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Campus Life - Okanagan

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


Salmon Arm students recognized for their achievements

Okaangan College Media Release

Forty-seven students from Salmon Arm were honoured with scholarships and bursaries this month at Okanagan College’s Salmon Arm Campus awards ceremony.

A number of mature students from the Salmon Arm campus credit support from the College and the community for helping them to realize their dream of returning to the classroom.

Laureen Shannon June 2015Laureen Shannon, who is currently pursuing a Business Administration diploma, received one of five Al Neale Bursaries valued at $1,500. A single mother to three children, Shannon says the bursary helps in more ways than one.

“Receiving this bursary will help me complete my program,” says Shannon. “But the impact of the support goes beyond alleviating financial stress. I feel incredibly inspired by the fact that someone in our community recognizes my hard work and wants to help me in my education.”

When she completes her diploma in 2016, Shannon hopes to go on to pursue a Bachelor of Business degree in Human Resources Management at the College.

“I feel very proud to be able to set an example for my sons,” says Shannon. “I am showing them the importance of lifelong learning, and I’m very grateful to the donors and to the College for helping me bring my dreams within reach.”

Jim Barmby, Regional Dean for Okanagan College’s Shuswap-Revelstoke region spoke about the role that donors play in supporting the interactive educational experience offered by the College.Sean Rossouw June 2015

“The learning environment provided by Okanagan College is conducive to a high level of student-teacher interaction, which is something we are very proud of and feel greatly benefits the students,” says Barmby. “It is all the more special that the people of our region play such an active role in supporting our students.”

At the ceremony, numerous students credited small class sizes and the quality of instruction they received as contributing factors for their success the College.

Sean Rossouw received two awards, including the Salmon Arm College Scholarship for top student in Business. According to Rossouw, the generosity of his professors echoes the generosity of donors in the community.

“Having top-level professors who are so incredibly generous with their time as well as their knowledge has been life changing for me,” says Rossouw. “I have been touched by their generosity as well as by the generosity of the surrounding community that is so involved in supporting students.”

Rossouw previously completed his Associate of Arts Degree at the College and hopes to parlay his Bachelor of Business Administration Degree (Accounting) into a career that allows him to give back.

“People have invested in my future and I want to do the same,” says Rossouw. “It would be wonderful to be able to use my business skills to help others kickstart their ideas. It would be a way of paying forward the investment that has been made in my education.”

This year, more than $75,000 will be disbursed to Shuswap area students from the Okanagan College Foundation, the Shuswap Community Foundation, local community groups and individual donors.

Serwa family supports trades training complex at Okanagan College

Okanagan College Media Release

Cliff and Lois Serwa June 2015Their family’s connection to Okanagan College goes back more than 50 years, and through a generous donation to the new Trades Training Complex at the Kelowna campus, Cliff and Lois Serwa are helping the College build for the next 50. 

The Serwas have given $50,000 to the Bright Horizons Building for Skills fundraising campaign behind the $33-million renovation and expansion of the College’s trades training facilities in Kelowna. The donation will support the construction of a state-of-the-art classroom space in the new three-storey tower along KLO Road.

“This community has been good to us and we’re very proud to be able to give back and support an institution that continues to have such a far reaching impact on students from all walks of life in the Okanagan,” says Cliff Serwa.

“Whether it’s supporting students fresh out of high school, or mature students, or single parents going back to school to find employment so they can support their families, the opportunities Okanagan College creates valley-wide are truly invaluable.”

Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton says community support for the campaign, in addition to topping up the provincial government’s investment of $28 million for construction of the new building, is also helping the College create new awards, bursaries and other support for trades students.

“We are sincerely grateful to Cliff and Lois Serwa for this generous investment in our students’ futures,” says Hamilton. “Support like this sends a strong message to our students that there are people in the community who believe in their potential and want to see them succeed.”

“The Bright Horizons campaign is aptly named because this renovation and expansion project is about just that—creating opportunities and building bright futures for the more than 2,400 students per year who will train in this new facility. And with a provincial skills gap projected across much of the trades sector over the next five years, this new facility will help bridge that gap.”

Cliff Serwa is known for co-founding Big White Ski resort and for his work as a political figure in British Columbia. He represented Okanagan South from 1986 to 1991 and Okanagan West from 1991 to 1996 in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, and also served in the provincial cabinet as Minister of Environment. Their granddaughter Kelsey Serwa is a world-class freestyle skier; she won a silver medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

The Serwas’ support of students at the College goes beyond the trades. In 2007, they established an annual bursary for students enrolled in the Early Childhood Education program.

