Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton (centre) jokes with local MLAs Norm Letnick (left) and Steve Thomson that they are welcome on campus any time they bring money during the announcement of $15.4 million for a new health sciences centre on OC’s Kelowna campus.

New health sciences centre planned for Okangan College

Province contributing $15.4 million of the $18.9 million cost.

The next big building project on the Kelowna campus of Okanagan College has been announced.

Plans for a new $18.9 million health sciences centre were publicly unveiled Tuesday, with the province agreeing to contribute $15.4 million of the total cost. A fundraising campaign will be held to raise the rest of the money.

“The Health Sciences Centre has been a high priority for Okanagan College and today’s announcement is welcome news for thousands of students who will have the opportunity to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to advance their careers in health and social development,” said OC president Jim Hamilton.

“The new building will be constructed to meet high standards of sustainability and will provide a modern learning space for students who will become an integral part of our province’s work force.”

The new 2,800-square-metre, two-story building will be built on the east side of the campus and will be attached to the existing laboratory building. It will replace the aging and cramped, one-story health building, which is one of the oldest buildings on the OC campus, dating back to the college’s beginnings in the 1960s.

As the announcement of the new health sciences centre was being made in the new, modern Centre for Learning building, directly across from the existing health building, the crowd gathered to hear the funding announcement could see work crews on the roof of the existing health building patching holes that have lead to leaks.

When the new health sciences centre is complete,the exiting health building will be demolished to create space for additional campus facilities.

Hamilton, who said $130 million has been provided to the college by the government for infrastructure since 2005, admitted much of the emphasis in recent years has been on improving trade training at the campus. OC is the second largest trades trainer in the province after BCIT in the Lower Mainland.

He said construction of the new building is expected to start next spring and the building will be complete by 2020. It will house programs such as the bachelor of science in nursing, certified dental assistant, early childhood education, health care assistant, human service worker, pharmacy technician, practical nursing and therapist assistant.

“This new building will be the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to training our health-care and social development practitioners of the future,” said Jenny Winberg, a certified dental assistant students at OC.

“Okanagan College has amazing instructors and their passion for health care and teaching is evident. The addition of a modern building with state-of-the-art equipment will set students up for even greater success in their education and they will be better prepared to head out into the workforce.”

The funding announcement was made by Kelowna-Mission MLA Steve Thomson on behalf of Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson.

Thomson said the new facility will help meet an expected demand for 48,000 jobs in health care alone in B.C by 2025.

The new health sciences centre will have space for 500 students and room for an additional 79 students in future if needed.

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