of awards from the Rick and Yasmin Thorpe & Friends Scholarship Fund, we wanted to do something special for students of the region,” says donor Rick Thorpe.

The Thorpes have announced 10 scholarships, valued at $2,500 each, will be awarded to qualified students enrolling in first-year studies at Okanagan College in 2016.

Since the fund was established in 2006, more than $70,000 has been awarded to 30 recipients at Okanagan College.
The Thorpes have also established numerous awards for students entering or continuing studies at UBC Okanagan where students have received more than $55,000 in awards.

“Looking back over the last 10 years, we are reminded of so many wonderful interactions with students,” says Yasmin Thorpe. “It is always such a pleasure to meet the recipients, hear their goals for the future, and share their in excitement.”

“Yasmin and I feel very strongly about supporting our local students,” adds Rick Thorpe. “Seeing this fund help young people follow their dreams of higher education has been incredibly meaningful to us.”

The Rick and Yasmin Thorpe & Friends Scholarships assists students who are a graduate of, or will be graduating from, a secondary school located on the west side of Okanagan Lake, from Penticton to Killiney Beach, registering in full
?time studies at the College. The award also supports students already enrolled at the College who are continuing their studies. Recipients must be undertaking courses in business, viticulture, agriculture, engineering, tourism/hospitality, trades, technologies, English or creative writing, science, and nursing.

Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director Kathy Butler says many students have reached out over the years to express their thanks and to share how receiving a Thorpe & Friends Scholarship has helped them.

“The sheer gratitude expressed by the recipients, in the form of thank-you letters, emails, photos, and video messages for the Thorpes, is a testament to the impact these awards have had, and will continue to have,” says Butler.

One student on which the award has had a tremendous impact is nursing student Corrie Knapp.

“It made all the difference in the world to me,” says Knapp, who is currently entering her second year of nursing at the College. “It came at a time when I was unsure how I was going to pay for school and manage other bills.

“When the cheque arrived, it was an incredible feeling of relief—I can’t even put it into words how helpful and inspiring it was.”

After this year, Knapp plans to complete the final two years of her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree at UBC Okanagan. She hopes one day to put her skills to work in developing countries.

The Thorpes are longtime supporters of Okanagan College. In 2011, both served as Honorary Chairs of the $5-million fundraising campaign behind the construction of the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence at the Penticton campus; the Thorpes personally committed $50,000 to the project. Yasmin was named an Honorary Fellow of the College in 2012.

The application deadline for the 2016 Rick and Yasmin Thorpe & Friends Scholarships will be March 4, 2016. Students are encouraged to review the application guidelines at or [email protected] for more information.


Science in Society Speaker Series returns to ask the big questions about adapting to climate change

Okanagan College Media Release

Environmental changes such as rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, melting Arctic sea ice, unusual extreme weather patterns, and out-of-the-norm jet stream behaviour have scientists questioning the relationship between these observations. Have we reached an environmental tipping point, and if so, how can we adapt to this changing natural world?Dr. Richard Hebda Sept 2015

Launching the return of the Science in Society Speaker Series at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus for another season of thought provoking public seminars is Dr. Richard Hebda, curator of Botany and Earth History at the Royal British Columbia Museum, Professor at the University of Victoria, and paleontologist for the province, who will explore what can be done to adjust to coming changes.

The public is invited to hear from Hebda as he presents “What can we do to adapt to a changing planet?” on Tuesday Oct. 13 at 7:30 p.m. at the Lecture Theatre at the College’s Vernon campus.

“Ever-evolving impact models clearly reveal that ecological transformation on a continental scale is on its way,” says Hebda. “It is vital that we strive to understand what defines the ecological integrity of our ecosystems and embed those characteristics in their management.”

The presentation will draw upon his extensive research with plant fossils and their distribution over time and place to shed light on the evolution of B.C.’s landscape and climate. He will help clarify what ecological integrity means, and how we can adapt to climate change including discussing how recent discoveries concerning B.C.’s alpine flora can help with large-scale adaptation strategies.

Admission to the event is $7 in advance or $10 at the door. For advanced tickets, please call the Okanagan Science Centre at (250) 545-3644. Visit for more information.

Presented jointly by Okanagan College and the Okanagan Science Centre, the Science in Society Speaker Series is sponsored by the Best Western Vernon Lodge, Starbucks Coffee, Cooper’s Food, and the Vernon Morning Star.

Protocol describes commitment to Indigenous Education

Okanagan College Media Release

OC Protocol Signing Sept 2015Okanagan College and several First Nations and Metis partners have signed a commitment that recognizes the school’s responsibility and commitment to indigenous education and collaboration with Aboriginal communities.