“Having worked around the trades, I can certainly appreciate the importance of formal training, now more than ever, as the trades become increasingly technical,” notes Serwa. 

“But on a broader level, the College offers students young and old so many avenues to better their lives through education.”

“The value of a gift lies not in its price but in its potential,” says Lois Serwa. 

The Bright Horizons Building for Skills campaign complex launched in October 2014. The College is aiming to raise $5 million for capital construction costs and $2 million for program and student support, in order to top up the provincial government’s commitment of $28 million for the project.

More information about opportunities to get involved, including ways to contribute to existing awards, or establish new support for trades students, is available at


Solar panels power up College’s Kelowna campus

Okanagan College Media Release

Okanagan College has activated B.C.’s second largest solar panel system at its Kelowna campus, taking another large step towards its ambitious goal of seeking to be energy net zero by 2025.Kelowna Solar Array

“With the longer and sunnier summer days upon us, we’re thrilled to have the solar panels up and running,” says Peter Csandl, Manager, Operations and Energy Systems at Okanagan College. “Imagine the electricity consumed by 26 homes annually. That’s the equivalent power the system is anticipated to provide the campus.”

The College is now benefitting from 793 solar photovoltaic module panels, which cover the top of the new outdoor training space at the College’s Kelowna Trades Complex. The outdoor shop 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 the second 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. 

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 meter by 32.2 per cent.

“There is the misconception that energy efficient systems can be cost prohibitive, but that is not the case,” explains Csandl. “In three short years, working with Skyfire Energy, we’ve seen a 40 per cent reduction in the cost of the installation of our solar panels.”

Csandl credits the maturing of the industry for this, including increased demand and production, as well as advances in the application of innovative technology. 

Solar photovoltaic modules are made of crystalline silicon, the same material used in a circuit board, and mounted on an aluminum frame. They have a glass front to protect them from the elements, while letting light in. Placed in sunlight, they produce direct current electricity (similar to a battery), which then goes into an inverter before being converted to electricity used by the buildings. They are durable, with relatively low cleaning and maintenance requirements.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, Okanagan College is a member of the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System) program and was the first college in the province to earn a silver ranking in sustainability from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE).

For more information on sustainability at Okanagan College, visit

College’s new liberal Arts program ArtsX marks the spot for incoming students

Okanagan College Media Release

Anika Raynolds June 2015Like many of her peers, 18-year-old Penticton high school graduate Anika Raynolds has had a busy year researching post-secondary education options. The end goal has always been a Bachelor of Arts, but to get there she was searching for a program where she could apply her creativity, curiosity and one that suited her learning style.

Raynolds first heard about the ArtsX program at an Okanagan College information session.

“It sounded like a non-intimidating introduction to post-secondary education,” says Raynolds. “It’s reassuring that for the first year, courses are pre-selected to meet requirements and be well rounded. I was drawn to the small group focus, up to 30 students. I think that will definitely help to meet new friends and get more time with the instructors.”

Prospective students and their parents are invited to explore the College’s new program, the Arts Experience (ArtsX), at an upcoming information session at the Kelowna campus on Monday June 29 from 7 to 9 p.m. The session will be held in room E202 of the Centre for Learning building.

Attendees will meet the program’s faculty, including College professors Sharon Josephson and Jake Kennedy, who will explain the program, which is tailored to students who want to explore connections between key subject areas of our society in a multi-disciplinary approach. It is an opportunity for students and parents to ask questions they may have about the progressive structure, curriculum, and about what to expect.

The Arts Experience (ArtsX) was designed by Okanagan College faculty as an avant-garde learning approach offering a collective class for the two-year university transferable Associate of Arts Degree. The progressive and innovative education option will see a small group of students flow through core course curriculum together, but the classroom model and way of learning is what will be different.  

“I can get my two years of credit under my belt, while still trying a variety of classes,” says Raynolds. “It’s reassuring to know that I will get the same transferable credits of the regular Associate of Arts Degree, but that I can learn in a format that is focused on collaboration, self direction, and that goes beyond the classroom.” 

For Raynolds, the affordability of Okanagan College’s program, compared to similar styled programs offered at various North American universities, also factored into her decision to pursue the option that was close to home.

