The first students have just graduated from a two-year animation program at Okanagan College. Animation is a growing computer-based skill specialty in the Kelowna region and the demand for animators is expanding rapidly. Several companies in the Valley have developed a significant clientele for their products so Okanagan College responded to a clearly-identified need.

Another new post-baccalaureate diploma in marketing and data analysis is to begin this fall and will, over the course of four semesters, combine studies in math, statistics, business and data science. Big companies such as Amazon, Hudson’s Bay and Google rely on data analysis.

Small and intermediate companies can benefit from mining their data on their customers. It is just another example of OC responding to the needs of the community it serves.

Another new program is for training tourism managers. The first intake of students for this management diploma will occur at OC’s Revelstoke facility this year. The director of OC’s food, wine and tourism said, “Our goal is to provide students a program that will help advance their tourism careers.”

Revelstoke was chosen to be the site of this new program because it is a four-season tourism destination. The winter co-op work component is an integral part of the learning experience and will provide students an opportunity to build both their skills and their contacts within the industry — while allowing potential employers to find new staff. As one participant said, “It’s a win-win case for students and employers.”

OC is known worldwide for the training provided by two courses of study in aircraft structures and maintenance. The structures licence covers fabrication, assembly, installation and repair of an aircraft’s structure.

The maintenance program covers everything from engines to electrical components in fixed wing aircraft and helicopters.

KF Aerospace, a world-renowned company based in Kelowna, has hired every graduate of these programs for the last several years. And, the company says the demand for these talented and well-trained individuals is virtually unlimited.

OC graduates in all programs are eagerly sought after by employers within the valley and indeed throughout Canada and elsewhere in the world. While, with over 100 different programs of study, the numbers can vary, it is usual that over 90% of a given program’s students are able to obtain work upon graduation or shortly thereafter.

That is proof positive that OC is responding to the training needs throughout the Valley and beyond.

Finally, there is one additional program that is less-known, but still of great importance: university transfer.

Often young students going off to university and living away from home for the first time find the change in the environment simply overwhelming. They can get swallowed up in the social whirl and fall behind in studies. Or, they may simply find the large class size common in first couple of years at large universities (which goes along with limited access to professors who rely on teaching assistants) just too impersonal.

Put simply, there is a big difference between high school and university. All too often, unprepared students drop out, either in their first or second year. It is this phenomenon that the university transfer program is designed to overcome.

Class sizes at OC are typically 50 or less, instead of hundreds. Teachers are accessible to help students with problems; they get to know their students and students get to know each other. The result is a lower rate of dropping out and, usually, easy access to a university for degree completion. In fact, most institutions in B.C. welcome students into the third year of study.

Having taught at the university level for more than 30 years, I can honestly say that if I had children about to go to university I would urge them to consider the university transfer program. It greatly improves young students’ chances of success.

It is evident that we are fortunate here in the Okanagan Valley to have Okanagan College.

David Bond is a retired bank economist and university professor who resides in Kelowna. This column appears Tuesdays in The Daily Courier.

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