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Campus Life - Okanagan

There’s an app for that: College and Accelerate Okanagan partner to offer new coding program

Okanagan College Media Release

In an era of smartphones, tablets and mobile computing, applications – apps to most of us - are at the core of making it all happen, but the industry that produces them requires talented and trained developers to turn ideas into on-screen reality.

In response to the exponential growth in app popularity and sector demand, Okanagan College and Accelerate Okanagan have partnered to offer a new Mobile Coding for Android and iOS program starting this fall.

"Accelerate Okanagan received valuable feedback from industry that iOS and Android are the languages most in demand for programming training needs," says Pilar Portela, CEO of Accelerate Okanagan. "The format of this specialized training is key to developing local talent which will assist in connecting companies with highly skilled workers."

With room for 16 students, the program is currently accepting applications for an October intake. Four months of part-time classes on evenings and Saturdays will be followed by a five-week practicum with one of the region’s tech companies that Accelerate Okanagan will help students connect with.

"This program answers the expressed needs of the region’s technology sector," says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. "With financial support from the province, we’ve developed a curriculum that will enable students to advance in their careers, and give them the job skills training necessary to excel in the field of app development."

Geared towards individuals currently working in coding, the class schedule will allow them to remain in the workforce.

Students will learn how to create an app for Android and iOS systems that includes responsive and functional technology that can be converted from one platform to another, meaning it is adaptable to be functional on a smartphone, tablet, and desktop computer on multiple operating systems.

The program took shape following a funding announcement made in April by the B.C. Government in support of the regional tech economy. During a press conference in Kelowna, Premier Christy Clark announced $250,000 to be provided to five post-secondary institutions to advance coding skills among the tech sector workforce. Okanagan College received $50,000. Working with Accelerate Okanagan and in consultation with tech leaders, the College has developed this program.

Program admission prerequisite criteria include applicants having some programming experience, a demonstrated foundation in object-oriented programming, a clear understanding of databases (such a MySQL) and libraries, and an established aptitude for math.

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to pitch their app idea to Accelerate Okanagan for a chance to earn a scholarship that will help the individual build a business around the app in order get it ready for market.

"We are proud to partner with Okanagan College for this innovative new program that will give young talent the opportunity to excel in the tech industry that is quickly becoming the backbone of our region," says Portela.

For more information and to apply to the program, visit


Smoke proves to be power vampire

Okanagan College Media Release

Smoky skies caused by fires south of the border are affecting much more than visibility, breathing and our appreciation of the region’s scenery: one of the impacts many people may not think about is on solar power arrays.

An example is Okanagan College’s photovoltaic solar array at its Kelowna campus.

A review of data from an online monitoring website (created by SkyFireEnergy, which installed the array for Okanagan College), shows a dramatic reduction in power output between Saturday, Aug. 22 – the last relatively clear day – and the last three days.

On Saturday, Aug. 22 the solar array on the top of the canopy over the outdoor heavy equipment yard at the Kelowna campus produced 1,103 kilowatt-hours of energy. On Sunday – when the smoke from fires south of the border moved in and occluded the skies – the array produced just 462 kilowatt-hours, a reduction of more than 58 per cent. When the smoke lightened a bit Monday, the array was able to produce 715 kilowatt-hours. Tuesday’s skies blotted the sun as well – the array was able to produce 692 kilowatt-hours, a reduction of 37 per cent from Saturday’s output.

The array on top of the canopy includes 793 solar photovoltaic module panels. The outdoor shop covered by the canopy was built as part of the Trades Training Complex renovation and expansion project currently underway along KLO Road.

The 194 kW electrical solar photovoltaic array system is among the largest in the province, only slightly smaller than the 258 kW system built on top of the LEED Platinum certified Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence at the College’s Penticton campus.

Since being fully commissioned in June, the photovoltaic array on the Kelowna campus has saved about 72 megawatt hours of energy. That’s equal to the amount of energy required to run about 604 computers for a year, or the equivalent of about one-quarter of the energy required to operate the College’s 142-bed Skaha Residence annually.

