A new awards fund at Okanagan College will more than double the value of annual support available for students attending the Vernon campus.

Kurt and Jutta Knuever have donated $210,000 to create the K & J Knuever Legacy Awards, which will provide up to $70,000 annually in tuition and living support to students entering trades programs or the Health Care Assistant program over the next three years.

The awards reflect the value the Knuever family place on education, especially hands-on skills training that can add value to an individual’s life and their community. The Knuevers hope the gift will benefit the Vernon area by equipping more people with valuable skills they can contribute to the local economy.

Jane Lister, Okanagan College Regional Dean, North Okanagan, says she was thrilled to learn about the new awards.

“This donation has a significant impact on our campus and for our community,” says Lister.

“The Knuevers are not only helping students but responding to our community’s labour needs.”

Lister adds that with the opening of the new Trades Training Centre several years ago, the Vernon campus now offers many more trades program options. The student awards will provide greater access to these programs, allowing more people who are interested in pursuing a trade the opportunity to go back to school.

Adding to this, prior to the Knuever’s funding, there were very few awards to support students entering the Health Care Assistant program, a profession that’s in-high demand and under increased strain as a result of COVID-19.

Between the high costs of living and paying for school, these awards will make an incredible difference, says Lister.

“Many people rely on funding from our student awards to be able to attend their programs,” she says, adding this support can “make it or break it” for students.

“We hope these awards will become well known in the community and open the doors to many who never thought they would attend college. We are so appreciative of the Knuevers for providing opportunities for young and mature students to pursue meaningful careers.”

Helen Jackman, Okanagan College Foundation Executive Director, says students feel a sense of pride and motivation knowing local families and businesses are supporting their career aspirations.

“We are thankful to the Knuevers and our other Vernon donors for eliminating the financial barriers to education. By investing in students, they are truly transforming lives and communities.”

Doug Dolanz received a bursary from the Knuevers when taking the Electrical Apprenticeship program. At 59, he was a mature student in the program after taking an early retirement from an IT job three years earlier.

“Those bursaries help every student, no matter what stage of life you’re in,” says Dolanz. “It helped pay for my education along with tools and clothing.”

In the future, Dolanz hopes to start an electrical business with his son.

Kurt and Jutta Knuever are the former owners of Tekmar Control Systems, which they cofounded in 1980. The company was sold to Watts Water Technologies in 2012. Kurt and Jutta reside in Vernon.