In November 2013, Stefan Baune attended the annual BC Non-Profit Housing Association conference and learned about two Langara programs that peaked his interest: Social Housing Management and Property Management. After working in mental health, addiction, and social housing for many years, the programs were a welcome opportunity for Stefan to learn more about a different side of the industry. Luckily at the conference, Stefan won a free course from Langara Continuing Studies.
The course was the start of an education that would prepare Stefan for his current position at the New Chelsea Society, an organization that provides affordable housing to seniors, low-income families, and persons with disabilities. In particular, Stefan credits his instructor in Commercial Property Management for helping him discover the complexity and diversity of the field, his fellow classmates for their enthusiasm and energy, and several courses in Social Housing Management for helping him understand the historical and political context of the industry that has helped strengthen work relations with municipal and provincial agencies.
Moreover, Stefan adds, “The industry faces a variety of challenges. Providers are underfunded and their housing inventory is aging, tenants’ rent contributions and subsidies are often insufficient to operate buildings properly which can have an immense impact on the buildings and residents, and there is a lack of expertise. Often, social housing properties are operated by small societies with staff that don’t have the knowledge and experience to operate housing stock efficiently and keep it viable in the long run. Programs like Social Housing Management help to bridge the gap.”
As the Director of Operations, Stefan looks after the restructuring and scaling of the New Chelsea Society, implementing tools like professional property management and client management software to support the organization’s growth strategies while overseeing a team of 32 staff and 20 properties. It’s a full plate, but Stefan remains motivated. “People inspire me! Housing that is safe and affordable is such an important factor in a person’s life. Through my work, I can support individuals and families by providing them with a place they can call home.”
The professional housing body, Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), recently validated the Social Housing Management Certificate program. Students who successfully complete the program will be eligible to become a standard member of CIH Canada.
Returning to school was a lot easier than I had imagined. I enjoyed it so much that having completed my Property Management Certificate in April of 2014 returned in 2015 to complete my second certificate in Social and Affordable Housing. The class schedules and the workload are well planned and accommodate those like myself, who have family commitments as well a full-time job.
All of my instructors have been terrific. In addition to having professional experience and qualifications to teach the course, they clearly enjoyed sharing that knowledge. The course material has had very practical applications. When I commenced the program I was working in housing maintenance operations. The practical building systems information was extremely useful. Since completing the program I am now involved in tenant relations.
The course material provided has given me the knowledge and confidence to take on a more challenging role. I’ve improved my communication skills and have gained a broader knowledge of all aspects of the management of rental properties. As the region continues to grow, I believe that opportunities in property management and, in particular, the care and sustainability of aging housing stock will also grow as the demand for affordable housing increases
I feel confident in my ability to meet new challenges and opportunities with the training I have been given. I have also enjoyed meeting students from a variety of professional backgrounds. This turned out to be a great networking opportunity as well as an educational one. I had fun and have been really pleased with what I have been able to accomplish in a very short time.
Priscila Yáñez was an aspiring realtor in Mexico looking for something specific: an established, robust, in-classroom real estate program in Vancouver that would admit international students. After calling a number of colleges and universities from her home in Mexico with no success, she fortunately found the program she was looking for at Langara.
Priscila understood the importance of a good education and knew that she needed to be in-class instead of online to get the most out of the experience. In such an extensive industry, she believed the quality of education shouldn’t get lost in the quantity of it. But with few post-secondary institutions in the province able to meet her needs, she remained optimistic that Langara believed the same thing.
It was a conversation with program coordinator John Neuls that gave Priscila an indication she had found much more than she expected. After explaining her situation and the type of education she wanted, John created a customized yet challenging course plan, and since then, he’s been supportive every step of the way. “He’s the reason I’m in Canada,” she shared. “He’s been a big help from day one, and with the volume of students he has, it’s amazing how he can really care for you as an individual. I owe him everything.”
Priscila is also having a wonderful learning experience thanks to her teachers, particularly law instructor Manijeh Moieni, as well as Dennis Ragauskas, who has helped her understand the math needed in real estate with thoughtful consideration and patience. “The biggest impact on me so far has been my instructors. In my years of studying in Mexico and Spain, I’ve never had such amazing teachers who personally care for their students and push them to do their best. I really feel blessed.”
Priscila’s efforts are certainly paying off. “I got 97% on the Trading Services (Sales) Licensing examination, the highest mark at the UBC exam centre this year!” Once she receives her license in November, Priscila believes the knowledge she’s gained will give her an advantage in the industry. Inspired by her supportive parents and hard-working grandfather, she has her sights set on becoming one of the top realtors in BC, and eventually in Canada, with aspirations of starting her own real estate company.
Priscila graduates from the Diploma in Real Estate program in August.
Deanna Lythgo was already a successful realtor when she enrolled in the Construction and Housing Development Program, but she felt there was room to grow in her knowledge of building, construction, and renovation – traditionally, male-dominated areas.
“People think of real estate in Vancouver as a guaranteed career, but it’s actually quite competitive,” says Deanna. Only a small number of the licensed realtors have long and successful careers. “This program deepened my understanding of many aspects of my industry, which enhanced my marketability and the value I can provide my clients.”
