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Carter family donation to enhance study space for trades students at Okanagan College

February 16, 2015 - 12:52 PM

A generous gift by a local family will help support the creation of two new study spaces at Okanagan College, as part of the $33-million project to renovate and expand the institution’s trades training complex.

Al Carter, a well-known auto industry pioneer in Kelowna, has donated $50,000 to support the construction of two group study rooms in the new trades building, which is slated to open in spring of 2016. The study rooms will help meet the demand for student space as the College works to train and educate the tradespeople to address a government-projected shortage of skilled trades workers over the next decade.

“Our family has always been a strong supporter of apprenticeship,” says Carter. “We’ve had many Okanagan College alumni working in our auto repair shops over the years—including John Haller, former Dean of Trades. We think the apprenticeship process is a wonderful thing and we’re proud to support trades training at the College.”

“We know that labour shortages for the trades sector as a whole are expected as early as 2016—with the Government of Canada predicting that our workforce will need one million additional skilled workers by 2020,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “We are grateful to the Carter family for investing in our College’s future and helping us to provide students with state-of-the-art spaces to learn and succeed.”

After service in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Al Carter’s automotive career began in Vancouver in 1948 when he opened Carter Brothers Texaco Service with his brother, Ken. Over the next 15 years, he moved up the ranks to become sales manager of Marshall Pontiac Buick. Carter moved his family to Kelowna in 1961, opening up Carter Pontiac and Buick dealership early the following year on the corner of Pandosy and Lawrence.

“When you think about the change in Kelowna since then, it’s incredible” says Carter. “There were 12,600 people here when we started our first business and look at it now. It’s been great to watch the city grow, and with it the College and the opportunities for students.”

Starting each of his businesses from scratch taught Carter and his sons some valuable lessons, he says.

“There is a big difference between buying an established business and building one from scratch,” explains Carter. “Those early days were tough. We worked hard for everything we earned.”

“One piece of advice that I’ve always had for people starting out in any trade,” adds Carter, “is to keep learning. Learn your job well, and then learn the next job up. If you show that you’re hungry to learn, and that you want to keep building your skills, employers will take notice.”

Carter still recalls his sons Barry and Greg helping him in 1968 to clear the land on the corner of Spall and Harvey, which was an orchard at the time, for what would later become the first Honda dealership in Kelowna in 1974.

One of the family’s motivations for supporting the trades complex was to help Okanagan College to get trades training on the radar of students who otherwise might not have considered trades for a career, noted Al’s eldest son, Barry.

“Our goal is to help the College build a foundation for future growth,” explains Barry. “Getting people into trades is perhaps more important now than ever before. Just look at the current workforce and the big wave of retirements we’re facing.”

“We’re going to have a real shortage of trades people, if we don’t help new apprentices get started,” noted Al’s younger son, Greg.

The new complex will accommodate approximately 2,400 students annually in a range of trades programs. The Okanagan College Foundation launched the Bright Horizons, Building for Skills fundraising campaign in fall 2014 to raise the necessary $7 million to complete the project and help provide equipment and student support. The provincial government has committed $28 million.

The Foundation is inviting the community to learn more about the project and opportunities to get involved, by visiting

News from © iNFOnews, 2015

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