• Vernon's Homepage
  • Kelowna's Homepage

Campus Life  

Back to school for RV pros at Okanagan College

Okanagan College Media Release

Carl HollmannCarl Hollmann is among those Okanagan College alumni who relish the close working relationship that his alma mater has with the Recreation Vehicle industry that has provided him with a fulfilling career.

Hollmann, who runs his own business in Nanaimo, B.C., was among 24 RV technicians gathered in early February at Okanagan College for industry-led training that familiarizes them with the most recent equipment and techniques used in the industry.

Most of them – like Hollmann – are Red Seal tradespeople and graduates of the College’s RV Service Technician program, which is the only one in the province.

The industry training was organized by the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association of B.C. (RVDABC) and Okanagan College. Manufacturers and equipment suppliers came to the College’s Kelowna campus to provide the service techs with information about new technology.

“It was tremendous,” explains Hollmann, who has been a tech for 16 years. “Atwood Mobile Products was on hand Monday to show us and explain their new furnaces and water heaters. They have executed a complete redesign on their product line but it’s so fresh there are no service manuals yet, and tech support isn’t completely up to speed.”

“We run into the products in the RVs we service and this is the best way to bring yourself up to speed.”

Other manufacturers on hand included Dometic Corporation, Demco/Hijacker and Canadian Energy.

Hollmann, who has also done duty on occasion as an instructor at the College, is also a fervent advocate for the program and the career opportunities being an RV Service Tech affords.

“I’ve travelled around the world with it,” he says. “I went to Australia and worked for an RV dealership there. Inside two weeks I was shop foreman. They don’t have the kind of training program in Australia that we have here.”

He also used it when he went “snowbirding” to the southern U.S. – and ended up working for several months on inverters and solar panels for RVs.

The best part about being an RV Service Technician, though, says Hollmann is simple:

“It’s being able to fix your own everything.”

RV Service Techs get training in electrical systems, mechanics, plumbing, gas-fitting, construction, carpentry – it’s a collection of skills rolled into one apprenticeable trade, which has significant employer demand. Government statistics show that 95 per cent of Okanagan College’s RV Service Technician apprentices are employed.

“Many of the students who enrol in the RV program are surprised at how extensive the skill set they develop is,” says Cam McRobb, the chair of the College’s Motor Vehicle Trades Department. “The other thing – the really important thing – is that there is demand for trained technicians.”

“That demand, and the changing nature of the industry, is one of the reasons we work with Okanagan College to offer these professional development opportunities,” explains Joan Jackson, RVDABC’s Executive Director. “Our member companies have a vested interest in ensuring their technicians are as up-to-speed on new technologies and equipment as is possible. It’s part of their commitment to their customer base.”

Okanagan College will be offering a new intake of its 28-week foundation program in RV Service Technician in September 2016. For more information, you can call (250) 762-5445, ext. 4558 or email [email protected].


Acclaimed author Madeleine Thien to speak at the College

Okanagan College Media Release

UPDATE: Please note that this event has been cancelled due to illness.

Madeleine Thien Feb 2016Inspiring students and the public about the art of writing, Okanagan College’s Department of English is bringing one of B.C.’s prized authors to the Kelowna campus on Thursday, Feb. 4.

Award-winning author Madeleine Thien, of famed novels
Dogs at the Perimeter and Certainty and the short stories collection Simple Recipes, is recognized as an outspoken advocate for women and ethnic writers and for integrity in literary criticism and publishing. She also writes essays on diverse topics including female beauty, state surveillance, visual art, race, and literary politics.

“Thien is a master of the short story form and has gained national and international acclaim for the clarity, precision, and emotional depth of her writing,” said College English Professor Corinna Chong. “We are thrilled to be able to give students, aspiring writers, and lovers of literature the opportunity to meet her and to hear about her writing process.”

In addition to reading from her works, Thien will provide insights into her writing career followed by a question period and book signing. The College’s bookstore will be on hand for those wishing to purchase Thien’s works.

The long list of accolades Thien has received boasts the City of Vancouver Book Award, the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, and the Amazon.ca First Novel Award. Most recently, her short story
The Wedding Cake was shortlisted for England’s Sunday Time EFG Private Bank Short Story Award, recognized as the richest prize in the world for a single short story.

