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Okanagan College students set out to draw up animation careers

Seven students were honoured in an industry-themed ceremony May 1

Shaina Cook stepped into Okanagan College’s animation lab two years ago armed with pencils, paper and a life-long dream of bringing her creations to life.

On May 1, she graduated with the inaugural graduating class from the college’s Animation diploma program, established to deliver on the growing need in the community.

The college celebrated seven students in an industry-themed ceremony last night at the Okanagan Innovation Centre, where students put on a final showcase of their work, gave tours and networked with industry professionals.

“Being part of the first class through this program has been a wild and fun ride,” said Cook.

“My skills, creative abilities and understanding of animation have definitely improved. I find it really cool that I’m going to have a chance at being part of a creative team for animated media and coming up with ideas that don’t exist today – the industry is an ever-adapting field of imagination and I can’t wait to be in it.”

As part of the college’s two-year program, students were paired with industry mentors who best fit their skills, interests and career goals. Thanks to those partnerships, students were able to learn from experienced professionals and get a real-life feel for what it’s like to work in an animation studio.

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“I have a more solid understanding of the industry pipeline than before and because of that I know exactly what I want to do in the industry – 3D character and creature animation,” said Cook.

“This program helped us achieve the quality and connections we needed to become employable. I’ve been interviewing and hope to be working at a studio very soon.”

A hub for creative digital arts and the tech sector, the Innovation Centre is newly opened in downtown Kelowna, placing students at the epicentre of top Okanagan animation studios including Bardel Entertainment, Hyper Hippo and Yeti Farm Creative. Most students in the program have already secured a job or are currently in the process of interviewing to begin their career in the local animation industry.

“The industry is saturated with work and there are simply not enough qualified and skilled animators, designers, storyboard artists, FX artists, to fulfill current industry demands,” said Ashley Ramsay, partner and CEO at Yeti Farm Creative.

“The industry shows no signs of slowing down and Okanagan College graduates will be fortunate to have their pick of local opportunities should they wish to stay in Kelowna upon graduation.”

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Students will officially cross the stage and receive their credentials at Okanagan College’s Spring Convocation ceremony at the Kelowna campus on June 1. Wednesday, they showcased their demo reels to an appreciative crowd of potential employers, relatives and professors and mentors. Their first-year colleagues also showcased a collage of their work to date.

“I want to congratulate all of the animation students and recognize them for their hard work and dedication to their craft,” said Okanagan College President Jim Hamilton.

“The animation entertainment industry has experienced exponential growth and I’m confident these students will play a prominent role by offering new insights, inspiring new directions and helping to further expand the industry.”

The College will welcome its next intake of students into the Animation diploma program this September. For more information visit okanagan.bc.ca/animation.

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