RBC VP of Commercial Banking Ray Warren, Okanagan College Foundation’s Helen Jackman, RBC Community Manager Courtney Hesse and Okanagan College Network and Telecommunications Engineering Technology Professor Troy Berg. (Submitted photo)

Okanagan College receives 50K to boost students’ tech careers

Gateway to Tech is a provincial funding program that received a major boost with a donation from RBC

At just 15 years old, Matias Hartwig has proven he has the chops to work in tech. Having fallen in love with technology at an early age, he’s already created several apps, including a digital tape measure that measures distance through sound waves.

Given his early accomplishments it was no surprise when the W.L. Seaton Secondary student in Vernon enrolled in Gateway to Tech, a program offered by Okanagan College in collaboration with local school districts.

Now, thanks to a $50,000 donation from RBC, the program has what it needs to further boost students like Hartwig as they pursue careers in tech.

“With this generous gift, RBC is demonstrating how much it values investing in youth to succeed in the careers of today and tomorrow,” says Dennis Silvestrone, Okanagan College’s Director of Continuing Studies and Corporate Training.

Gateway to Tech teaches school students how their future careers will be shaped by technology through a 17-week course exploring how various technologies function.

The course is for high school credits but the students take the program at the College.

Silverstone said that with technology set to significantly change our economy, demand will be driven up for coding and technical skills in the future workforce.

“The opportunity for students to work directly with local tech companies gives them a much better understanding of the skills they’ll need to be successful and contribute to our communities.”

The funds are specifically aimed at helping the College create a work-integrated learning component to Gateway to Tech when it is offered in Salmon Arm this spring. This addition intends to allow students real-world experience and connections with local technology companies before they graduate.

The original funding for the program came from B.C.’s Ministry of Advanced Education, Skills and Training.

The $50,000 comes from RBC’s Future Launch Program – a commitment of $500 million to help young people prepare for the future of work by giving them access to work experience, skills development and networking.

“We’ve found that cultivating a robust professional network is key to building a successful career,” said Mark Beckles, RBC Senior Director, Youth Strategy and Innovation.

“Research indicates that as many as 85 per cent of jobs are filled via networking, so we hope that through our partnership with Okanagan College on our RBC Future Launch initiative, we can help young Canadians make meaningful connections to bridge the gap between education and employment.”

For a student like Hartwig, Gateway to Tech has had its intended effect: it’s made him more certain that computer science is his passion, and has encouraged him to set big goals for the future.

“I want to develop something that people will use in their day-to-day lives,” said Hartwig.

Okanagan College’s Gateway to Tech program is currently running in Vernon with a Kelowna, Osoyoos and Salmon Arm intake this Spring.

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Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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