Thien will be releasing a highly anticipated new novel in May,
Do Not Say We Have Nothing, about musicians studying Western classical music at the Shanghai Conservatory during the 1960s.

The free public event will be held this Thursday in room B112 at the College’s Kelowna campus from 7 to 9 p.m.

For more information about the author, visit

A recipe for success: Canada’s best chefs pair up with Okanagan College students at Gold Medal Plates

Chantelle Eustache and Chef O'Flynn, GMP 2016Too many chefs in the kitchen is actually a good thing when it comes to the annual Canadian Culinary Championships’ Gold Medal Plates event, which takes place this weekend and includes more than 50 Okanagan College Culinary and Pastry Arts students who will provide support to 11 of the country’s most remarkable chefs.

“Experiencing Kelowna as a culinary epicentre with Canada’s best chefs descending on the city to battle it out is unique,” says Chef Bernard Casavant, Culinary Manager at Okanagan College and President of the Okanagan Chefs Association. “It’s a prime opportunity for the students to showcase the skills learned in class in a competition environment and allows them to network with some of Canada’s best chefs at a time when they are looking to launch their careers.”

Chantelle Eustache, who was a part of Chef Ryan O’Flynn’s gold-winning team at last year’s competition, echoes this.

“Getting to work beside these top chefs, rub shoulders with the industry’s best, it was over the top,” says the 32-year-old Okanagan Indian Band member from Vernon, who is now working at The Point Grill in Vancouver. She graduated from the College’s Culinary Arts program last June.

She recalls feeling nervous before meeting Chef O’Flynn for the first time, and the looming task ahead: creating 500 plates of a complex gastronomic dish, knowing there was a gold podium finish up for grabs.

“The first thing he said to us was to not let our nerves consume us, but to channel that energy into a focus, that helped a lot,” she says.

“Chef O’Flynn is a mentor to me. He spent a lot of time explaining the process about each step of the dish he had us create with him. He was a great teacher, even when he had a lot of pressure to win on him, he took the time for us.”

The admiration and respect that developed while working together clearly went both ways – O’Flynn specifically requested Eustache and another College chef who was a member of his winning team to join him this year as he prepares a four-course VIP dinner at Big White for 100 guests to kick-off the weekend’s festivities (an honour given to the defending champion).

Eustache is spending the days leading up to Thursday night’s reception to prep a menu boasting porcini panna cotta with Alba truffles, followed by a wild Canadian chowder with Coho salmon and boar, and a confit pork belly with black pudding crumble. The main course is pan-roasted King Cole duck breast with an Okanagan sherry sauce, and the menu’s finale will feature an intricate wine-poached Okanagan pear desert masterpiece.

For two days, starting Feb. 5, the College’s kitchens at the Kelowna campus will become a culinary battlefield with peeling, slicing, dicing, and searing taking place in preparation of the weekend’s events. The chefs prep their dishes at the College for Friday’s mystery wine pairing event at the Delta Grand Hotel and spend all of Saturday morning competing in the Black Box event at the College. The finale event is held Saturday evening at the Delta Grand Hotel.  

“Donating the use of our space is an industry contribution on behalf of the College, and facilitating our students’ involvement is an investment we make in their education,” says Casavant.

“Okanagan College provides a great space for the prep and their students are some of the best in the country,” says 2015 Gold Medal Plates winner O’Flynn. “In my opinion, I got the best two student chefs last year, of course I wanted them to join me again this year. I think that the College’s instructors’ experience and background has a lot to do with the quality training the students receive.”

With tickets sold out, those hungry to view the dynamic Black Box Challenge can catch the live feed online. A link will be released prior to the start of the competition at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning on Twitter: @GoldMedalPlates.

For more information on Gold Medal Plates events, visit www.goldmedalplates.com.


UBC Management students honoured in business competition

UBC Okanagan third-year Faculty of Management students (from left) Nick Ross, Graeme Sailor, and Jennifer Stolarchuk celebrate their first-place finish at JDC West for entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy JDC West 2016.

