Law enforcement degree begins at Okanagan College

An opportunity is arising for students studying law enforcement to earn a degree in Penticton.

During an announcement on Sept. 11.

During an announcement on Sept. 11.

An opportunity is arising for students studying law enforcement to earn a degree in Penticton.

Okanagan College  has teamed with the Justice Institute of British Columbia (JIBC) to offer the Bachelor of Law Enforcement Studies degree program at the college’s Penticton Campus. The first classes will begin in September 2016.

Currently, students enrolled in the Criminal and Social Justice (CSJ) program are working towards earning a diploma. Graduates of that two-year program will have the option, as well as guaranteed acceptance into the degree program for up to 24 graduates of CSJ.

The announcement was made at the college’s Penticton campus on Sept. 11.

Harjot Gil recently began his second year of Criminal and Social Justice studies at Okanagan College in Penticton. Upon graduation at the end of the school year, he’ll be among the first group of students eligible for the degree program.

“The justice program is exactly what I need for my career in law enforcement,” he said.

Because his parents live in Penticton, Gil will be able to continue studying from home, which he said is a major convenience to his career.

“This saves me a lot of money and it’s really valuable to me having the support of my family in Penticton. It’s a great opportunity and I’m really glad to have it happen at this time.”

After earning his degree, Gil hopes to fulfill his career in the Okanagan.

Randy Forster, who’s also studying Criminal and Social Justice, is intrigued by the new opportunity.

“This has my attention. I wasn’t excited about having to go to Vancouver to finish a degree if I need to. I’m not big on big cities for learning,” he said.

“I wish I had something like this before I made the decision to become a police officer,” the crowd was told by Mike Trump, Dean of JIBC’s School of Criminal Justice and Security. “We have a vested interest in making this a successful partnership. Okanagan College’s reputation as a fine institute of learning and the Justice Institute’s reputation as being Canada’s leading public safety educator in the field of justice and public safety – together we are able to blend the two worlds of theoretical knowledge and practical application.”

There are currently about 100 students registered in the first year of Criminal and Social Justice at Okanagan College, and the college saw around 50 students return for the second year this fall — the largest-ever second-year class.

Expansion of the program was inevitable, explained Donna Lomas, Okanagan College’s Regional Dean for the South Okanagan Similkameen.

“We launched this program 10 years ago and we had to go through growing pains,” she said. “Both institutions have a mandate to partner and to provide better access to education. After discussing how we would make it all work, sharing space and resources and provide clear student access, once those hurdles were overcome it became natural to offer it here in the Okanagan.”

Citing statistical evidence, Lomas said people who live, work and learn in their home communities are more likely to remain there.

“With the remand centre going in Oliver, as well as policing being a real career driver right now, this is an excellent opportunity for Okanagan youth.”