The array is part of the College’s larger sustainability plan that includes seeking LEED certification for its buildings and striving for the esteemed Living Building Challenge standards. Achieving energy net zero will require the College to produce as much energy as is consumed; the College is targeting to reduce its net carbon emissions by 80 tons per year, and is already well underway. From 2007 to 2013 the College successfully reduced its energy consumption per square metre by 32.2 per cent.

Registration open for new College conference focused on connected classrooms

Technology and connectivity in the classroom are remarkably changing methods of teaching and learning, leading education institutions to adapt to new models in order to stay ahead of the curve.

On Sept. 25 and 26 Okanagan College will host a new conference titled Tiltshift – an acronym for “technology in learning and teaching”– that will explore technology tools and innovative ideas to help the education community acclimate to new teaching platforms.

“From Skype to web-based software, video production and iPads, understanding how students use technology and how to maximize this knowledge to benefit their learning is imperative for the advancement of education and career preparation,” says Dr. Beverlie Dietze, Director of Learning and Teaching at Okanagan College. “Our aim with the conference is to broaden the perspective on where educational technology is heading.”

The conference will provide alternative perspectives for education, and the practical uses of technology in classrooms and course curriculum design. The interactive and demonstrative sessions will explore online learning, new tools and resources available, and technology leadership.

Leaders and innovators from the Okanagan’s thriving technology, business, and education community, and the general public, are invited to join in this exciting dialogue by registering to attend the Tiltshift Education Technology conference. Online registration is open at A $50 conference fee applies.

Held at the College’s Kelowna campus, Tiltshift will kick-off the evening of Sept. 25 with a keynote address by Mount Royal University Associate Professor Dr. Norm Vaughan. A published author, he has expertise in blended learning solutions (the combination of online and in-class courses) and faculty development.

The conference will continue with a full day of breakout sessions and presentations on Saturday Sept. 26. The day also includes a second keynote address by Penticton speaker and author Nikos Theodosakis who is the founder of the OliveUs Education Society and the architect of the Instill Life: Preserving Your Culture programs. He is an advocate for shaping education experiences that are personal, relevant and meaningful.

“We’ve seen technology provide tremendous benefits to our students, resulting in accessible education that circumvents barriers to learning, including time, geography and finances,” says Laura Eagen, Director of IT Services at Okanagan College.

Eagen points to the example of an open online Applied Sustainability course the College previously offered. Technology made the online course possible; more than 100 students from communities across the province, country, and abroad participated, including individuals in remote regions who would have faced a geographical and time barrier otherwise to attend. The six-week course also highlighted how technology inspired shifted views on assessment. Using a gamification model, students strived to achieve different levels to advance to new content much like what you would experience in a video game.

“The speed at which technology is advancing may mean some educators don’t necessarily know which resources are now available to them, or the effective uses for them,” says Eagen. “We wanted to offer a forum to allow experts in the community, and educators, to engage in conversations about how to advance the learning environments we provide, ultimately benefitting students, and the future workforce.”

For additional information including details of the session topics, please visit the Tiltshift website:


Education Assistant graduates make a difference in children's lives

Christine Liefke gave birth to her fourth child two months before her eldest sister was in a serious car crash.

The two events marked a turning point in her life. The stay-at-home mother of 10 years had recently divorced and was working at a home-based business.

“I thought, ‘I’ve got to do something with my life that means something,’” Liefke says. “I wanted to make a difference.”

She attended an information session for Okanagan College’s Education Assistant (EA) program, which prepares graduates to work in the classroom with children with special needs including physical challenges or those on the autism spectrum. Liefke applied to the program, graduated nine months later in 2011 and found work at School District No. 22 in Vernon.

“I love my job. Some days I cannot believe I get paid to do it,” she says.

Liefke has opted to take casual positions to give herself flexibility as a working mother.

“I found it easy to find employment,” she says. “I got in right away.”

School District No. 22 and Okanagan College work in partnership to offer the Education Assistant certificate, and the School District invites graduates to submit applications. Those interested in finding out more about becoming an Education Assistant are invited to an information night at Okanagan College’s Vernon campus on August 20 at 6 p.m.