UBC Okanagan third-year Faculty of Management students (from left) Nick Ross, Graeme Sailor, and Jennifer Stolarchuk celebrate their first-place finish at JDC West for entrepreneurship. Photo courtesy JDC West 2016.

Teams win awards in entrepreneurship, taxation, and accounting

Faculty of Management (FoM) students from UBC Okanagan’s campus won three top-three finishes at JDC West, one of Canada’s largest business competitions. The teams won awards in three key categories: entrepreneurship, taxation, and accounting.

The Entrepreneurship Team, consisting of students Graeme Sailor, Nick Ross, and Jennifer Stolarchuk, won first place in a category that challenges competitors to create a new product or service addressing an identified market opportunity.

Coached by James Grieve from Nucleus Strategies and Sally Arkell-Boles from SunLife Financial, the Entrepreneurship Team pitched the concept of “Fluid,” an alternative distribution channel based on an Uber-style delivery model with the potential to deliver goods to customers on demand.

“The biggest thing we will take away from this experience is relationships, you make a lot of connections through the coaches and then through the competition, and the network opportunities are valuable,” says Sailor, team captain and third-year FoM student. “This real-world experience gives you more context for asking questions and enhanced value out of the class.”

The Taxation Team, consisting of Michelle Miller, Michael Bitcon, and Alex Little, placed second. The Accounting Team of Brad Curtiss, Cassidy Deering, and Adeet Haroon, finished in third place.

“The most rewarding part of the experience in coaching Jennifer, Graeme and Nick was seeing them grow both individually and as a team during the sessions when we worked with them,” says David Jenkins, a FoM Capstone Instructor. “A significant contributor to their success was their self-confidence in front of the judges. We were fortunate to have Sally and James as business coaches, adding their wealth of practical experience to the team.”

UBC’s FoM sent some 50 students to compete in JDC West, the largest business competition in Western Canada. Held in Saskatoon on Jan. 16 and 17, the event showcases academics, athletics, debate, and an out-of-the-box social competition with more than 600 students from 12 of western Canada’s top universities competing.

“We are very proud of how our students represented UBC Okanagan at the JDC West competition. They were committed and innovative, and these are capabilities that are highly sought-after in today’s management environment,” says FoM Dean Roger Sugden. “I congratulate the students on their achievements and offer my gratitude to our faculty and local businesses for mentoring all the participants. Success is achieved through collaboration, and this truly was a group effort.”


UBC Okanagan researchers receive Killam awards

From left: Miranda Hart, associate professor of biology, and Abbas Milani, associate professor of engineering.

From left: Miranda Hart, associate professor of biology, and Abbas Milani, associate professor of engineering.

Engineering and biology professors win top recognition from university

Soil ecologist Miranda Hart and composite materials engineer Abbas Milani have won UBC Killam Research Fellowships, which enable promising faculty to pursue full-time research during a recognized study leave.

The Fellowships will support the endeavors of two prominent scientists at UBC Okanagan; soil ecologist Miranda Hart, and composite materials engineer Abbas Milani.

“We are delighted that these outstanding faculty have been recognized by the Killam Foundation,” says Phil Barker, Vice-Principal Research at UBC Okanagan. “These recognitions show that research at UBC’s Okanagan campus is continuing its strong upward trajectory.”

Miranda Hart

Hart, associate professor of biology, teaches in the Irving K. Barber School of Arts and Sciences, and studies soil biodiversity. In particular, she is interested in the ecology of soil microbes and the role and applications of microbes in sustainable agriculture, viticulture, and ecological restoration.


Abbas Milani

Milani, associate professor of engineering, teaches in UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering, working with advanced composite materials and their manufacturing. Lightweight and yet strong, these materials have found applications in aerospace, sports equipment, boats, home appliances, among many others



Venture Okanagan 2016

$5,000 prize and connections are the promise of Venture Okanagan

Entrepreneurs are already honing their presentation skills as preparations continue for the 10th edition of Venture Okanagan, Western Canada’s largest student-run pitch session for entrepreneurs.

The event will be held in Kelowna at Okanagan College’s campus on February 18.

Twice annually, Venture Okanagan brings five local entrepreneurs together to compete for the attention of local investors. It’s a rewarding experience for participants and for observers.

