Indigenous opportunities

Karen Abramsen, left, and Raf DeGuevara of the Okanagan Training Development Council and Michael Cameron and Finbar O’Sullivan of the Industry Training Authority were at an event Tuesday where representatives from the two groups signed a memorandum of understanding to help more Indigenous people get into and succeed in apprenticeships and the trades.

It’s all about creating opportunities and opening doors.

On Tuesday, the Okanagan Training Development Council and the Industry Training Authority signed a memorandum of understanding to support Indigenous apprentices and tradespeople.

“There are always barriers with First Nations,” said Raf DeGuevara, chairman of the Okanagan Training Development Council.

“That’s why a lot more preparation needs to be done. It starts in high school, for sure, getting Indigenous youth interested in apprenticeships and the trades.”

The authority plans to offer tailored plans for Indigenous apprentices and tradespeople.

“There’s still some systemic racism and social concerns such as child care, training away from home, working away from home and transportation,” said the authority’s director of Indigenous initiatives Michael Cameron.

“But if we address issues for Indigenous, we really address issues for everyone.”

Indigenous peoples make up about 5% of B.C.’s population and 5% of B.C.’s apprentices and tradespeople are Indigenous.

So, in many ways that’s considered fair representation.

But Cameron said more needs to be done.

“Many Indigenous work in the trades without having their hours tracked for apprenticeship or Red Seal (trades) certification,” he said.

“We want that to change so workers are recognized and certified.”

The council’s mandate is to provide employment and training programs for members of the six Okanagan Nation (Syilx) Bands – Westbank First Nation, Penticton Indian Band, Osoyoos Indian Band, Upper Similkameen, Vernon-based Okanagan and Lower Similkameen.

“We’re not a specialist in the trades,” said DeGuevara, who is also inter-governmental affairs manager with Westbank First Nation.

“But we do specialize in partnerships, so that’s why this partnership with the Industry Training Authority is so important.”

The authority works with apprentices, employers, industry, labour, training providers and government to fund training, issue credentials, support apprenticeship, set program standards and increase opportunities in the trades.

Anyone interested in apprenticeship and trades certification can start as a teen in high school with a trades sampler, enroll in a foundation program to get post-secondary school education and training before finding a sponsor employer or work with a sponsor employer directly and integrate school education and training.

Or, if someone has worked as an uncertified tradesperson they can challenge the Red Seal test to become recognized.

However, Indigenous people interested in any of these routes to apprenticeship and trades can receive extra help from the Okanagan Training Development Council or the Industry Training Authority’s Okanagan regional adviser, Finbar O’Sullivan.

Rents are up

Despite more competition in the market and a higher vacancy rate, apartment rents continue on the rise in Kelowna.’s latest survey shows the average monthly rent for a one-bedroom in the city was $1,280 in July, a 10.3 per cent increase from the same month last year.

The survey also pegs two-bedroom apartment rent at an average of $1,730 a month, up 11.6 per cent from July 2018.

However, the escalation is plateauing.

When compared to June, July’s average rents were unchanged for one-bedrooms and down 2.8 per cent for two-bedrooms.

That’s because developers started building more purpose-built rental apartment buildings a few years ago when the rental vacancy rate was an ultra-low 0.5%.

More units on the market now means the vacancy rate has eased to 1.9%, renters have more choice and landlords have to be more competitive to attract and keep renters.

Kelowna’s one-bedroom cost of $1,280 a month makes it the eighth most expensive city in the country behind Toronto at $2,300, Vancouver at $2,200, Burnaby with $1,579, Barrie at $1,450, Montreal with $1,430, Victoria at $1,390 and Kitchener with $1,310.

When it comes to two-bedroom rent, Kelowna’s $1,730 is tied with Victoria for fourth most pricey in Canada.

More expensive are Vancouver at $3,090, Toronto at $2,850 and Burnaby at $2,280.

The most affordable places to rent an apartment in Canada are St. John’s and Quebec City, where one-bedrooms go for $810 a month and a two-bedrooms for $890 and $980, respectively.

Farmers’ Markets

There are a dozen Okanagan markets on the new B.C. Farmers’ Market Trail.

The website is the definitive guide to all 145 farmers’ markets and 4,000 vendors in the province.

The site not only lists the markets, but sorts them by region and outlines opening days and times.

There’s also information on each region if you want to explore farther than the farmers’ market, and statistics on how important markets are to the economy, vendors and shoppers. Farmers’ markets contribute $150 million a year to the provincial economy.

Market shoppers do so not just to buy fresh, in-season, healthy and tasty foods, but to support local farmers and sustain B.C. agriculture and land for future generations.

The 12 markets in the Okanagan are Kelowna (Orchard Park, downtown and winter), Penticton (Main Street and winter), Naramata, Vernon (downtown and indoor), Armstrong, Osoyoos, Sicamous and Armstrong.

New builders code

Bullying doesn’t just happen in schoolyards.

It’s in workplaces.

That’s why the Southern Interior Construction Association is offering New Builders Code training to companies, site supervisors, forepersons and union managers to deal with and stop bullying and harassment on the job.

The Kelowna workshop is Sept. 26.

Registration is free at

The training is aimed at those who work most closely with tradespeople on construction sites and will cover unacceptable worksite conduct, how to build and maintain an acceptable worksite culture, how to deal with complaints and the role and responsibilities of worksite leaders.

Examples of workplace bullying and harassment covers the gamut from any language and-or behaviour that frightens, humiliates, belittles or degrades someone and spreading malicious rumours to vandalizing personal property and undermining anyone’s work performance or working relationships.

The anti-bullying rules don’t just apply to workers harassing other workers, but bosses belittling employees and vice versa.

Cora open in Vernon

While the official grand opening isn’t until Aug. 20, the new Cora Breakfast and Lunch restaurant in Vernon started serving customers on Monday.

It’s in Anderson Crossing, the same strip mall at 5601 Anderson Way as The Brick, Bulk Barn, Great Canadian Oil Change and Red Robin.

The 10 a.m. official grand opening on the 20th will feature a Cora tradition – the egg-cracking ceremony to make the first symbolic omelette the new restaurant makes.

This is only the second Cora in the Okanagan.

The other is in Kelowna’s Orchard Park mall.

However, coast to coast, there are 130 Coras serving 12,000 litres of coffee, 60,000 crepes and 317,000 eggs weekly.

In a world of American-owned restaurant chains, Cora is a Canadian entrepreneurial success story.

A single mother of three, Cora Tsoufildou, created a job for herself in 1987 when she bought an abandoned snack bar in Montreal and specialized in breakfast.

The concept expanded to include lunch and franchising across the country.

During the weekend of Aug. 24-25, Cora mascot Kiwi will be at the Vernon restaurant for a special kids’ weekend.

Pirate Pak Day

Today is the day to eat at White Spot Restaurant and help send sick and disabled kids to summer camp.

Pirate Pak Day sees $2 from the sale of each Pirate Pak meal forwarded to Zajac Ranch in the Lower Mainland, which has camps accessible for children with life-threatening illnesses and chronic disabilities.

Pirate Pak meals are for both dine-in and take-out, come in kid and adult sizes and can be customized with any type of burger, chicken strips, club sandwich, fish or beef dip with fries, coleslaw, soft drink, ice cream and chocolate in the shape of a gold coin.

The gold coin is in keeping with the pirate theme of the meal served in a cardboard buccaneer ship.

In 2018, the 64 White Spots throughout B.C. and Alberta sold almost a million Pirate Pak meals, including 53,719 alone on Pirate Pak Day.

Steve MacNaull is a reporter at The Daily Courier. Reach him at