“The College prepares EAs well in understanding and working with children with special needs,” says Monica Lloyd, the School District’s director of instruction for Student Support Services. “Successful students will be given an opportunity for an interview and selection to the casual list.”

Education Assistant graduates have also found employment as special needs workers and are eligible to apply for their Early Childhood Educator Assistant license. Lloyd says students graduate with a basic understanding of developmental challenges, how to build a positive relationship with children and the importance of relationship first, social development, and ways of working with youth for better academic success.

Colline Johnson, vice principal of Okanagan Landing Elementary school, says Education Assistants are the people who allow teachers to focus on teaching and remove barriers for students.

“They can change a student’s life,” Johnson says.

Liefke says she valued the program’s 120-hour practicum, during which time students are placed in a classroom to practice their skills.  
“It showed you if you really wanted to do it or not,” she says.

Since graduating, Liefke has developed a network of colleagues, and given herself a sense of purpose.

“Every day, I’m still learning,” she says. "You just feel so good knowing you have helped someone."

What: Education Assistant Information Night?
When: Aug. 20, 6 - 7 p.m.?Where: Okanagan College, Vernon Campus, Room E103?

Estheticians in demand at local beauty and spa businesses

Okanagan College Media Release

Heidi Luken, estheticsShe’s only 19, but Heidi Luken’s esthetics career has taken off.  

A month before graduating from Okanagan College’s Esthetics and Nail Technology Certificate program, Luken was hired by Ten Spot Beauty Bar, a trendy Toronto franchise that recently opened its first B.C. location in West Kelowna.  

“I’ve had multiple job offers and I only graduated. I’m able to negotiate my wage,” Luken says. “With the amount of knowledge you have, employers want you.”  

In the past four years, nearly all of the College’s Esthetics students have found work in the field before graduating. Instructor Candice Timm takes calls from employers across B.C., as far north as the Yukon and from the eastern provinces, looking for fully qualified estheticians trained beyond manicures and pedicures to include skin and body treatments such as massage.  

The spa industry is growing in the Okanagan Valley, Timm says. A Canadian Tourism Commission report predicted strong growth in the spa sector - an average annual rate of 17 per cent. The Spa Association of Canada reported the industry’s tremendous growth was reflected not only in the number of spas, but the diversity of spas and therapies available.  

Okanagan residents interested in an esthetics career can attend an information session on Aug. 4 in Vernon and Aug. 5 in Kelowna to find out more about the Okanagan College program, which is accepting applications for September.  

“It’s not so much about creaming and steaming anymore. The industry is more wellness-based,” Timm says. “The public is becoming more aware of the benefits of health and wellness and de-stressing.”  

The Beauty Bar, estheticsWest Kelowna Ten Spot Beauty Bar owner Lisa Kelley says she had trouble recruiting qualified staff to work at her new location, which opened mid-June.  

“There are a lot of nail technicians looking for work, but not a lot of fully qualified estheticians,” Kelley says. “Heidi has definitely been a valuable asset.”  

Luken’s training in the skincare brand Dermalogica has made her a particularly knowledgeable addition to the Ten Spot Beauty Bar’s staff, Kelley says.  

Timm, a registered massage therapist, clinical esthetician and nail technician, is the main instructor at the College’s Spa Training Centre in Vernon, which is open to the public for appointments from October to June.  

She says the College’s partnership with Dermalogica is among the reasons why employers value the Esthetics certificate, which includes an extra 200 to 300 hours of training over other programs.  

“We include everything from artificial nail treatment to body treatment, including massage, exfoliation and body wraps, which are not usually included in a regular esthetics program,” Timm says.  

“The feedback we get from employers is they’re thrilled with the level of professionalism and knowledge our students have.”  

For Luken, who originally planned to study law, helping people look and feel great is satisfying. She says the College’s reputation, amazing instructors and professional spa training facilities made her studies worth it.  

“I love what I’m doing. I like to be around people,” Luken says. “I feel like I can do anything I want to.”  

Okanagan College Esthetics and Nail Technology Information Nights  

Vernon: Aug. 4, 5:30 – 7 p.m., Spa Training Centre, Vernon Campus, Upper Level, E-Building, Room E212, 7000 College Way.  