A standout course for her was on residential construction, where she learned how to evaluate neighbourhoods as well as analyze building components and how they depreciate over time. One of her major projects focused on how to inspect residential properties.
“An important consideration when evaluating a home for purchase is knowing the details of major systems like plumbing, heating, and cooling,” says Deanna. Now, she can better advise prospective buyers on how to factor these systems into their decisions.
“What I learned benefited my clients immediately,” she says. “I’ve been able to spot problems in real-life situations and apply my broader scope of knowledge at home inspections, new development sites, meetings with pre-sale purchasers, and even in my own home renovations.”
Among Deanna’s classmates were architects, landscape engineers, construction business owners, and new Canadians seeking to update their credentials, bringing diverse perspectives to the program and demonstrating that you are never too old or too established to learn.
“When I enrolled, I felt that I possessed the skills to succeed in real estate long-term but lacked the breadth of knowledge to take my work to the next level,” she says. “My understanding and my confidence have grown exponentially.”
Deanna’s experience was so positive that she is considering taking more programs at Langara, such as real estate investing or energy management, while continuing to work full-time.
Deanna Lythgo’s career in real estate was inspired by her grandparents, who immigrated to Vancouver in the 1950s and helped establish the Italian community in East Vancouver.
Scott Stewart – Success Story
Recent Real Estate graduate Scott Stewart still remembers the uncertainty he felt on his first day of studies.
“It had been the better part of 40 years since I had voluntarily walked into a classroom setting,” he says. Scott stood agonizing over where to sit – not too close to the front, lest he be labelled as a keener, but not too far back either – when the instructor walked in.
“As I sat down in my chair for the first time, panic ensued. ‘What am I doing here? There will be exams and essays to write!’” he recalls.
Despite his apprehension, Scott quickly began to thrive in his chosen program. The former engineering technician went on to earn two certificates – Property Management and Professional Building Manager – and won a scholarship from the Real Estate Institute of British Columbia for Academic Excellence in Business Communications.
“The combination of teaching prowess, real world experience, small class sizes, and a genuine passion for teaching was – and is – the hallmark of the Real Estate Program,” says Scott. “One may excel in this world with only ‘book smarts’ or ‘street smarts’, but Langara provided a disciplined balance of the two.”
“As I progressed through my studies, I gradually became aware that the caliber of instruction and course material was the very best that one can find,” he says. “My classmates and future colleagues were also a source of inspiration, drive, and perspective.”
Scott came to Langara after an injury forced a career change. He approached his situation with characteristic gusto. Working with his vocational rehab team, Scott put together a 79-page document for WorkSafe BC outlining the program at Langara and how it would lead him to new employment opportunities.
Today, he is the Operations Manager for The New Chelsea Society, one of the leading non-profit housing providers in British Columbia. The learning curve has been steep, but Scott feels both deep satisfaction and immense pride in being part of such a caring organization.
“I could not be happier, more fulfilled, and excited about my future,” Scott enthuses. “I now begin the next chapter in my life with gratitude for all those who have shared in this journey.”
Scott Stewart finished his 2016 school year with a 4.0 GPA average. Though all of his instructors were fabulous, Nizam Dossa and David Karkut stand out in his memory for their dedication, enthusiasm and innate ability to put the class at ease.
I enrolled in the Professional Building Management program at Langara because I wanted to learn more about building operations and property management for my own career development. I was initially attracted to Langara because of the flexibility and convenience of weekend and evening classes and I soon came to appreciate the other benefits which I didn't previously know, such as the quality of the instructors, the class sizes and the hands on learning experiences.
I learn best when I can see how a concept is applied in the real world and my instructors did a great job of helping me see those connections. Langara’s instructors have practical real work experiences to support the learning outcomes. I not only get to pick the brain of my instructors, my classmates are working professionals so the classroom is a great mix of direct and indirect learning opportunities. The class sizes are ideal for group sharing and discussion (not too big, not too small) and when I hear about the challenges and solutions my fellow classmates face, it helps me to see possibilities for myself.
Everyday I am switching between being the student and being the teacher and I get really excited when I am able to be the mentor and be a part of someone else's growth. It keeps me going and it keeps me interested and as long as I am interested in something, I will give it a good try. In the classroom I observed that my instructor was learning from us as much as we were learning him.
Project management is one of things that I am learning as part of the Building Management program and I've learned that a lot of problems can be avoided with proper planning and research. One of the biggest challenges at my workplace is implementing new ways of doing things and the project planning skills I have gained are relevant and beneficial.
Upon graduation from my program I hope to further explore my career possibilities in property management and operations. In whatever role or job I will be fulfilling I know that I will be drawing on my knowledge and experiences gained at Langara. At my current workplace I am involved in office administration and management and Langara has helped me become a more critical and conscientious decision maker and coworker.
I have applied many of the best practices and course concepts from the program at my workplace resulting in workflow efficiencies and cost reduction for my department. Additionally, my learning experiences at Langara have benefited me as a council member at my strata corporation. It is very rewarding to see tangible and positive results stemming from my personal learning and growth and this is largely attributed to the environment at Langara.
My experiences at Langara have been very positive and I truly believe that Langara is executing its core values of being student focused, innovative and accessible.