The Indigenous Education Protocol was developed by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICAN) through its Indigenous Education Committee. (That committee was chaired by Ken Tourand, President of the Nicola Valley Institute of Technology. It was signed on Thursday as part of the Seventh Annual Powwow at the College’s Kelowna campus.)

“Okanagan College has been strengthening our service and connection to the First Nations and Metis of our region over the past decade,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We have seen significant growth in the number of Aboriginal students who choose our institution for their education. Last year, we had 1,535 Aboriginal students attend OC, more than three times the number who attended in 2005-06.”

“We have introduced several programs specifically focused on Aboriginal learners and collaborated with bands individually and jointly on a number of projects in recent years.”

“While that is heartening, we know there is much yet to be done,” says Hamilton, “We can do more in terms of access and supporting student success, and in working with bands and friendship centres, Metis groups and other associations to learn indigenous knowledge, culture and traditions for the benefit of all.”

Okanagan College was joined at the signing ceremony by representatives of the Okanagan Indian Band, the Metis Association of Salmon Arm, the Ki-Low-Na Friendship Society, the Westbank First Nation, and the Metis Community Service Society of BC.

Allan Louis, an Okanagan Indian Band Councillor, is an alumnus of Okanagan College. He recognized the importance of education for the Aboriginal community and the significant growth that has taken place at the College since he attended in the early 1990s. “There were only five First Nations students here then,” he told a crowd of hundreds Thursday as he participated in the signing ceremony. “This many students is tremendous. Education is key for our community.”

Then and now: Therapist Assistant alumni gather to celebrate 25 years

Okanagan College Media Release

At 71 years old, there’s no stopping Patricia Harris’s continued momentum in providing excellence in rehabilitation care to those in need.TAD 25 years Sept 2015

Boasting a health care career that spans a half-century fuelled by passion and compassion, Harris is a Recreation Therapist Assistant at the Village at Mill Creek, an assisted living and residential care facility in Kelowna. It is a role the single mother of four pursued 25 years ago upon returning to college as a mature student.

At a commemorative reception held Thursday in Kelowna, Okanagan College proudly celebrated a quarter century of Therapist Assistant diploma student successes. Harris was on hand to reconnect with her then-classmates and current colleagues in the industry to mark the occasion.

“I remember studying 25 years ago and the skills instructors passed on to us as students have always stayed with me,” recalls Harris, a member of the 1990 program intake and first graduating class.

Previously a practical nurse, Harris was working as an activity aid in Kelowna when she heard about a new program at the College that would offer the three pillars of physical, recreational, and occupational therapist assistant training. When it launched in 1990 the program was known as the Rehabilitation Assistant certificate program. It has now expanded into a two-year nationally accredited diploma.

“I’ve always worked in the health field. It felt like it would be something for me,” says Harris.

When she returned to the classroom at age 46, Harris experienced a healthy dose of fear and wasn’t totally sure about going back to school and jumping in next to 20-year-olds pursuing the same studies.

“The first four months I thought, am I going to be able to do this? I had homework every day,” recalls Harris. “It was a learning curve, but the instructors encouraged me and took the extra time to help explain things I didn’t understand. At one point it just clicked and by the time I graduated I felt I could keep going.”

“As an educator, it is extremely satisfying to bring 25 years of alumni together. They’re a great example of the successful careers the program has generated,” says Jennifer Stephenson, Chair of the College’s Therapist Assistant diploma program. “A total of 574 Therapist Assistant graduates have come through our doors at the College to date, and we’re seeing a real increase in people interested in training in this field.”

The program has 40 students starting their studies this year, with a waitlist of 20. Stephenson adds that it’s a good thing there is a demonstrated interest. With an aging baby-boomer generation she anticipates an increase in demand for therapist assistants to provide support in the community.

At the anniversary celebration, guests heard from Kerri Winter, President of the Rehabilitation Assistants Association of British Columbia, who is also a graduate of the first graduating class of Okanagan College’s program. A commemorative video marking the silver anniversary was also shown.

As for what’s next for Harris: “my kids ask me all the time ‘mom when are you going to retire?’ I tell them I love my work so much, I will eventually, but at this point, I don’t want to.”

Praxair donation helps Okanagan College keep welding students on the cutting edge

Okanagan College Media Release

Praxair Donation Sept 2015Welding students at Okanagan College’s Kelowna Campus recently sparked their torches for the first time in a newly retrofitted shop, and a donation from Praxair’s Global Giving Program is helping the College outfit state-of-the-art workspaces for them.

