A recent economic impact study undertaken by Economic Modeling Specialists Intl. (EMSI) found that in 2012-13 Okanagan College and its students added $542 million to the regional economy. It pegged the institution’s provincial impact at $915 million.
Clint Bannister knows it’s hard to put an exact price on the value of a post-secondary education, but he is confident there is a very real return on the investment. The 31-year-old Okanagan College graduate and civil engineering design technologist at Urban Systems in Kelowna is one example of the thousands of Okanagan College graduates whose impact on the regional economy exceeds half a billion dollars annually. Provincially, the impact comes closer to a billion dollars.
“Before I took the Civil Engineering Technology program at Okanagan College, I didn’t realize having a skilled education was so important to lifelong career success,” says Bannister who before entering Okanagan College worked in sales. “I am excited to work for a great company doing something that really matters to the community.”
The study also found that Okanagan College students were active in the regional workforce over the course of one year, collectively contributed $446 million in higher earnings and increased employer productivity.
In addition, Okanagan College’s operations and the spending from out-of-region students added $96 million to the economy.
“The results of this study confirm that there is a significant return on the investment in post-secondary education for graduates, taxpayers and our regional economy,” says Jim Hamilton, President of Okanagan College. “The economic impact is important to acknowledge but so is the value education yields for students and the wellbeing of our communities.”
Bannister completed his engineering technology diploma in 2011 and was hired within a month of graduation. Originally from North Vancouver, he chose to stay in the Okanagan and is among an increasing group of Okanagan College grads who provide a 12.7 per cent return to B.C. taxpayers on their investment in post-secondary education.
The positive effect of Okanagan College runs much deeper than added income. On a provincial scale, Okanagan College grads in the workforce save the provincial social safety net an estimated $16 million annually through reduced crime rates, lower unemployment rates and improved health. In short, graduates like Bannister are more productive and reduce the strain on social services.
The payoff doesn’t just impact taxpayers. Students who complete a college credential receive a huge return on that investment as well. EMSI’s estimate suggests that there is a 51 per cent lifetime earnings bump attributable to a two-year diploma over someone who has only a high school credential – it is worth an additional $346,800 over their estimated working lifetime.
For someone with a degree, such as Okanagan College’s Bachelor of Business Administration or Bachelor of Computer Information Systems, the estimated increase in working lifetime earnings compared to a high-school credential holder is 80 per cent or an additional $544,000.
“When I was working in sales my salary was up and down week-to-week and it was stressful not being able to count on a set paycheque,” said Bannister. “I also didn’t see a lot of prospects for the future. It’s so worth getting a practical education because a job like the one I have now is so much more rewarding and more lucrative over the long term.”
-Story by Christine Ulmer