And it’s a chance for students from Okanagan College’s School of Business to put their education and skills to work in helping develop local businesses. A group of student volunteers, who are part of Enactus Okanagan College, are the driving force behind Venture Okanagan, led this year by Lauren McKay.

GreenStep Solutions Inc., a local consulting firm focused on environmental sustainability, was the fortunate winner in Spring 2014’s Venture Okanagan event. “The Venture Okanagan process gives invaluable feedback and experience to start-ups,” says Angela Nagy, the CEO of GreenStep. “Participating in the pitching forum adds credibility and exposure that continues to pay off in the long term.” To date, her firm has worked with more than 1,200 businesses and organizations in several sectors, including private, public, non-profit and academic institutions.

There’s also the lure of a $5,000 prize for the event’s winner, provided by the title sponsor, Grant Thornton LLP. “The Okanagan is home to an amazing number of innovative entrepreneurs and businesses, and Venture Okanagan helps connect them with the capital, resources and relationships they need to grow and succeed,” explains Kevin Santos, Partner with Grant Thornton’s Kelowna office. “We are encouraged by the entrepreneurial spirit here, and are excited to be part of the upcoming Investor Forum.”

Beyond the prize and the chance to promote business ideas to local investors, Venture Okanagan is also a premium networking event. Tickets for the event are $40.88 and are available at vowinter2016.eventbrite.ca. Doors open at 5:30 p.m. and presentations start at 6 p.m.

Early registration open for the Okanagan College Half Marathon

Okanagan College Media Release

It’s time to hit the ground running and Okanagan runners can get a head start on the race: early-bird registration for the 2016 Okanagan College Half Marathon, 10 K and Relay Race is now open.Christy Lovig Jan2016

This is the 14
th year for the race, which will be held on Sunday, April 3 in Kelowna. The not-for-profit event raises scholarship funds that support Okanagan College students who are involved in recreation and athletics.

Last year, Kelowna’s Christy Lovig joined more than 400 running enthusiasts on the course that boasts unparalleled lake views to take the women’s 10 K title with a time of 36:48.

“I’ve run the College’s half marathon and 10 K numerous times, and I always look forward to the fast course throughout our beautiful city,” said Lovig. “It’s a pleasure to run in a well-organized event that is backed by such enthusiastic organizers, volunteers, supporters and participants.”

With start and finish lines at the Okanagan College Kelowna campus, the 21.1 km half marathon course runs along the scenic City Park and up to Knox Mountain before looping back towards Gyro Beach. The relay race allows up to five runners to share the same distance in 4 km segments, while the 10 K has runners turn around in City Park.

“We are doing a few things differently this year and I think our runners are going to be really happy with the improvements,” said Christine Ulmer, Race Director. “The course will remain the same but we’re enhancing some of our services for runners, most notably the food. We hear every year that we have the best post-race snacks and we’re going to provide an even better selection of food this year.”

The race will offer cash prizes to the winners of the half marathon event. Prizes for the top relay and 10 km finishers will also be handed out.

Each year, more than 60 volunteers from the community make the event possible and a great success. Non-runners who wish to be involved in the race can contribute their time as race volunteers or course marshals. No experience is necessary.

“We have volunteers of all ages who join us on race day,” said Ulmer. “From young families, local sports team members, and retired runners, everyone always has a great time at cheering our participants on along the course.”

To register, for more details about the course, and entry fee deadlines, visit

Those interested in volunteering can contact Michelle Lowry at 250-762-5445 ext. 4649 or at
[email protected].

Race quick facts:
  • Start time: 8 a.m. (10 K) and 8:15 a.m. (half marathon and relay)
  • Early Bird fees, until Feb. 14: $35 (10 K) and $50 (half marathon)
  • Relay team fees: $125 (until March 30)
  • Follow the Facebook page for updates, training tips and photos

Job-seekers to meet employers at College’s annual Business Expo & Employment Fair

Okanagan College Media Release

David Knapp Jan 2016Looking for work? Graduating students, alumni and community members can meet with the companies who are hiring at the ninth annual Business Expo & Employment Fair at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus on Wednesday, Feb. 3.

