Auto sector support vital to revamp OC trades training complex

Bright Horizons-Building for Skills fundraising campaign goal is $7 million; $2.5 million already donated

  • Oct. 2, 2014 6:00 p.m.

The Okanagan College Foundation campaign to raise funds for a new Trades Training Complex at the Kelowna campus has kicked off with donations from 43 donors totaling $2.5 million – a significant portion of that coming from Kelowna area car dealerships.

Local car dealerships have collectively provided $610,000; a sizable donation that includes $10,000 from the Kelowna Auto Dealers Association. Another $845,000 has come from industry leaders in the auto, welding, construction, plumbing, mechanical, and electrical sectors.

“We’ve only just launched our campaign and we’re more than a third of the way to reaching our $7-million goal,” said Dennis Gabelhouse, chair of the Bright Horizons – Building for Skills Campaign.

“To have one of our key trades sectors come forward with this level of commitment really sets the tone for what we hope will come. The Kelowna Auto Dealers Association and local auto dealers clearly understand the importance of supporting the college.”

Work on the $33-million Trades Training Complex expansion and renovation has begun and is expected to be complete in the spring of 2016. The provincial government has committed $28-million to the project and the Okanagan College Foundation is responsible for raising an additional $7 million; $5 million for capital costs and the remaining $2 million going towards student and program support.

Gabelhouse thanked Sentes general manager Adam Rich for being one of the first industry leaders to publicly support the campaign. Rich is one of 18 sector chairs who not only volunteer their time to the campaign, but have collectively donated $345,000. He also recognized John Bokitch, president of the 18-member Kelowna Auto Dealers Association.

Bokitch said supporting the college makes business sense, given the industry’s reliance on the institution to educate many of the industry’s employees.

“We need highly skilled mechanics and technicians and graduating students need jobs,” he said.

The support shown by the automotive sector has been phenomenal, says Kathy Butler, the foundation’s executive director.

“The foundation is very grateful that the individual auto dealers and the Kelowna Auto Dealers Association have chosen this campaign as its charity of choice,” she said. “We’ve all read the statistics that the demand for skilled tradespeople is high. Having this industry come forward and invest in students’ future is great news.”

“Today’s announcement makes it clear that industry recognizes the importance the trades play in our economy and is working with the College to address the skills shortage we know is coming,” Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton said.

“We know that 43 per cent of the one million job openings that will be created in B.C. by 2022 will require trades or technical training and many of those jobs will be filled by Okanagan College graduates.”

“Community support is vital to building that connection between our college, our students, and this province’s future.”

Okanagan College student Emma Paul will complete the 30-week Automotive Service Foundation Program this week. She has already secured a job with Lexus.

“I grew up in Kelowna and I feel lucky to be able to complete my training here at Okanagan College. It never occurred to me to train anywhere else and I can say with all honesty that the training I have received has been exceptional. I work with top-of-the line equipment and I learn from instructors who have been incredibly supportive and have encouraged me every step of the way,” Paul said.

“I am excited to be one of the students who will train in the refurbished complex and I am thankful to the college foundation, the automotive sector, and the many donors and volunteers who are working so hard to raise the funds needed to see this project through to completion.”

Information about the campaign can be found on the Okanagan College Foundation’s website

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