Kelowna: Aug. 5, 5:30– 7 p.m., The Centre for Learning, Kelowna Campus, 1000 KLO Road, Room E103.  

Those attending the information sessions will receive a voucher for 70 per cent off a manicure or pedicure at the Spa Training Centre in Vernon. For more information, visit

Canadian Home Builders Association South Okanagan helps students build strong foundation for education

Okanagan College Media Release

Cody Plante was grooming ski hills in the Fraser Valley when he decided to carve a new career path; now a bursary from the South Okanagan Chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association is helping him and two other Okanagan College students build for their futures.  

Bursary CHBAPlante and classmates Chelsea Lindley-Scott and Jeremy Miller, students in the Residential Construction at the College’s Penticton campus, each received the award valued at $1,000.  

“It’s just awesome to have people in the industry backing me, wanting to support my goal of getting into construction,” says Plante. “It’s especially cool that the support comes from a group like CHBA South Okanagan, which has among its members leaders from so many builders and other businesses throughout the Valley.”  

“Supporting students entering the construction industry is the perfect fit for our organization,” says Carol Sudchak, Executive Officer for the Canadian Home Builders' Association South Okanagan. “One of our cornerstones is to support the professionalism of our members, and it benefits us all to provide the next wave of tradespeople with opportunities to learn, grow and take pride in their achievements.”  

For Plante, the immediate benefit is a boost to his budget for tools. But he is quick to point out that the long-term effect of receiving the bursary extends well beyond the financial lift.  

“This support is literally helping my dreams come true,” Plante explains. “It’s already inspiring me to achieve excellence, to do the CHBA proud, and demonstrate that their investment in my future was a good one.”  

Plante and his classmates are currently getting hands-on experience towards that future. As part of a mentorship opportunity provided by Greyback Construction Ltd. in partnership with the College, the current residential construction class is assisting with the construction of a high-end home at the Skaha Hills development in Penticton.  

The 26-week Residential Construction program provides students with the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge to seek employment as an apprentice carpenter in the construction industry.  

Sudchak notes that the hands on training provided by the College will continue to be needed in this area, given an aging workforce across the trades sector.  

“Shortage of skilled labour is an important issue and we would like to assist the students in getting into the field in any way we can,” adds Sudchak. “Okanagan College has wonderful trades programs and we hope that our bursary truly makes a difference for students as they begin their careers in the construction industry.”  

According to the British Columbia Labour Market Outlook, of the one million job openings expected in BC by 2022, more than 160,000 are directly related to trades and related occupations that require formal training at the college level.  

The College is currently embarked on a $33-million renovation and expansion of its trades training complex in Kelowna to position itself to be able to meet the training needs of the province ahead of this demand. The Bright Horizons Building for Skills Fundraising Campaign was launched in October, 2014 to raise an additional $7 million ($5 million for capital construction costs and an additional $2 million for student and program support) to supplement the B.C. government’s $28-million investment. 

More information about the campaign and opportunities to get involved, please visit

Kelowna Kia supports Okanagan College trades training complex, sees bright future for automotive trades in the valley

Okanagan College Media Release

Kelowna Kia Donation July 2015With a vast network of automotive-related businesses, the region will continue to need skilled automotive service technicians says one Okanagan College donor who has come forward with major support for the College’s new Trades Training Complex.

Kelowna Kia has pledged $50,000 to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign in support of the renovation and expansion of the College’s trades training facilities along KLO Road.

“Having been in the Okanagan for 43 years, I wanted to give something back into the community and the industry that has been very good to me,” says Winfried Gradnitzer, Dealer Principal of Kelowna Kia. “I support the College’s vision for this wonderful new facility because I feel it is very important that we continue to develop tradespeople in the Okanagan.”

The donation will help build a new classroom space in the three-storey tower along KLO Road, part of the 10,000 square-metre renovation and expansion project.

“We know that a significant percentage of the projected job openings in our province over the next decade will require trades and technical training,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “This new facility, which will accommodate more than 2,600 students per year, will allow us to be proactive in training the skilled workers needed in our region, across the province, and throughout Western Canada.”

