It took all of 2.5 years of planning to pull it off, but Okanagan College regional dean Donna Lomas said the Association of Canadian Community Colleges was a rousing success.
“There was a huge representation from across Canada, but we also had 17 countries represented. They were here in Penticton, enjoying everything we have to offer,” said Lomas, adding that she heard great feedback about the region’s wineries and restaurants from the 650 attendees and their families.
“They were just raving about them,” said Lomas. The estimated economic impact from the conference was expected to be in the $500,000 range. Many of the delegates brought spouses and other family members, according to Lomas, who spent their time exploring the region.
“They were on wine tours and not just here in Penticton, but they were travelling throughout the region,” said Lomas. “There was a huge push at the airport in Kelowna and here. You don’t bring in 600 delegates and on top of that a bunch of partners and not have a big impact.”
The conference, however, is an annual event with a serious purpose, focusing on governance and administration of colleges.
“It’s about stimulating important ideas and raising important issues that are common and we can all work on,” said Lomas, listing off sessions that ranged from engaging students in their learning, to training and government policy.
Most of the sessions took place at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, as well as the South Okanagan Event Centre, but there was also time to show off the Penticton campus and the Centre of Excellence there, one of the greenest buildings in the world.
The actual conference ran from Saturday to late Monday, but there were a number of pre-conference events as well, starting Wednesday night with the first big tour for directors and deans of trades and technology.
“Saturday, we had a group of Nigerians that came and they were on a tour of the buildings, but also meeting with some of our program deans around possible international opportunities,” said Lomas. “I am so grateful to all the staff on the campus, because it was just looking absolutely fabulous. The staff worked very hard to make sure we put our best foot forward.”
Lomas said they also showed off the facilities and the diversity of the region on Saturday night, when they hosted a regional festival on campus, showcasing the culinary arts program from the Kelowna campus, nine local wineries, three breweries and five caterers.
There was also a variety of entertainment from up and down the valley, including poet Shane Koyczan, who Lomas said amazed the crowd.
“For some people that was challenging, because they hadn’t heard a slam poet before,” she said.
ACCC is the national and international voice of Canada’s publicly funded colleges, institutes and polytechnics, serving 1.5 million learners of all ages and from all socio-economic quarters at campuses in 1,000 urban, rural and remote communities.