An alumnus with a connection to Okanagan College that spans more than five decades has made a gift to inspire the next generation of tradespeople who will follow in his footsteps.
Lambert Schmalz, owner of Lambert & Paul Construction Ltd., pledged $50,000 toward the Bright Horizons campaign in support of the new Trades Training Complex at the college’s Kelowna campus.
The donation was matched by his friend and colleague Gord Wilson.
The new three-storey tower opened to students in April, as part of an overall $33-million, 10,000 sq. metre renovation and expansion project.
“The college and this region are very dear to me,” said Schmalz, who was born in Germany and immigrated to Canada in 1956 after completing his training as a journeyperson carpenter.
“I am proud to support the place where our future tradespeople will train.”
At that time, there were only 9,600 people in Kelowna and very few residential or commercial builders.
He says the opening of the College (then B.C. Vocational School) in 1963, helped spark the growth of the construction industry in the years that followed, and was critical in developing a culture of apprenticeship in the valley.
“Having come up through the European system of apprenticeship which has been going strong for hundreds of years, I was surprised by how little apprenticeship there was in the valley when I arrived,” explained Schmalz.
“I am pleased with the progress that has been made to change that over time, and the college has played a big role in that development.”
Schmalz’s involvement with the college has taken many forms over the years.
As a student, he took business courses in the mid-1960s, adding bookkeeping, drafting, and estimating to the skills he learned as a journeyman Carpenter travelling Europe.
He also served on the program advisory board for the carpentry program for more than a decade beginning in the 1970s.
In 2004, Okanagan University College conferred upon Schmalz an honourary doctorate, in recognition of his long-term involvement.
“Lambert has been a dedicated champion and supporter of the College for many years,” said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton.
“We deeply appreciate his significant contributions to our institution and his dedication to advancing apprenticeship in the Okanagan.”
In addition to founding multiple contracting companies, Schmalz was also a founding member of the Okanagan chapter of the Canadian Home Builders’ Association (CHBA), a professional organization that promotes affordability and choice in the residential construction industry.
Individuals and businesses from the construction sector have contributed more than $500,000 to the Bright Horizons campaign to date.
Schmalz recently challenged the valley’s builders to reach the $1-million mark.
“These tradespeople are our future work force,” said Schmalz. “If we don’t support them, who will?”
It is a message echoed by Gord Wilson. Wilson, owner of Team Construction, who also donated $50,000 to the campaign.
OC’s Trades Training Complex is now open to students; a grand opening is being planned for September.
The three-year capital construction project rejuvenated existing spaces to match the same sustainability standards of the new tower, which is targeting LEED Platinum, net-zero energy usage, and carbon-neutrality.
The complex will allow the college to train more than 2,700 students per year in Kelowna.
The Okanagan College Foundation is aiming to raise an additional $5 million for capital construction and $2 million for program and student support, to top up the provincial government’s $28 million investment.