“We are very appreciative of Kelowna Kia’s investment in our students and our campus as we build for the next fifty years of trades training at Okanagan College.”

Gradnitzer points out that investing in new tradespeople benefits many sectors of our regional economy, not just the trades. 

“Helping young people get started in automotive careers is certainly good for our industry but it also has a positive effect on many others sectors. This new complex will be good for our community as a whole.”

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 investment.

Auto dealers throughout the Okanagan have shown strong support for the project, on both the capital and student support side. A donation of $10,000 from the Kelowna Auto Dealers Association was one of the first donations which helped the campaign kickoff last fall; dealerships throughout the valley have collectively provided more than $600,000 to date.

Campaign Ambassador Mike Roberts points out that all donations, large or small, have a big impact on students.

“Every dollar raised benefits students,” says Roberts. “When you see the impact that a bursary has on a student—when you see the look of pride and motivation on his or her face—it is something that is difficult to put into words.”

In the past year, Okanagan College and Okanagan College Foundation have disbursed more than $133,000 to trades students in scholarships and bursaries to help make trades training accessible for students.

“It is very special seeing our community support students through this campaign. That support is absolutely crucial if we are going to reach our $7-million goal and help get these students into a world-class facility by next spring,” adds Roberts.

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

Okanagan College Foundation board welcomes new directors, thanks retiring directors

Okanagan College Media Release

Following its annual general meeting the Okanagan College Foundation has announced five new directors have joined its board in 2015.

Anne Clarke, BA, B.Ed, MA (North Okanagan)
A retired English professor at Okanagan College, Clarke is an active community leader who has served in a variety of capacities on numerous boards and councils throughout the region and at the provincial level. Clarke served as a Councillor for the City of Vernon from 1984-1986 and as Mayor from 1987-1990.

Bob Eby, CA, (North Okanagan)
An experienced education administrator and chartered accountant, Eby served as Okanagan College’s Vice President of Finance and Administration for more than seven years, from April 2007- December 2014. He joined the College’s executive team following a 17-year career with the Vernon School District as Assistant Secretary Treasurer. He also previously served as Treasurer for the Okanagan College Foundation.

Gladys Fraser, MBA, PFP (North Okanagan)
Fraser has over 25 years of experience in banking as a Financial Services Manager, Personal Financial Planner, Business & Professional Banking Advisor. She also brings a wealth of experience in corporate social responsibility built through her position as a Branch Manager for Scotiabank. Fraser is currently a Director and Vice President of the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce President of the Vernon Montessori Society and previously served as a Director and President of the North Okanagan Hospice Society.

Keith Grayston, B.Com, CGA,  (Central Okanagan)
Prior to his retirement in June, Grayston was the Director of Financial Services for the City of Kelowna; he was a member of the Financial Services Department for 18 years and has more than 35 years’ experience in the financial industry. He recently served as a Director on the Board of the Government Finance Officers Association of BC. 

Alan Sanderson, CA (Central Okanagan)
With extensive experience in the accounting industry, Sanderson is currently a partner with BDO Canada and previously a partner of Sanderson & Company Chartered Accountants. Sanderson is actively engaged in the community and philanthropy in the Okanagan, having supported numerous charities and philanthropic projects.

“The mission of the Okanagan College Foundation is to advance the power of education by engaging individuals and communities in supporting Okanagan College,” says Foundation President Alf Kempf. “With a $7-million fundraising campaign now in full swing for the new trades training complex at the Kelowna campus, this is a crucial and very active time for our board. 

“On behalf of my fellow directors, I am pleased to welcome our newest directors. They bring a great diversity of skills and depth of experience, and we look forward to working with them to achieve some important goals over the next term that will hopefully have a positive impact on students in the valley.”

Kempf says the board also wishes to extend a sincere thanks to three of its current directors who retired from the board at the Foundation’s annual general meeting in June. 

Frank Richter retired after serving nine years with the Okanagan College Foundation, Vern Nielsen retired after serving five years, and Cher Watkins retired after serving four years.