More than 60 businesses will be present, looking to meet top candidates from across the Valley, representing a range of sectors including banking, business solutions, engineering technologies, IT, trades and even the Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Coast Guard.

“It’s about connecting those looking for work, with those who do the hiring directly for these enterprises,” said organizer and Okanagan College School of Business Program and Event Coordinator Jamie Morrow. “Having a chance to get beyond being just a name on a resume and present yourself to human resources managers can bring you one step closer to having a job and launching a career.”

One company in attendance will be CIBC, which has hosted a booth at the fair since it first launched in 2008. David Knapp, who is the Business Development Manager at CIBC for the B.C. and Northern Territories region and also an Okanagan College alumnus, says the appeal is in attracting candidates who are job-ready.

“Our experience is that Okanagan College graduates have the education, skills and professionalism that are the right match for our bank,” said Knapp. “The employment fair gives applicants and employers a chance to meet for a few minutes and from there we can add candidates to our prospect list for ongoing job opportunities.”

Knapp’s advice to those attending the fair is to come interview-ready: bring your resume, dress for the part, and have your “elevator pitch” in mind. He also mentions to not overlook transferable skills such as how a part-time job in a restaurant while attending college can be aligned with customer service, time management, and basic accounting skills.

“Job seekers need to maximize the short time by being as clear as possible about why our bank is a good fit for their goals, but it’s also important to explain why they are good fit for us,” explained Knapp. “Show us what you can bring to the company. We are looking to find great employees.”

In addition to CIBC, exhibitors will include Accelerate Okanagan, BC Tree Fruits, Capri Insurance, City of Kelowna, Kal Tire, Mission Hill Family Estate/CedarCreek Estate Winery, Sentes Automotive Group, Valley First Credit Union, and Westbank First Nation, to name a few. Certain employers also book additional rooms to conduct more in-depth interviews on the spot for applicants who meet the job criteria.

“It can be a quick process. The value is in making those connections and facilitating first impressions,” comments Morrow.

The public is invited to attend the Business Expo & Employment Fair at Okanagan College’s Kelowna campus, which will be held in the atrium of the Centre for Learning building from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Okanagan College School of Business and the Student, Graduate and Co-op Employment Centre sponsor the event.

For more information, go online:
www.okanagan.bc.ca/business and click on business community for a full list of participating employers.

UBC leverages technology to recruit prospective medical students

Warren Brock, communications manager with UBC’s Faculty of Medicine Southern Medical Program, leads an on-line information session with students in the South Okanagan, demonstrating UBC’s videoconference technology as a way of delivering lessons across the province.

Warren Brock, communications manager with UBC’s Faculty of Medicine Southern Medical Program, leads an on-line information session with students in the South Okanagan, demonstrating UBC’s videoconference technology as a way of delivering lessons across the province.

Faculty of Medicine admissions office pilots new recruitment approach

UBC has long used videoconference technology to train its medical students. In a unique move, the Faculty of Medicine’s admission office decided to use the same technology as a recruitment tool — offering its first-ever virtual info session to students in the South Okanagan via the Kelowna campus.

Dr. Bruce Fleming, associate dean, Admissions for the Faculty of Medicine says the technology plays a critical role in the delivery of academic sessions and connecting students, faculty, and staff across its four academic campuses and 100-plus clinical teaching sites throughout the province.

This technology is now being used to connect remotely with prospective medical students in small or rural communities. In an innovative approach, students from Penticton, Princess Margaret, and Summerland Secondary Schools recently participated in a medical admission information videoconference from a lecture theatre at UBC Okanagan.

“While there is no shortage of applicants, there is a continued focus on increasing the number of northern and rural students and those from remote communities admitted to our program,” says Fleming, explaining that the admissions office sees roughly 2,000 applications to the program each year.

In collaboration with career counsellors and staff from School District 67, the event was led by Warren Brock, Southern Medical Program communications manager. Brock says the session focuses on what medical school is all about, the diverse scope of medical practice, and at the same time, works to dispel common admissions myths such as seeking only straight-A science students.

“It’s great to be able to connect multiple high schools simultaneously to speak with the students, share ideas, and answer questions,” says Brock. “The format also allows us to give the students a taste of how academic sessions are delivered to students across the province.”