Students who have received admission into the Associate of Arts Degree program at Okanagan College will have an opportunity to apply to complete their studies with the limited enrolment ArtsX program at the Kelowna campus. To find out more about ArtsX, attend the June 29 information session in Kelowna and visit

Study looks at water quality

Researchers at UBC’s Okanagan campus are working with local ranchers and stakeholders to determine the best way to protect drinking water on cattle grazing lands.

Engineering Professor and microbiologist Deborah Roberts is leading student research into drinking water supply intakes and lake outflows. Their study centres on water sources from areas with mixed uses including cattle grazing, camping, hiking, and motorized recreation.

“We have a lot of community outreach built into this project and people are concerned about drinking water,” says Roberts. “At the same time, while there are best management practices in place — like fencing around a body of water to keep cattle out — water is still becoming contaminated.”

Funding for the $150,000 three-year study has come from the Investment Agriculture Foundation, B.C. Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, and the North Okanagan Regional District. Other stakeholders include Interior Health Authority, the BC Cattlemen’s Association, and local municipalities.

Ranchers pay fees to the provincial government to allow the cattle onto Crown Lands.

“Cattle graze in the watersheds in the summer months,” says Roberts. “The Ministry has done a lot of work and they now need to gather the scientific evidence that these practices are working.”

Samples have been taken from several sources, including lakes, creeks, water intakes, and areas where cattle graze and wade into watercourses. Researchers are checking turbidity and levels of pathogens such as Cryptosporidium and E.coli.

How long pathogens survive in manure, whether rain and meltwater wash them into drinking water sources and the effects of natural contaminants such as leaves, pine needles, and bugs are all being investigated.

As well as testing for water-borne illnesses, the students are taking DNA samples to determine whether pathogens found in the water are from cattle or wildlife. Roberts suggests that cattle aren’t the only source of contamination. Wildlife that can’t be fenced — bears, beavers, bobcats — and recreational users who leave gates open, add to the problem.

Weekly water samples from Oyama Lake watershed, Vernon Creek, the Duteau Creek water system, and King Eddy Lake watershed have been collected over the last two summers by the team of four undergraduate and two graduate students. The current focus is on the Duteau creek watershed. The goal, says Roberts, is to minimize the health risk for people while balancing mixed uses and recreation in the watershed.

“Everybody is working together to improve the water quality and at the same time they recognize the land has many different user groups,” says Roberts. “Everybody has something to bring to the table and we all want the same end-result — safe drinking water.”

Ben Klick sets his sight on country stardom

Okanagan College Media Release

A 19-year-old audio engineering graduate from Okanagan College is poised to play alongside Canadian greats at Country Music Week in Halifax if he wins a province-wide competition. Ben Klick June 2015

West Kelowna resident Ben Klick is among the top three finalists of the British Columbia Country Music Association’s (BCCMA) Spotlight Performance Contest. The winning artist, to be announced June 19, will perform at the Canadian Country Music Association’s celebrations in Halifax, from Sept. 10 to 13, and take home more than $10,000 in cash and prizes.

Klick will be a familiar face around the Interior this summer as the guitarist and singer-songwriter performs at festivals ahead of the launch of his band’s new EP, which will be recorded in Nashville in July and released in August. 

“The summer months are extremely busy,” Klick says. “I definitely live in the now. I’m hoping when the EP drops in August it will start a little buzz, and I’m going to get a cross-Canada tour going.

“It would be a great career boost to win this competition.”

The country singer, who recently completed an Audio Engineering and Sound Production (AEMP) certificate with Continuing Studies at Okanagan College, has a dozen performances lined up over July and August, including West Kelowna’s Music in the Park on July 3, the Country, Beer and Barbecue Festival at Big White Ski Resort on July 4, and Rockin' River Country Music Festival in Merritt, July 30 to August 2. Peachland’s Canada Day festivities will mark one-year since Klick and his band began performing, although Klick has been playing guitar since he was six years old. 

Klick credits the College’s music recording program for accelerating his career as an artist.

“I came into the program with little to nothing except knowing the guitar and how to be an artist,” Klick says. “What the program taught me was how to be the business guy, the manager, the promoter.”

Klick wanted to learn every aspect of the music industry, and found AEMP instructor Corey Bell, a local producer and audio engineer with 12 years of industry experience, to be a huge help.