Since its incorporation in 2002, the Okanagan College Foundation has raised and disbursed more than $9 million in scholarships and bursaries to students at Okanagan College’s campuses in Kelowna, Penticton, Salmon Arm, and Vernon. In total, the Foundation has raised more than $23 million, including student awards, capital projects, programming and an endowment that now totals over $8.3 million.

More information about the Foundation’s current board members, mission, and projects is available at

Mini chefs whip up treats at Camp OC

Okanagan College Media Release

Sarah Clarke Mini Chefs July 2015Hot dogs don’t cut it for today’s young foodies. Camp OC’s Mini Chef Academy is all about going gourmet—and having fun in the kitchen. 

More than 1,200 students are registered this year for Camp OC, Okanagan College’s summer camp for children and teens, now starting its second week. From Extreme Survivor Challenge to LEGO Robotics to Game Programming using Minecraft, more than 100 programs are scheduled from now until Aug. 28 at Okanagan College’s Kelowna, Penticton and Vernon campuses. 

Kelowna Mini Chef Academy instructor Shandrea Tesoriere says her goal is to have students try new things. Besides introducing campers to less common treats such as dragon fruit, Tesoriere incorporates valuable lessons into the culinary fun. 

“I want them to learn measurements, math and the vocabulary. Today they learned what sauté means,” she says.

“It’s also about learning that sometimes the recipe doesn’t work out and that’s okay.”

Sarah Clarke, 8, counts smoothie popsicles among her favourite treats made so far. Cooking for Sarah is all about getting her hands dirty, or in the case of rolling chocolate and coconut balls, sticky.

“It’s fun,” Sarah says, “And after you’re done you get to eat a lot.”

Space is still available in some courses. To find out more or register, visit the Camp OC website:

College trades campaign gets another boost from a local auto dealer

Okanagan College Media Release

Students in the Automotive Service Technician program at Okanagan College will test drive an exciting new learning environment next spring thanks to a generous donation from a local automotive dealer.Kelowna Toyota donation July 2015

Kelowna Toyota has donated $50,000 to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills Campaign. The donation will support the construction of a classroom in the new three-storey Trades Training Complex currently under construction along KLO Road. 

“As the technology in our vehicles advances at an ever-increasing pace, it is vital for automotive tradespeople to have a solid foundation of formal training,” says Jack Kofoed, Dealer Principal at Kelowna Toyota. “We have had the privilege of hiring numerous Red Seal graduates from the College over the years and have seen first-hand the quality of the training they receive.

“The new complex is going to be a great resource for our region and we are proud to support it.”

“It is very encouraging for our students, and for everyone at the College, when industry steps forward in a bold way like this to recognize their potential and support their futures,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “We are very grateful to Kelowna Toyota as one of the local industry leaders who have stepped forward as donors and champions in the community for this project.” 

Kelowna Toyota has also donated two vehicles to Okanagan College in recent years. 

The donated vehicles provide valuable hands-on training opportunities for students. Once the students and instructors have ensured they are road-ready, the vehicles are then auctioned off by the Okanagan College Foundation with proceeds going towards student support.

Kofoed visited the Kelowna Campus recently to tour the renovated Automotive Service Technician (AST) shop which is already in use, as are updated shops for carpentry, collision repair, and heavy duty mechanical trades.

“It is wonderful for the Okanagan to have a trades trainer like the College to supply local industry,” says Kofoed. “Providing opportunities for students here in the valley, and establishing the Okanagan as a hot spot for trades, benefits us all.”

The new Trades Training Complex in its entirety is expected to open in Spring 2016. Blending renovation and new construction in innovative ways is a challenge the College has embraced with the project.

In addition to the new Trades Training tower along KLO Road, the College is also aiming to meet LEED Platinum and Living Building Challenge standards with the renovated shop and classroom spaces. When doors open next spring, it will accommodate more than 2,400 students annually.

The $7-million fundraising campaign for the 10,000 sq. metre complex renovation and expansion project launched in October 2014. The College is aiming to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support to top up the provincial government’s commitment of $28 million for the project.

More information about the campaign’s current needs and opportunities to get involved can be found at

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