Christina Mitchell, a Grade 12 Penticton student, admits that applying to medical school is daunting at first with so many unknowns.

“This conference was able to provide us with a plethora of information, as well as many answers to our queries delivered in a simple and accessible format,” says Mitchell. “I feel it will make the upcoming years, while I will complete my undergrad, a little less stressful just understanding the road I’m taking.”

The admissions office is now exploring the potential to host more of these sessions for other academic institutions and school districts across the province.

“We know that there are young British Columbians from rural areas that have all of the attributes that will make them well suited to a successful career in medicine,” adds Fleming. “Reaching out in this way, we hope to encourage applicants with the ability and energy to succeed. They are the very people who are most likely to return to serve the communities where they are most needed.”


Okanagan students learn that computer coding isn’t just for school

About 100 School District 23 students, aged eight to 18, spent Saturday at UBC Okanagan learning how to code. The event took place on the heels of Premier Christy Clark’s announcement last week stating coding will become part of the overall K-12 curriculum redesign.

About 100 School District 23 students, aged eight to 18, spent Saturday at UBC Okanagan learning how to code. The event took place on the heels of Premier Christy Clark’s announcement last week stating coding will become part of the overall K-12 curriculum redesign.

Day-long coding workshop at UBC Okanagan introduces computer coding

More than 100 elementary and high school students are one step ahead of their counterparts after spending a day of computer coding at UBC’s Okanagan campus Saturday. Coding, Premier Christy Clark announced last week, will become part of the overall K-12 curriculum redesign being phased in over the next three school years.

Saturday, UBC Okanagan, in partnership with Codecreate, hosted more than 100 students in an effort to promote an Hour of Code — a grassroots global science and digital literacy awareness campaign aimed to encourage students around the world to try computer coding. Events happened simultaneously across the province, creating the largest province-wide youth coding event that B.C. has seen to date.

The event was supported by Premier Christy Clark, Steve Thomson, MLA for Kelowna-Mission, and Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran.

“Kelowna’s technology sector is booming, and it’s never too early to start learning the basics of coding,” says Clark, MLA for Westside-Kelowna. “Events like Codecreate help students explore computer programming, and maybe start them on a path towards a great career.”

During Saturday’s event at UBC Okanagan, high school and elementary students were tasked with basic computer coding activities. Curriculum and instructions were provided by Lighthouse Labs, and tasks were completed with support from volunteer coding mentors from the university and the community.

“Coding is quickly becoming an essential skill, alongside reading and writing,” says Deborah Buszard, UBC Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the Okanagan campus. “Codecreate is an outstanding example of Okanagan communities coming together with UBC to position the next generation of learners for success in the economy of the future.”

Tyler Peatland, UBC elementary teacher candidate and event volunteer, sees the benefits of teaching coding to students.

“Understanding the deeper meaning of how coding relates to everyday life will be beneficial to any student trying to grasp how the world works,” says Peatland.

The UBC event follows similar workshops that have taken place in Vancouver, Victoria, and Prince George, where up to 400 students have learned to code.

“Events like these help spark students’ passion and interest in computer science and tech-related career options, which are so significant in our region,” says Steve Thomson, MLA for Kelowna-Mission. “A big thank-you to UBC Okanagan for hosting such an informative and engaging event for our young people.”

Mayor Basran, a champion for the growing Okanagan technology sector, offered opening remarks to the students and volunteers.

“It is so important in this ever-changing world to maintain a commitment to innovation and life-long learning,” he says. “We’re fortunate in Kelowna to have a world-class institution like UBC Okanagan bringing innovative teaching opportunities like Codecreate to our entire community.”

The introduction of coding to school curriculum and the promotion of its importance through Codecreate is supported by a number of community members, including Norm Letnick, MLA for Kelowna-Lake Country.

“When I took my B.Comm from 1977-80, we were required to take five courses in computer science —and those programming skills helped me launch two successful businesses and a career in computer sales, custom programming, and support,” says Letnick. “By adding computer coding to B.C.'s K-12 curriculum, we hope to get more young people interested in careers in technology.”

For more information visit: codecreate.ca


More Campus Life articles