“The College has a phenomenal reputation with the music industry around the Okanagan,” Klick says. “The knowledge I’ve gotten through the program has allowed me to get gigs, saved me money recording and helped me be more self-sufficient.” 

Bell, who has helped four classes graduate from the eight-month certificate program, said the College’s curriculum is at the forefront of music production in Canada. Thanks to Bell’s industry contacts, numerous graduates work at music festivals and production companies across the Okanagan. Graduate Evan Ferguson, who opened Empire Sonic, Kelowna’s largest recording studio, a year ago with his father, is another example of the program’s success, Bell says. 

“What sets our grads apart is the hands-on experience they get in the program and their attitude,” he says. “We provide a realistic view of what the industry is and help students find their place in it.”

Bell encourages students tailor their studies to meet their individual goals. He helped Klick, for example, develop a business plan to support the up-and-coming country music singer’s dream of success.

“Ben’s an incredibly likeable person and his work ethic is second to none,” Bell says. “He’s very passionate.”

Klick, meanwhile, hopes to become a household name in country music, much like his idols Shania Twain, Keith Urban and Brad Paisley. In July, Klick will follow in their footsteps and head to Nashville to work on the second half of his next EP, which he began recording in March. 

“Country music is all about life story and true everyday life,” Klick says. “That’s what got me hooked.”

Recognition keeps coming for one of world’s most sustainable buildings

Okanagan College Media Release

COE June 2015Add another chapter to the sustainability story of Okanagan College’s Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation.

The College received LEED Platinum certification recently for the Penticton building from the Canada Green Building Council. (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design. It is globally recognized as a means of assessing green building practices and outcomes. Platinum is the highest LEED certification that can be achieved.)

The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence was opened in 2011, and was jointly funded by the federal and provincial governments along with more than $9 million in community contributions—donations that also helped develop programs, scholarships, bursaries and student support associated with the building.

The building has been recognized for its sustainable features with several prestigious awards, including:

-          International Architecture Awards’ Green GOOD DESIGN Award from the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies
-          Two awards from the Illuminating Engineering Society
-          A Canadian Green Building Award from SAB (Sustainable Architecture Building) Magazine.

The Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence has attracted international attention from architects and sustainability experts, drawing them to Penticton to tour the facility and learn from the College, architects, engineers and builders who made the Centre a reality.

“LEED Platinum certification is a testament to the level of sustainability we have achieved with the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence,” says Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton. “What’s as important, though, is the benchmark we have set for ourselves, our students and others in the public sector. We are leading by example.”

The College’s goal is to have the Centre of Excellence achieve the Living Building Challenge standard, which is based both on construction and continuing performance. It is a higher standard than LEED Platinum and requires the building be carbon neutral, among other things.

The 7,000-square-metre Centre of Excellence was designed by CEI Architecture. It was built by PCL Constructors Westcoast Inc. The building provides space for trades and technology training, includes a community gym, as well as classrooms for a whole host of academic and vocational programs. It is also home to the B.C. Wine Information Society Sensory Centre.

“What was inspiring was the way that architects, engineers, builders, the community and the College coalesced around the idea of building something better, something that would stand as a beacon for sustainability,” says Hamilton.

It was one of three buildings in North America featured by the New York Times as examples of carbon-neutral campus architecture.

“The Centre of Excellence is truly an innovative facility, providing leading edge training in sustainable practices for Okanagan College,” said Bill Locking, senior partner with CEI Architecture. “The integrated nature of the design and construction team enabled the Centre of Excellence to achieve ambitious targets for sustainable design. We couldn’t be more proud to have been part of the project.”

“Working on this project was an education for our company and tradespeople about how vision and dedication can turn a commitment to sustainability into a beautiful, leading-edge building,” says Gary McEwan, special projects manager for PCL Westcoast Constructors. “We are all very proud of the outcome and the recognition that the building has received. I can tell you that it has impacted our work on a whole host of other projects since.”

While LEED Platinum certification is a remarkable achievement, Donna Lomas, the Regional Dean for the South Okanagan-Similkameen, says there are much more impressive credentials that speak to the building’s attributes.

“This is a building that students love to learn in, that staff enjoy working in, that the community loves to use, and that continues to impress visitors. And it’s doing all that with a tiny footprint on our environment.”