“Praxair has a long history of developing talented STEM and skilled trade professionals that help us remain competitive globally,” says Praxair Canada President Sean Durbin. “Having this kind of training available locally through Okanagan College will help our region grow and we’re proud to be able to support our community in this way.”

Praxair has pledged $50,000 to the Bright Horizons fundraising campaign behind the $33-million renovation and expansion of the College’s trades training facilities. Praxair Canada’s donation was also supplemented by a matching grant through United Way Worldwide, bringing the overall donation up to almost $60,000.

Praxair supports STEM and skilled trades training worldwide through scholarships, donations and initiatives. Last year the company developed the Praxair Skills Pipeline, a program to help address the growing need for skilled workers in today’s global economy.

The donation to the College supported the construction and equipping of six welding booths in the new shop, which will boast 36 booths in total. Students will continue to have access to 32 booths in an older shop space behind the new facilities.

“Despite slowdowns in a number of sectors like Oil and Gas, we are seeing that the demand for welders in Western Canada remains strong,” says Steve Moores, Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship. “Our welding programs are waitlisted and train in two shifts, morning and night, five days a week, to accommodate as many students as we can.”

With potential for the growth of LNG and shipbuilding on the horizon in B.C., Moores says the College is building for the future and working closely with industry partners to stay current on the newest technologies and techniques.

“This new welding shop is going to provide our students with a completely modern learning environment with all the latest technologies and equipment that they will encounter out in the industry.”

In addition to new technologies, improvements to the shop include more efficient lighting, heating and cooling, and a more efficient extraction system which improves ventilation.

Okanagan College is currently the largest public post-secondary trainer of welders in British Columbia, having trained more than 300 FTE (full-time equivalent) students in 2014-2015. Since 2010, the College has trained 1773 FTE welding apprentices and foundation students, including 930 at the Kelowna Campus alone.

In addition to support for the new shop, donations have also allowed for the creation of new bursaries and other support for students in the welding program, says Okanagan College Director Kathy Butler.

“We are so grateful to Praxair and all of the donors who come forward to support this project,” says Butler. “The generosity of our community has been wonderful, and we hope more and more people will continue to get involved. We hope all of our donors, and everyone who is considering supporting the project, understands the impact, the wonderful investment they are making in our students’ futures.”

Launched in October of last year, the Bright Horizons Building for Skills Campaign aims to raise $7 million—$5 million for capital construction and $2 million for student and program support—to complement the provincial government’s $28-million commitment.

As soon as the old welding shop has been vacated, work will begin to upgrade and retrofit the space to house the College’s RV Technician program. In accordance with the College’s commitment to sustainable construction this will mean bringing the decades’ old facilities up to LEED Platinum standards to match the trades training tower under construction along KLO Road. The complex is expected to be fully completed and open to students next spring.

To learn more about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved, please visit

College to host free info session about safety regulations of drone flying

Okanagan College Media Release

The popularity of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), otherwise known as drones, has grown abuzz in the last few years. As a result, awareness about the safe use of the modern technology – be it as a toy or tool – is of the utmost importance.

Helping to demystify and clarify current Canadian regulations, safe operation guidelines, and risk management of flying drones, Okanagan College in cooperation with the Kelowna and District Flying Club will host a free public information session on Tuesday Sept. 29, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Kelowna campus lecture theatre.

Hobbyist flyers, those using drones for commercial purposes, and individuals who are considering owning and operating a drone will become equipped with the facts such as the no-fly zone within nine kilometers of an airport, heliport, or aerodrome. Those new to drone technology can find out if obtaining a Special Flight Operation Certificate, as regulated by Transport Canada, is necessary based on the intended use.

Attendees can expect to hear from a panel of experts including representatives from Okanagan College, the Canadian Owners’ and Pilots Association, the RCMP, Nav Canada, and a commercial insurance agent. The insightful session will be followed with a Q&A period.

While the event is free of charge, pre-registration is required. To register, visit and follow the event link on the page.

Donation helps build new home for carpentry students at Okanagan College

Okanagan College Media Release

What began as an opportunity for the next generation of carpenters to hone their skills has yielded a gift that keeps on giving for carpentry students at Okanagan College.Village of Kettle Valley donation Sept 2015

Village of Kettle Valley has donated $62,412 to the Okanagan College Foundation’s Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign. The gift was made to support the rejuvenation of the College’s carpentry and joinery shop, part of the $33-million renovation and expansion of the trades training facilities underway at the Kelowna campus.

“We feel it is very important to support the future tradespeople of the Okanagan,” says Stephen Wells, Village of Kettle Valley’s President and General Manager of Land Development and Land Sales.

