Cannan: Innovation and job creation thriving in Kelowna-Lake Country

Okanagan College is working to become a driving engine of economic, social and cultural development in the region.

We live in a great community and there is reason for great optimism here and across the country if my recent discussion with Allan Coyle, director of public affairs at Okanagan College, is any indication.

Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton and UBC Okanagan’s campus deputy vice-chancellor Deborah Buszard have been touring the Okanagan and working with industry, with students, and with all levels of government to become driving engines of economic, social and cultural development in the region.

Recently, both institutions hosted successful career fairs that drew dozens of employers to recruit and hire employees to meet their needs in the Kelowna region and further abroad.

Working together our local education and business sectors are identifying labour shortages and ensuring students are learning the skills they need to fill those jobs.

Even better, students —domestic and international—are enrolling in our schools for exactly this kind of real-world connection between education and careers.

Innovation in the riding is also a big part of the equation and has helped provide jobs and careers for our citizens.

Due to the efforts of folks like Robert Fine and the Central Okanagan Economic Development Commission, Heather Schneider, board chair of the commission and dean of business at Okanagan College, board director Roger Sugden and dean of the faculty of management at UBCO, and organizations such as Accelerate Okanagan, our developing technology sector is employing hundreds of people.

Not only are we home to great ventures like Disney’s Club Penguin, our entrepreneurial spirit and drive has attracted investors like those on CBC’s Dragon Den, who keep coming back year after year to the Okanagan to find the kind of imaginative, driven entrepreneurs whose ideas help spur economic development and more job creation.

All of this economic activity is set against one of the most beautiful places in Canada, blessed with great weather and the best people.

Our own Kelowna International Airport brings in more and more people every year to share in this bounty and our tourism sector benefits as a result.

By way of example, Kelowna just played host —for the third year in a row—to the Canadian Culinary Championships, bringing together the 10 best chefs from across our country, including our own chef Mark Filatow, owner of Waterfront Restaurant and Wine Bar, and raising funds for Canada’s Olympians and the Own the Podium program.

The Prime Minister has said the biggest challenge our country faces is the skills shortages in the Canadian labour market and while a call for a national jobs strategy is often the first response, it’s clear that better, more effective solutions can be found closer to home.

Our education, business, and tourism sectors are setting an example of what can be done and what is possible.

Their collaboration is successfully addressing skills shortages and keeping our unemployment rate down.

Supported by federal, provincial and municipal initiatives, the people of Kelowna-Lake Country, our greatest resource, are the engines driving job creation, supporting economic growth, and securing the Okanagan’s and Canada’s long-term prosperity.

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