To find out more about the Centre and its sustainability features, you can visit

Okanagan College graduates top of their game at Skills Canada

Okanagan College Media Release

Graduating Okanagan College students demonstrated their expertise once again at the 2015 Skills Canada National Competition held in Saskatoon in late May. Josh Wams won gold in Electronics and bronze medals went to Ethan Delichte in Automotive Service Tech and Nathan Schulte in Plumbing.Josh Wams and Jim Hamilton June 2015

The gold medal earned by 20-year-old Vernon resident Wams, marks the fourth year that an Okanagan College student has earned a podium finish in the Electronics category at the national skills testing event. 

“It was an amazing experience, it felt like the Olympics but for trades and skills. There was a great team spirit throughout the competition,” says Wams. “It’s good to have proof that the College prepared me for putting my skills to work at a national level.”

The challenging competition saw Wams and his co-competitors use and program an accelerometer—it is the electronic equipment that allows smart phones to flip screen images from horizontal to vertical when tilted. Participants then designed, built, troubleshot and programed a printed circuit board-PCB over the three days of scheduled testing. The students all had the same circuit board to assemble which used small surface mount components. These components are the building blocks of all electronic gadgets we use every day.

Wams’ coach, Okanagan College instructor Kevin Bradshaw, pointed out that Wams’ exceptional soldering skills with the assembly of the circuit board was what set him apart.

“When I was studying at the College we had tons of hands-on training opportunities,” says Wams. “We were given the tools to learn, some of which is expensive equipment. It’s pretty great that a school has those resources for students to practice on.”

Wams studied the two-year Electronic Engineering Technology diploma program at the College, and plans to pursue an Electronic Engineering degree at UBC Okanagan.

Bronze medalist Delichte, completed the fourth level of his Automotive Service Technician Apprentice at the College and is currently employed at Car Craft Automotive. Also earning a bronze finish was Schulte, who studied in the Plumbing and Piping Foundation program and he is working at Modulux. Each were coached respectively by Okanagan College instructors Jamie Bloomfield and Bruce Slater.

“I congratulate Josh, Ethan and Nathan on their exceptional merit in demonstrating their skill set on the national stage, placing them at the top of their industry,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “Training the future workforce of our region and country is at the core of what we do at the College. Our students’ successes are testaments of the quality of training available to them right here in the Okanagan.” 

The Skills Canada National Competition sees more than 500 students from across the country compete in over 40 skilled trade and technology contest area each year. During the Skills BC Provincial competition held earlier in the year, Wams, Delichte, and Schulte each won a gold earning them spots in the nationals. College students also earned a silver and three bronze medals at the provincial level.

Dr. Dennis Silvestrone is PRAISEworthy

Okanagan College Media Release

Silvestrone and Barranoik June 2015Okanagan College’s Director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Development, Dr. Dennis Silvestrone, was honoured by the Canadian Institute of Management (CIM) on June 5 for his commitment to the Winnipeg Branch of the organization.

Silvestrone worked at the University of Manitoba before coming to Okanagan College and was very active in promotion and development of CIM members while he was there.

“The award recognizes individuals who contribute to our success as an organization and Dr. Silvestrone had a role to play in serving our members in Winnipeg,” explains 

Wilfred Barranoik, a former west/central region president with CIM and current chapter membership director for British Columbia and the Yukon. 

He presented the PRAISE – Performance Recognition for Achievement, Innovation, Service and Excellence – award on behalf of the Winnipeg chapter’s Louise Doberstein, vice-president of membership and board of directors. Winnipeg boasts having the largest CIM chapter in the country.

“I’m honoured by the recognition,” says Silvestrone. “I enjoyed working with CIM and helping the membership. I look forward to a continuing connection with CIM here in the Okanagan as well.”

The Canadian Institute of Management is Canada's senior management association. As a non-profit organization, the Institute was established in 1942 and is dedicated to enhancing managerial skills and professional development. Currently, there are 16 chapters coast-to-coast with the National Office in Barrie, Ontario.

Since its inception, the Institute has helped over 55,000 managers to develop a broadly based education in management skills with a rich and diversified series of programs from individual courses to professional designation. The Institute offers the professional designations "Certified in Management" (C.I.M.), "Professional Manager" (P.Mgr) and "Chartered Manager" (C.Mgr.). It also offers its educational certificates "Certificate in Management and Administration" (CIMA) and "Certificate in Supervisory Management" (CSM).

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