“Village of Kettle Valley has been proud to work with the College on a number of projects and awards for students over the years. This gift evolved out of those collaborations and we were thrilled to play a role in helping the College build a beautiful new shop,” explains Wells.

It is a partnership that dates to 2005 when the developer provided lots on which Okanagan College could construct two “Home for Learning” projects. Students from the College’s Residential Construction program worked side by side with tradespeople from Vintage Design, Delnor Homes, and Excite Homes to build two high-end homes in the community.

Profits from the sale of the homes were donated to Okanagan College to establish an annual award fund providing full tuition credit to one or more students in the Carpentry and Electrician Apprenticeship programs.

Over the past decade, the fund has provided almost $30,000 in tuition credits to 49 recipients.

Earlier this year, when Village of Kettle Valley’s development team learned that the College was updating and expanding its Trades training facilities, a decision was made to roll the balance of the award fund into a donation towards the new College’s carpentry shop—a donation which had a huge impact on the creation of the new space, says Okanagan College’s Dean of Trades and Apprenticeship Steve Moores.

“Our new Carpentry shop is bright, modern, energy efficient, and reflects the quality of training the students are receiving and have always received at the College,” says Moores.

“It is particularly heartening for us that donors in our community like Village of Kettle Valley have stepped up to support the College in building this space for students.”

The new shop, already in operation, features a number of upgrades, including an enhanced dust extraction system and a new and improved spray booth which provide better ventilation and cleaner air for students and instructors.

“The best improvement, in my mind, is the rearrangement of the space,” says Alf Leimert, Chair of the Construction Trades department. “The new space is more efficient and the location of the tool room makes it more accessible to students in our outside work spaces. It’s an even more functional teaching and learning environment.”

The new three-storey Trades Training Complex along KLO Road is expected to be completed and open to students by Spring 2016.

The Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign was launched in October 2014 to support the completion of the project. The Okanagan College Foundation is aiming to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support. The provincial government has committed $28 million to the project.

More information about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to support students is available at

Donor support powers up new flight simulator at Okanagan College

Okanagan College Media Release

Ribbon Cutting Sept 2015Support from two local companies will soon place future aviators behind the controls of a cutting-edge flight simulator at Okanagan College.

Carson Air has pledged $125,000 to support the purchase and installation of a Redbird FMX flight simulator at the College’s Kelowna Campus.

“Carson Air is proud to be a long-time partner of Okanagan College in the training of commercial pilots,” says Kevin Carson, President and Operations Manager of Carson Air. “We hope this gift challenges and inspires many students, as they hone their skills and work towards careers as professional aviators.”

The donation was announced today by Carson during a ribbon-cutting celebration for a new training facility at the Southern Interior Flight Centre (SIFC) in the Carson Air Group’s new hangar at the Kelowna International Airport.

Adding to Carson Air’s support, the purchase of the new simulator was also made possible by a donation of $25,000 from ROV Consulting, a structural engineering firm based in Kelowna.

“It has been wonderful to watch the diversification in programming at Okanagan College over the years,” says Richard Visscher, President/CEO of ROV “It is something we are very proud to support.”  

The event also marked the 25th anniversary of the College’s Commercial Aviation Diploma program and partnership with the Southern Interior Flight Centre, which is a division of Carson Air and operates out of Carson Air Group’s hangar and facilities.

To date, the program has graduated more than 312 commercial pilots.

It is a number which could not have been reached without the support and involvement of long-time partner Carson Air, notes Okanagan College’s Vice President of Education Dr. Andrew Hay.

“Partnerships like these are absolutely invaluable to our ability to deliver training that is attuned to the needs of industry and best positions our graduates to excel in their fields,” explains Hay.

“This gift made possible by Carson Air and ROV Consulting is an investment in the students of today, and the students of tomorrow. It will be a very important tool as we work to proactively train ahead of the skills gap looming in B.C. and to ensure we have exceptional new pilots entering the industry to meet the demand over the next decade.”

Like Carson, Visscher has a passion for flight. He is a trained pilot who has been flying for more than 38 years.

In addition to the financial contribution, Visscher also plans to work with the College to share his flight knowledge and experience by mentoring students in the simulator.

“Having quality training available to our students locally, from my own field of Engineering to Business to Commercial Aviation and so many others, means so much for our regional economy. I’m personally very excited to see students put their skills to the test in the simulator,” he says.

“It is a wonderful tool,” adds Carson, “One that will help students train for a diversity of situations and conditions they’ll encounter in the air. We’re glad to help the College provide innovative learning experiences like this.”

The simulator is expected to be installed and in use by students by next September.

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